30 Facts About Sparta


Sparta was a prominent city-state in Laconia, in ancient Greece.

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Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, from which it emerged victorious after the Battle of Aegospotami.

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However, Sparta was sacked in 396 AD by the Visigothic king Alaric, and underwent a long period of decline, especially in the Middle Ages, when many of its citizens moved to Mystras.

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Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which were supposedly introduced by the semi-mythical legislator Lycurgus.

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Sparta was frequently a subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in Western culture following the revival of classical learning.

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Sparta had a double effect on Greek thought: through the reality, and through the myth.

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The latter defines Sparta to be Lacedaemonia Civitas, but Isidore defines Lacedaemonia as founded by Lacedaemon, son of Semele, which is consistent with Eusebius' explanation.

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Sparta is located in the region of Laconia, in the south-eastern Peloponnese.

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Ancient Sparta was built on the banks of the Eurotas River, the largest river of Laconia, which provided it with a source of fresh water.

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Sparta was believed to have built the sanctuary of the Charites, which stood between Sparta and Amyclae, and to have given to those divinities the names of Cleta and Phaenna.

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Suppose the city of Sparta to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan, distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame.

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Until the early 20th century, the chief ancient buildings at Sparta were the theatre, of which, however, little showed above ground except portions of the retaining walls; the so-called Tomb of Leonidas, a quadrangular building, perhaps a temple, constructed of immense blocks of stone and containing two chambers; the foundation of an ancient bridge over the Eurotas; the ruins of a circular structure; some remains of late Roman fortifications; several brick buildings and mosaic pavements.

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Prehistory of Sparta is difficult to reconstruct because the literary evidence was written far later than the events it describes and is distorted by oral tradition.

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The superior weaponry, strategy, and bronze armour of the Greek hoplites and their phalanx fighting formation again proved their worth one year later when Sparta assembled its full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at the Battle of Plataea.

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Sparta achieved a series of land victories, but many of her ships were destroyed at the Battle of Cnidus by a Greek-Phoenician mercenary fleet that Persia had provided to Athens.

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The effects of the war were to reaffirm Persia's ability to interfere successfully in Greek politics and to affirm Sparta's weakened hegemonic position in the Greek political system.

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Sparta entered its long-term decline after a severe military defeat to Epaminondas of Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra.

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Sparta continued to be one of the Peloponesian powers until its eventual loss of independence in 192 BC.

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Sparta played no active part in the Achaean War in 146 BC when the Achaean League was defeated by the Roman general Lucius Mummius.

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In 396 AD, Sparta was sacked by Visigoths under Alaric I who sold inhabitants into slavery.

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Sparta was supplanted by the ephors in the control of foreign policy.

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Sparta was above all a militarist state, and emphasis on military fitness began virtually at birth.

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Sparta is often viewed as being unique in this regard, however, anthropologist Laila Williamson notes that "Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunter gatherers to high civilizations.

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Excavations at the cemetery of classical Sparta, uncovered ritually pierced kantharoid-like ceramic vessels, the ritual slaughter of horses, and specific burial enclosures alongside individual 'plots'.

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Sparta is thought to be the first city to practice athletic nudity, and some scholars claim that it was the first to formalize pederasty.

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Sparta's agriculture consisted mainly of barley, wine, cheese, grain, and figs.

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Sparta's first shaved her head to the scalp, then dressed her in a man's cloak and sandals, and laid her down alone on a mattress in the dark.

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Sparta's won again in 392, and dedicated two monuments to commemorate her victory, these being an inscription in Sparta and a set of bronze equestrian statues at the Olympic temple of Zeus.

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Sparta was subject of considerable admiration in its day, even in rival Athens.

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Sparta was used as a model of austere purity by Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

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