Spartan Government

Sparta’s Government and Social Structure

The Spartans engaged in primogeniture (women did not inherit, at first). The eldest son inherited everything and when Greece became overpopulated → the other sons would have to leave and settle in other countries.

A constitutional crisis between the kings and the aristocracy results in the formation of the Gerousia to share the power. A 2nd constitutional crisis between the aristocrats and the ordinary Spartan people resulted in the creation of the Apella.

The Spartan Government was a polity

    ❖ Diarchy – 2 kings

    ❖ Oligarchy – 2 kings + Gerousia (28 men ( 60 y.o.)

    ❖ Democracy – Euphors (5 men ( 30 y.o.) or Apella (all Spartiates ( 30 y.o.)

Role and Privileges of the 2 Kings

Sparta was a diarchy: one king came from the royal house of Eurypontids and the other from the royal house of Agiads. Although it may be argued that the Euphors were the supreme-arm of the government, the kings still had a number of roles and privileges.

Xenophon tells us that militarily the kings were the supreme commanders of the army. However, only one king accompanied the army into battle to avoid divergence of opinion.

They had the right to declare war and no Spartans could oppose their decisions. Xenophon once again mentions that the king had the power of life and death on the battle field. This can be seen in the Battle of Thermopylae where King Leonidas dismissed his 300 Spartans on the battlefield. However, if the campaign failed, such as at the Battle of Sphacteria, then the King could be recalled and punished.

Plutarch makes note that the kings were both judges and law-givers and he similarly mentions that the kings had sole jurisdiction over the marriage of orphaned heiresses, roads and on the adoption of children.

The kings exercised largely ceremonial powers. They were the priests of Zeus Lacedaemonias and Zeus Uranios and every month they offered sacrifices to Apollo on behalf of the city....