Trace how Sparta developed into the most militarily effective state in Greece (800- 550BC).

Essay by manulover March 2007

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This question will look at how Sparta grew to become the most powerful Greek state by 550BC, and how the different aspects of state policy brought this about. Most remarkable of all is that this successful ascendancy was achieved with a remarkably small citizen population compared to other poleis. The essay will focus on three main aspects that will be discussed individually and then linked together to help explain the greatness of Sparta's military prowess and success. To begin with there was the unusual political and societal arrangement that consisted of helots and Periokoi at the bottom of the social hierarchy; supposedly instituted by the reforms proposed by Lycurgus. He was also attributed with the creation of the central Spartan economic basis and its political purpose in controlling the socially engineered yet numerically superior Helotry and Periokoi. The creation of Hoplites and their whole education system was also a fundamental element in the creation of a militarily effective state in order to maintain the superiority of the Spartan population over their slave subjects in the conquered lands.

The conquered lands were part of the Spartan expansionistic mentality and were the final element to the success of Sparta militarily. As can be seen all three elements are interwoven and linked together on different levels as the essay will show. Incidentally, the accuracy of certain dates will not be looked at as a crucial aspect in defining when Sparta grew to be a militarily powerful state, as this is not the objective of the question. However the time frame of 800-550BC should provide much the framework for the reasons behind the growth of Sparta.

In the early part of the eighth century B.C. Sparta was facing difficulties supporting its inland agrarian based society, so it began to look outwards for means to...