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The Cretan Constitution Compared to the Spartan

Passing to the Cretan polity there are two points
The Spartan polity unlike that of Crete.
which deserve our consideration. The first is how such writers as Ephorus, Xenophon, Callisthenes and Plato1—who are the most learned of the ancients—could assert that it was like that of Sparta; and secondly how they came to assert that it was at all admirable. I can agree with neither assertion; and I will explain why I say so. And first as to its dissimilarity with the Spartan constitution. The peculiar merit of the latter is said to be its land laws, by which no one possesses more than another, but all citizens have an equal share in the public land.2 The next distinctive feature regards the possession of money: for as it is utterly discredited among them, the jealous competition which arises from inequality of wealth is entirely removed from the city. A third peculiarity of the Lacedaemonian polity is that, of the officials by whose hands and with whose advice the whole government is conducted, the kings hold an hereditary office, while the members of the Gerusia are elected for life.

1 For what remains of the account of Ephorus see Strabo, 10.4.8-9. The reference to Plato is to the "Laws," especially Book I. See also Aristotle, Pol. 2, 10, who points out the likeness and unlikeness between the Cretan and Lacedaemonian constitutions.

2 This equality of land had gradually disappeared by the time of King Agis IV. (B.C. 243-239): so that, according to Plutarch [Agis 5], the number of landowners was reduced to 100. This process had been accelerated by the Rhetra of Epitadeus, allowing free bequest of land, Plutarch, ib. See Thirlwall, vol. viii. p. 132.

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hide References (6 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 34.31
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), COSMI
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CRETA or CRETE
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 2.1271b
    • Strabo, Geography, 10.4.8
    • Plutarch, Agis, 5
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