Sparta Live! Adapting Slavery to Spartan Society
Join us and Dr David Lewis for a discussion about Spartan helotage
According to G.E.M. de Ste Croix (Origins of the Peloponnesian War, London 1972, p. 91), Sparta's distinctive institutional structure evolved as a response to the conquest of the Helots. In his view, through conquest of Messenia Sparta suddenly acquired a large, ethnically homogeneous slave population whose proclivity to revolt meant that an internal revolution was required should Sparta hope to survive and continue exploiting Messenian labour. Accordingly, Sparta transformed itself into an armed camp, a move that profoundly shaped its subsequent history and reception in the modern world.
In this paper, Dr Davis suggests something rather different. Taking stock of the last few decades of research into Sparta's institutions, militarism, and the chronology of its archaic transformations, he argues that Helotage itself shows the hallmarks of adaption to broader imperatives of the Spartan state - that is, the re-tooling of the slave system to fit cultural patterns to do with communal intervention in private property, practices distinguishing rank and enforcing deference, dress, speech codes, and physical violence.
Far from some archaic survival that persisted intact from the early archaic period down to the time of Aristotle, Helotage was, like other areas of Spartan society, subject to change; and its particular features show that it was brought into alignment with Sparta's broader institutions and cultural practices.
Dr David Lewis (University of Edinburgh)
Dr Petros Doukas (Mayor of Sparti)
Dr Chrysanthi Gallou (University of Nottingham)
SPARTA LIVE Series is a programme of online live presentations and discussion workshops on the history, archaeology and legacy of ancient Sparta. The programme is run by The Centre for Spartan & Peloponnesian Studies (CSPS) at the University of Nottingham, in partnership with the City of Sparti in Laconia, Greece – the site of ancient Sparta.