Sparta


Sparta
/spahr"teuh/, n.
an ancient city in S Greece: the capital of Laconia and the chief city of the Peloponnesus, at one time the dominant city of Greece: famous for strict discipline and training of soldiers.
Also called Lacedaemon.

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Ancient Greek city-state, capital of Laconia and chief city of the Peloponnese.

Of Dorian origin, it was founded in the 9th century BC and developed as a strictly militaristic society. In the 8th–5th centuries BC it subdued neighbouring Messenia. From the 5th century BC the ruling class of Sparta devoted itself to war and forged the most powerful army in Greece. After a long contest with Athens in the Peloponnesian War (460–404 BC), it attained dominance over all of Greece. Sparta's power was broken by Thebes at the battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. It lost its independence с 192 BC when it was defeated by and forced to join the Achaean League. It was made part of the Roman province of Achaea in 146 BC. The Visigoths captured and destroyed the city in AD 396. The ruins of its acropolis, agora, theatre, and temples remain.

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▪ ancient city, Greece
Modern Greek  Spartí , historically  Lacedaemon 
 ancient capital of the Laconia district of the southeastern Peloponnese, Greece, and capital of the present-day nomós (department) of Lakonía on the right bank of the Evrótas Potamós (river). The sparsity of ruins from antiquity around the modern city reflects the austerity of the military oligarchy that ruled the Spartan city-state from the 6th to the 2nd century BC.

      Reputedly founded in the 9th century BC with a rigid oligarchic constitution, the state of Sparta for centuries retained as lifetime corulers two kings who arbitrated in time of war. In time of peace, power was concentrated in a Senate of 30 members. Between the 8th and 5th century BC, Sparta subdued Messenia, reducing the inhabitants to serflike status. From the 5th century the ruling class of Sparta devoted itself to war and diplomacy, deliberately neglecting the arts, philosophy, and literature, and forged the most powerful army standing in Greece.

      Sparta's single-minded dedication to rule by a militarized oligarchy precluded any hope of a political unification of classical Greece, but it performed a great service in 480 BC by its heroic stand at Thermopylae and its subsequent leadership in the Greco-Persian wars. The Battle of Salamis (480) revealed the magnitude of Athenian (Athens) naval power and set in motion the deadly struggle between the two powers that ended in Athenian defeat at the close of the Peloponnesian War in 404 and the emergence of Sparta as the most powerful state in Greece. In the Corinthian War (395–387) Sparta had two land victories over Athenian allied states and a severe naval defeat at Cnidus by a combined Athenian and Persian fleet. Sparta's involvement in Persian civil wars in Asia Minor under Agesilaus II (ruled 399–360) and the subsequent Spartan occupation (382) of the Theban citadel, Cadmea, overextended Spartan power and exposed the state to defeat at Leuctra (371) by the Theban Epaminondas, who went on to liberate Messenia. A century-long decline followed.

      Sparta's continued agitation spurred Rome's war on the Achaeans (146) and the Roman conquest of the Peloponnese. In AD 396 the modest city was destroyed by the Visigoths. The Byzantines repopulated the site and gave it the ancient Homeric name Lacedaemon. After 1204 the Franks built a new fortress city, Mistra, on a spur of the Taygetus range southwest of Sparta; after 1259 Mistra was capital of the Despotate of Morea (i.e., the Peloponnese) and flourished for about two centuries. From 1460 until the War of Greek Independence (1821–29), except for a Venetian interlude, the region was under Turkish rule.

      The present-day town was built in 1834 on the ancient site; it is called Néa (New) Spartí locally to distinguish it from the ruins that were excavated in 1906–10 and 1924–29. A small commercial and industrial centre of the European plain, the city trades in citrus fruits and olive oil. As in antiquity, it is served by the small port of Githion, modern Greek Yíthion (q.v.), 28 miles (45 km) southeast, to which it is linked by a paved road. Pop. (1981) metropolitan area, 14,388.

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Universalium. 2010.

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