EPISODE 21 GOVERNING SPARTANS
Welcome back folks and to the first of what will be a series of episodes designed to explain the different facets of the Spartan world in the lead up to the Greco-Persian wars.
This time its the governmental structures of Sparta that we'll be focusing on to see the various bodies responsible for Spartan law-making in action.
It's popularly believed that Sparta was an oligarchic state, and to be fair by the time Xenophon and Aristotle penned their constitutions of the Lacedaemonians the city had indeed become one. However, the secret to its stability and success in the 6th and 7th centuries was the result of a stable government that embraced elements of Monarchic, Aristocratic and Democratic rule.
They had their kings, descended from Heracles whom were bound by Apollo's word to a council of elders. This council forwarded proposals to a sovereign citizen assembly for ratification. Fulfilling the executive function of government was an annually elected board of 5 Ephors whose members came from the Demos. This system was designed to give everyone their fair share of rule, to check any one element from growing to preponderant.
I'll break down the cities god given constitution and various organs of state to hopefully build a picture how they operated together, and sometimes against one another.
I hope you all enjoy, and take good care.
The Spartans tend to evoke images of bloody battles fought on almost mythical fields, of warriors pushing back against an oriental despotism that was irreconcilable to the Greek way of life . Accomplished with spear, shield and led by the 'Bad Boy' king Leonidas, these are only a few tantalising details to a tale that begins almost a 1000 years before the legend of Thermopylae and the 300 Spartans. The gaps in between are the focus of this podcast and I intend to flesh them out in their entirety.
Understanding the Spartans and their role in the greater scope of ancient Greek history requires rewinding the clock back to the bronze age with the siege, fall and extirpation of Troy and the Trojans as a people. Names like Hector, Helen, Achilles and Agamemnon will come up often as we scour Homer's epics for the earliest mentions of the Spartan story. So lets turn first to Troy and begin a chronological look at the ancient people of Sparta, in an exciting odyssey into the Past.