The Missing women of Sparta and its effect on the city.,

Sep 2014
694
Texas
#1
In 464 BCE there was an earthquake that destroyed Sparta and killed top number 20,000 people. Helen Schrader a historian from Germany wrote a paper saying most of the the people killed in the earthquake were women, girls and children. That this led to a population collapse.

We know four years after the earthquake Athens and Sparta came to blows in what is called the first Peloponnessian War. That clearly shows that Sparta is nervous. And thirty years later is the big one. I speculated that Spartan boys hooked up with helot girls, and we know from the biographies of Gyllippus and Lysander that this was so. Both men had Spartan fathers and helot mothers. This would not have happened if there had been women available. And remember Lysander who was extremely poor did not get the girl he wanted.

It has also been speculated because of similarities that Brasidas or his father was the man that paid Gyllippus' mess fees.

Sparta had a cultural nervous break down after the earthquake and slave riot. And the loss of a large chuck of the female population led to a change in thinking on who was a citizen and who wasn't. Remember the blind man at Thermopylae who was treated with contempt until he essentially committed suicide by battle at Plataea. Now the prisoners of Sphacteria once they were freed lost their citizenship for a little while but they got it back. Citizens were too precious to be ostracized.

This is all speculation on my part. Spartans did not want people to know how precarious their hold on their domains were. The presence of half blooded Spartans on several fronts leads me to believe there was a great loss of women at one time.
 
Nov 2011
832
The Bluff
#2
I'd be interested in the rationale behind the earthquake killing a disproportionate number of women and girls. That aside, there are a number of "lesser" Spartan citizens we hear of: the mothakes; the hypermeiones and the neodamodeis. There is no real consensus on these aside from the neodamodeis ("new people") who clearly are attested as enfranchised helots for service (the "Brasideans" forexample) though at a lower staus. The hypermeiones we hear of only via the Kinadon conspiracy where they are lesser citizens possible for cowardice in battle. The mothakes are either assumed from asides to be bastards or those who were sponsored by others as "foster brothers" because their family could not afford the syssitia or mess. Lysander would seem to meet the latter as might Kallikratidas.

Loss of homoioi (full citizens) was an ever increasing problem for Sparta. Your mention of the Sphacteria group is correct. The trouble Sparta went to to have these men returned indicates this. By the time of Leuktra the numbers are so perilous that Agesilaos waives the law regarding the defeated and disgraced homoioi who survived. In that army we have attested only 700 homoioi - the rest of the Spartan mora being those "lesser" citizens - and only three hundred odd of these return. OIiganthropia had taken it's course. Over the following century and a half the estates of Sparta would fall into the hands of women and an ever smaller number of families. By the time of Kleomenes III (220s), there were less than a hundred of these (according to Plutarch) hence his "revolution". A revolution hardly about social reform and absolutley about creating an army; one beholden to him.
 
Sep 2014
694
Texas
#3
  • bedb

    bedb

I'd be interested in the rationale behind the earthquake killing a disproportionate number of women and girls. That aside, there are a number of "lesser" Spartan citizens we hear of: the mothakes; the hypermeiones and the neodamodeis. There is no real consensus on these aside from the neodamodeis ("new people") who clearly are attested as enfranchised helots for service (the "Brasideans" forexample) though at a lower staus. The hypermeiones we hear of only via the Kinadon conspiracy where they are lesser citizens possible for cowardice in battle. The mothakes are either assumed from asides to be bastards or those who were sponsored by others as "foster brothers" because their family could not afford the syssitia or mess. Lysander would seem to meet the latter as might Kallikratidas.

Loss of homoioi (full citizens) was an ever increasing problem for Sparta. Your mention of the Sphacteria group is correct. The trouble Sparta went to to have these men returned indicates this. By the time of Leuktra the numbers are so perilous that Agesilaos waives the law regarding the defeated and disgraced homoioi who survived. In that army we have attested only 700 homoioi - the rest of the Spartan mora being those "lesser" citizens - and only three hundred odd of these return. OIiganthropia had taken it's course. Over the following century and a half the estates of Sparta would fall into the hands of women and an ever smaller number of families. By the time of Kleomenes III (220s), there were less than a hundred of these (according to Plutarch) hence his "revolution". A revolution hardly about social reform and absolutley about creating an army; one beholden to him.
We know that 20,000 is a high number s but the death and chaos was enough to encourage them to revolt. Since the allies did not notice a drop in men and Sparta produced an army four years later, who died? Two of the greatest Spartan generals were born of helot women. Why would the Spartans care if their fathers also had Spartan wives. But they didn't. I think it was against Argos that the first lambda shields were seen to convince the enemy that there were more Spartans than were really there.

We also know from Plutarch that the unmarried men became more aggressive in their courtship s.

We know that Russia lost a lot of men during WW 2 but it rebounded by the 1950s. Sparta never rebounded.
 
Nov 2011
832
The Bluff
#4
We know that 20,000 is a high number s but the death and chaos was enough to encourage them to revolt.
Any guess at the numbers of dead is exactly that: a guess and it's unlikely that Diodoros' (11.63.1) figure of 20,000 was provided by secretive Sparta. Ancient guesses are as likely as modern I feel. In any case, the destruction was widespread so it seems (see also Plutarch, Kimon, 16.4-5). Should both Plutarch's and Diodoros' descriptions be real enough, there is no logical reason for such widespread destruction to focus only on men and men of military age. On the helots, if anything is clear, it is that the Messenians (helots - as Thukydides explains at 1.101.2; Paus. 4.24.6) were always itching at revolt, so much so that Sparta even included a clause in the "Peace of Nikias" for Athens to supply aid in the event (5.23.3). This was simply another opportunity, though a good one.

Since the allies did not notice a drop in men and Sparta produced an army four years later, who died?
I cannot recall a source which states the allies noticed no drop in Spartan men. In fact, what we find is Sparta appealing for aid from both allies and Athens (who was allied under the fading "Hellenic Alliance") for the precise reason she lacked the manpower to confront the organised Messenians in the field (clearly implied by Diodoros, 11.64.2). She did, though, have enough to defend the city in the immediate aftermath (Diod. 11.64.1; Plut. Kim. 16.6-7). There is nothing which requires us to believe that all the homoioi were in the city at the time and so Archidamus defends with those present.

I assume the Spartan army of four years later to which you refer is that which eventually campaigned in central Greece ending with Tanagra in 457? To begin with, Diodoros clearly dates the earthquake to the archonship of Phaidon (or Apsephion - Marmor Parium) which is 469/8. The Sicilian also claims the revolt ended ten years hence putting it in 359/8 (11.64.4). Thukydides also claims the revolt in Messenia was not settled for ten years (1.103.1). Many historians, due to a near-religious belief that Thukydides' Pentekontaetia is written in strict chronological order (for neat destruction of that edifice, see Badian, From Plataea to Potidaea. Studies in the History and Historiography of the Pentecontaetia, 73-103), alter this to four to fit with a date of 464/3. It is all unnecessary for the scholia to Aristophanes' Lysistrada, 1144, unambiguously dates an earthquake and helot uprising to the time:

Kimon: In the twelfth year after the battle at Plataia, that was in the archonship of Theagenides (468/7). For indeed a piece of the Taygetos broke apart, and the odeion and other things and very many houses, and the Messenians started a war of revolt and the Helots were in opposition, until Kimon came in response to (Spartan) pleading and saved them.
The evidence would seem to support a date of 468 and, as these things go, there likely was another in 464/3 for Plutarch (Kimon, 17.2) clearly implies a second appeal for help. I would favour the earlier date as it reconciles the sources we have without having to emend Thukydides on the altar of his supposed chronological excursus in the Pentekontaetia. We would therefore be a decade out from the original calamity. In any case, Spartan citizens (of whichever enfranchisement) only ever formed a part of Peloponnesian ("League") forces such as the army of Tanagra.

Two of the greatest Spartan generals were born of helot women. Why would the Spartans care if their fathers also had Spartan wives. But they didn't.
They did "care" which is why the term mothax, which denoted a citizen of lower status. As I said, it might denote a bastard son of a homoioi and helot or it might denote those unable to pay the dues required by the syssitia and sponsored by another as "step-brother". Either way, it denotes a citizen of lower standing. As does the term hypermeiones (which translates as "lesser ones") and neither were considered to be homoioi ("equals"). What the SPartans didn't care about was drafting them into Spartan regiments. Increasingly these formed more and more of the soldiers which filled out Spartan mora so that, by Leuktra, we see that of the thousands of "Spartans" present, only 700 were homoioi . The neodamodeis also supplied regiments.

We know that Russia lost a lot of men during WW 2 but it rebounded by the 1950s. Sparta never rebounded.
Sparta did rebound. She fought and won the Peloponnesian War and maintained hegemony over Greece (with Persian backing) until Leuktra. Her very particular constitution and social order did not favour any great increase in the homoioi and this oliganthropy continued through to the inevitable by the time of Kleomenes III where the property required to sustain a full citizen's status resided in very few hands. The population grew, the homoioi did not.
 
Sep 2014
694
Texas
#5
  • bedb

    bedb

Any guess at the numbers of dead is exactly that: a guess and it's unlikely that Diodoros' (11.63.1) figure of 20,000 was provided by secretive Sparta. Ancient guesses are as likely as modern I feel. In any case, the destruction was widespread so it seems (see also Plutarch, Kimon, 16.4-5). Should both Plutarch's and Diodoros' descriptions be real enough, there is no logical reason for such widespread destruction to focus only on men and men of military age. On the helots, if anything is clear, it is that the Messenians (helots - as Thukydides explains at 1.101.2; Paus. 4.24.6) were always itching at revolt, so much so that Sparta even included a clause in the "Peace of Nikias" for Athens to supply aid in the event (5.23.3). This was simply another opportunity, though a good one.



I cannot recall a source which states the allies noticed no drop in Spartan men. In fact, what we find is Sparta appealing for aid from both allies and Athens (who was allied under the fading "Hellenic Alliance") for the precise reason she lacked the manpower to confront the organised Messenians in the field (clearly implied by Diodoros, 11.64.2). She did, though, have enough to defend the city in the immediate aftermath (Diod. 11.64.1; Plut. Kim. 16.6-7). There is nothing which requires us to believe that all the homoioi were in the city at the time and so Archidamus defends with those present.

I assume the Spartan army of four years later to which you refer is that which eventually campaigned in central Greece ending with Tanagra in 457? To begin with, Diodoros clearly dates the earthquake to the archonship of Phaidon (or Apsephion - Marmor Parium) which is 469/8. The Sicilian also claims the revolt ended ten years hence putting it in 359/8 (11.64.4). Thukydides also claims the revolt in Messenia was not settled for ten years (1.103.1). Many historians, due to a near-religious belief that Thukydides' Pentekontaetia is written in strict chronological order (for neat destruction of that edifice, see Badian, From Plataea to Potidaea. Studies in the History and Historiography of the Pentecontaetia, 73-103), alter this to four to fit with a date of 464/3. It is all unnecessary for the scholia to Aristophanes' Lysistrada, 1144, unambiguously dates an earthquake and helot uprising to the time:



The evidence would seem to support a date of 468 and, as these things go, there likely was another in 464/3 for Plutarch (Kimon, 17.2) clearly implies a second appeal for help. I would favour the earlier date as it reconciles the sources we have without having to emend Thukydides on the altar of his supposed chronological excursus in the Pentekontaetia. We would therefore be a decade out from the original calamity. In any case, Spartan citizens (of whichever enfranchisement) only ever formed a part of Peloponnesian ("League") forces such as the army of Tanagra.



They did "care" which is why the term mothax, which denoted a citizen of lower status. As I said, it might denote a bastard son of a homoioi and helot or it might denote those unable to pay the dues required by the syssitia and sponsored by another as "step-brother". Either way, it denotes a citizen of lower standing. As does the term hypermeiones (which translates as "lesser ones") and neither were considered to be homoioi ("equals"). What the SPartans didn't care about was drafting them into Spartan regiments. Increasingly these formed more and more of the soldiers which filled out Spartan mora so that, by Leuktra, we see that of the thousands of "Spartans" present, only 700 were homoioi . The neodamodeis also supplied regiments.



Sparta did rebound. She fought and won the Peloponnesian War and maintained hegemony over Greece (with Persian backing) until Leuktra. Her very particular constitution and social order did not favour any great increase in the homoioi and this oliganthropy continued through to the inevitable by the time of Kleomenes III where the property required to sustain a full citizen's status resided in very few hands. The population grew, the homoioi did not.
All my adult life I've read that Sparta's population dropped dangerously low. People have given all kinds of reasons, but Dr. Helen Schrader who has written a number of well researched books on Sparta has put forward that the people killed would have been the women inside the houses. Sparta did not recover.
 
Nov 2011
832
The Bluff
#6
The earthquake singled out women in houses and Sparta did not recover. Thanks for the considered and in-depth reply. I imagine men were never in houses or any other buildings - despite Plutarch's testimony of those "young men" killed in the gymnasium. The ephors took pains to encourage the homoioi to procreate but this was not because of a severe shortage of women; rather a shortage of homoioi. It was Aristotle who first described Sparta's unique society and mores as leading to oliganthropy and the resultant decline in full citizens.
 

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