Page 0525



assigned for his support. But the tillage of the land was reserved for

the servile class, the Helots, who were bound to the soil by a system of

serfdom. The remaining lands of Laconia, chiefly consisting of

mountainous districts in the interior, were divided into thirty thousand

parts and distributed to the original inhabitants of the country,

thenceforth called Perioecae, or "dwellers around." The Perioecae were to

remain free, but were to devote themselves to agriculture, trade, and

commerce. They were also subject to military service at the call of the

dominant class of Spartans. There was thus, as nearly as practicable, an

adaptation of all classes to the previous conditions existing in the


As another conservative measure, the two kings were left undisturbed, but

their prerogatives were reduced to a mere dignity and to leadership in

war. The legislative power was given to two assemblies. The first and

highest consisted of thirty members called the Gerontes, or "old men," of

whom the kings were two, whatever might be their ages. The remaining

twenty-eight must be over sixty years old. The right to originate all

laws and measures of state polity belonged to this body. The other

assembly embraced as members all male Spartans over the age of thirty.

These met once a month and voted upon the measures proposed by the

Gerontes. The voting was to be by acclamation, aye or no; and no debate

was permissible. From the first all discussions and wrangling were odious

to the Spartan spirit.

The constitution of Lycurgus also established the six oversees, or

magistrates, of Ephors. To them was entrusted a supervisory power over

the laws passed by the assembly, and a final voice in all public matters.

Even the kings were accountable to the Ephors for their conduct. The

kingly office was thus so greatly hedged with restrictions as to be

reduced to a minimum of influence, and in this shorn condition was

permitted to survive in Sparta long after the complete destruction of

royal prerogative in the other states of Greece.

The Lycurgian statutes next proceeded to the education of the Spartans.

The theory of the government was that all classes existed for the benefit

of the state. The individual was for the commonwealth-nothing else. There

has, perhaps, never been in all history another instance in which the

idea of individual subordination to the public good was carried to such

lengths as in Sparta. The principle lay at the very bottom of Spartan

society, and explained many otherwise inexplicable circumstances and

peculiarities of the national character. It followed naturally from

this theory that the citizenship should be adapted by proper training to

the uses of the state: Of the dominant Spartans this would be true in the

highest measure.

The system contemplated simply the making of soldiers. At birth the child

was inspected to determine its fitness to live. There was no compunction.

It was simply business. The Ephors decided the question. If weak or

deformed the babe was exposed in the hills of Taygetus to perish. If

robust and promising it was given to the mother for the first seven years

and then taken from her. Henceforth the lad belonged to the state. He was

put to school. The school was a gymnasium. No metaphysical nonsense was

allowed about the establishment. It was for the development and hardening

of the body. A course of rigid discipline and athletic exercises was

prescribed, so severe and heartless as to defy a parallel. The youth must

wear the same garment winter and summer. Hunger, thirst, and exposure

must be endured without a murmur. When starving for food the lad might

steal, but if caught in the act he was punished for that. One boy stole a

fox, hid it under his garment, and suffered the beast to tear out his

bowels rather than betray the theft. Once in his life each youth was

taken before the altar of Artemis and scourged till his back ran gore.

The boy was obliged to be silent or to say yes and no-no more. Whatever

was more than these came of evil. He must be laconic, impassive. He must

endure pain and smile. So must the Spartan girl; for the discipline was

nearly alike for both sexes. All feeling must be eliminated. She who

must presently give up her own babe to fill the belly of a Laconian wolf

must do so smiling. At the age of thirty the boy was