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instead of a single, royal house was a part of the primitive constitution

of the country. Up to the time of the war with Argolis and the

establishment of the supremacy of Sparta, that state had had the same

general type of civilization and development as the other Dorian

communities and cities; but from this time onward a separation took place

between Sparta and all the other Hellenic commonwealths, until she was

almost as much distinguished in her institutions and popular

characteristics from her sister Doric states of Argos and Corinth as she

Was from Thebes and Athens. Only with Crete did the customs, manners, and

laws of the Spartans hold them in fellowship and sympathy. This

separation-amounting to an isolation-of Sparta from the other Grecian

states, and her consequent assumption of an independent career, were

traceable to the work of her great lawgiver, Lycurgus.

The dissension in Laconia between the old and the new populations

constituted a serious drawback to the progress of that state. The Dorian

warriors, who had taken possession of the country, were too strong to be

displaced, but the mass of the people smarted under their exactions, and

would have rebelled but for fear of the consequences. Besides this source

of trouble, the evil of a double royal house, involving the reign of two

kings simultaneously, was felt as a dangerous obstacle to the public

welfare. The Spartans, moreover, were by nature and previous history a

lawless tribe, little disposed to accept the restraints of civilized

society. All of these embarrassments combined in producing a necessity

for a complete revision of existing laws, and in short for the

establishment of a fixed constitution of government.

The preparation of such a constitution was committed to Lycurgus.

Tradition makes him to have been of the Heraclidae. He was the son of

Eunomus, a brother of the King Polydectes. When the latter died, Lycurgus

became guardian of his son Charilaus, who was heir to the throne. In

spite of the temptation to which he was subjected by the widow of the

late king, who wished Lycurgus to murder the child and marry her, he

remained true to the state, and, taking Charilaus into the agora, had him

proclaimed as king. He himself left Sparta and went into Crete.

Here he became a student of the laws and institutions of Minos, and them

he is said to have made the basis of the code which he afterwards

reported to his countrymen. From Crete he traveled into Egypt and Ionia,

and even-if the tradition may be trusted-as far as India. While abroad he

became acquainted with the Homeric poems, which had not hitherto been

recited in Peloponnesus. On his return to his own people he found the

state in anarchy, and a common belief that he was to be the agent of the

rescue of his country. He accordingly yielded to public solicitation,

consulted the oracle at Delphi, and undertook the preparation of a new

frame of government. The oracle itself furnished the fundamental articles

of the constitution, so that Lycurgus returned from Delphi with the

sanction of Apollo. Appearing in the agora with thirty leading citizens,

he made known his mission, which was gladly accepted by a majority of the

people; but Charilaiis and a few of his partisans yielded with

reluctance, and were overawed by the popular voice.

Lycurgus thus came to his countrymen in the double character of a law-

giver and a messenger from Delphi. Necessity and Phoebes Apollo were the

joint sponsors of his legislation. After a season the new constitution

was prepared and given to the state. It was wisely based upon the

fundamental conditions which were present in the country. The Doric race

was recognized as in every respect predominant. The whole body of the

population was divided into three classes: first, the Spartans of Dorian

descent, who constituted the ruling caste; second, the Perioecae, or

Laconians, who far outnumbered the Spartans; and third, the Helots or


The Dorians had taken the land by conquest. They were accordingly

retained as the soldier class forever. No work, no business, was ever to

interfere with their profession of arms. Estimating their numbers at nine

thousand, Lycurgus divided the fruitful valley and plain of the Eurotas

into nine thousand equal parts, and to each soldier one part was