chapter  4
17 Pages

THE ‘LYCURGAN’ REFORMS AND THE RISE OF SPARTA IN THE SEVENTH AND SIXTH CENTURIES

THE BACKGROUND The Dorians arrived in the Peloponnese around 1000 BC, and justified their conquests on the grounds that they were the descendants of Heracles and were legitimately re-claiming their former lands. The Spartan Dorians settled in the valley of the Eurotas river, situated in Laconia (also known as Lacedaimon) in the southern Peloponnese, probably in four villages (‘obai’); the fifth village (‘oba’) of Amyclai, which was about five kilometres further south and became an integral part of the city of Sparta, was added sometime later. The Spartans then set about establishing their control throughout Laconia (and possibly south-east Messenia) by conquering the other Dorian-controlled communities, whose inhabitants came to be known, according to their status, as either the ‘perioeci’ (‘those who live around’) or ‘helots’. The name ‘helot’ may have been derived from ‘the inhabitants of Helos’, which was a village close to the head of the Laconian Gulf, or (more likely) from the Greek word for ‘those captured (in war)’.