Sparta

Nabis and the helots

This paper explores the policy of the Spartan king Nabis towards the helots. Attention is drawn to the significant differences between the social politics of Nabis and the earlier reforms of the kings Agis IV and Сleomenes III. The author concludes that Nabis followed a completely new principle of Spartan citizenship formation. He liberated a number of helots and made them full citizens. However, Nabis was not able to overcome the helotry entirely, although he sought to abandon this type of slavery. Nabis, having accepted helots and foreigners as full members of the civil community, created a completely new type of citizens whose loyalty lay not so much with the state as with him personally. The radical social reforms of Nabis abolished the archaic principles of citizenship formation at the very moment when the Lycurgan Sparta finally disappeared. It became a monarchy of Hellenistic mould.

Democratic elements in the Spartan political structure

The article deals with the dynamics of the Spartan statehood. We argue that this development was going in a different direction than, for example, in Athens. In Sparta, where the initial elements of democracy were quite strong, gradually went a process of strengthening of oligarchic principles. Even the Ephorate, which initially functioned as an organ of the Spartan democracy, had lost all of its democratic features by the end of the classical period. We believe that at this time the board of ephors had already become an integral part of the ruling oligarchs. Sources’ analysis shows that in the classic period the state system of Sparta gradually evolved from the traditional “hoplite politeia” to the clannish oligarchy. As a result, the ruling elite became less dependent and accountable to the common people than it was before. If the late Sparta can be called democratic polis, it is only in comparison with the oriental despotism.