King Leonidas, leader of the Spartan 300 against the Persians at Thermopylae

 

  • Lacedaemon, son of Zeus and a nymph named Taygete, was king of the geographical area of Laconia (in the southern part of the Peloponnese)

  • after marrying a woman named Sparta, he named the city after her


  • called “Lacedaemon” in antiquity

  • became the strongest army in the Greek world
    • virtually every aspect of society was designed to build and strengthen an invincible military force
    • dominant in the battles against the Persian Empire (5th century B. C.

  • had an oligarchic form of government
  • kept in slavery people called “helots,” who far outnumbered the Spartans themselves
    • the helots grew the crops and performed other non-military tasks that enabled Sparta to focus on her army

  • led a number of other oligarchic Greek city-states in a long-term war against Athens and her allied democratic city-states
    • known as the Peloponnesian War, this conflict raged, off and on from 431 - 404 B. C.
    • Sparta was the ultimate victor

  • defeat by Thebes (led by Epaminondas) in 371 B. C. at the Battle of Leuctra initiated the decline of Sparta


  • systematic excavation done, in 1892 - 1893, by the American School in Athens

  • the British School in Athens began digging in 1906

  • as a consequence of Sparta’s focus on military matters, the site has yielded few works of art and little in the way of architectural structures