What Caused The Downfall of Sparta?


Hypothesis: Sparta collapsed because they did not allow the helots to fight in battle

The Beginning of Sparta

In about 100 BCE, the Dorians invaded Greece from the North. During the Dark Ages, the Dorians made their way south, capturing the inhabitants of the lands they passed through as helots. At the beginning of the Dark Ages, it is thought that there were many Dorian settlements in Laconia, each with their own helot population. At some time during the Dark Ages, Sparta overtook these fellow Dorian settlements and their helot populations, as well as control of the whole of Laconia. The Spartans kept the helots as a huge, strong slave race and, although they did not enslave their fellow Dorians, the other Dorians were made perioci, meaning "those who live round about". The perioci were needed to be the craftsmen, tradesmen and manufacturers for the Spartans, who were trained as full time soldiers.

At the end of the Dark Ages, there was nothing exceptional about Sparta (except her control of the helot population) but from about the middle of the 6th Century BCE, Sparta gradually turned away from the rest of Greece. They no longer welcomed visitors, cut their trade ties, stopped building ships and when the rest of Greece began using coins instead of iron spits, Sparta continued to use the spits. Sparta still had poetry and music, but instead of listening to new poems and songs, they learned only the compositions of the past, and new poets and musicians were not welcomed. Sparta still produced pottery and metal work for every-day use, but it was of poorer quality than the work of other cities. Spartans no longer participated in athletic festivals in other parts of Greece and the whole city became secretive and withdrawn, refusing to communicate with the rest of Greece.


The Spartans were raised and educated to be perfectly obedient and obey the state without question. Spartan education had no interest with literature, intellectual or academic activities and did Spartans were not taught subjects like mathematics, science or geography. Even as babies, Spartiates were treated harshly - they were made to eat whatever food they were given, left alone, left alone in the dark, and it is probable that no attention was paid to babies when they cried.

A Spartan Boy's education as a soldier began when the boy was about 7 or 8 years old. At this time, the boys were removed from their home and taken to live at the barracks like soldiers, having companies and platoons for each barrack. The boys were 'looked after' by the Paidonomos, who had complete rule over the boys and could punish for misbehaviour. The Paidonomos were helped by the Eirens - boys over 18 who had the right to give orders and punish the boys. It is believed that the Eirens were very cruel, as they carried whips to punish the boys. This first stage of education was designed to make the boys physically strong through athletics, physical training and wrestling, as well as to teach obedience and communal living. They boys learned how to look after themselves, get on together, take orders and share responsibilities.

When the boys turned 12, they began their advanced training. This was similar to the first stage, but even harsher - the boys were only allowed to wear a single garment all year round and were forced to sleep on beds made from reeds, which they had to cut from the banks of the river. During this stage, the boys were fed so little that they had to resort to stealing food from nearby estates just to get by. If the boys were caught stealing, however, they would be publicly whipped and given even less food. This was meant to teach the boys how to live off the land.

The most important part of the education in Sparta was the part of obedience. Everyone was taught to be completely obedient to the state, and taught that the individual was the least important. During their education, boys would only play team sports, and compete in music and poetry competitions only in groups. It was very important to the Spartans that no one questioned the thoughts, ideas or laws of Sparta and that everyone was completely obedient. However, once this rigid obedience was broken, it would have been hard to continue 'the Spartan way of life'.