I have succeeded thus far in confining my notice of the ‘Great Rhetra’ to a single, oblique reference. For if anything justifies the description of the study of early Sparta as ‘intellectual gymnastics’ (Ehrenberg 1973, 389), it is surely this document of some fifty words preserved for us by Plutarch (Lyk. 6), over which more scholarly ink has been spilt than over any other Greek text of comparable length. None the less, for two main reasons, the ‘Great Rhetra’ must now be pulled out from under the carpet, dusted off and, if only briefly, held up to the light of historical scrutiny. First, it represents in kernel the political solution which has been precisely characterized by Andrewes (1956, ch. 6) as the ‘Spartan alternative to tyranny’. Second, it was the attainment of internal political equilibrium at an early date which, as Thucydides (1.18.1) saw, enabled the Spartans to intervene in the affairs of other states – and, we might add, to control their own Perioikoi and Helots in the manner analysed in the next chapter. Two questions, however, remain to be answered: at how early a date was this triumphantly successful solution devised and acted upon, and to what problems did it offer a solution?