Hellenistic and Roman Sparta

Hellenistic and Roman Sparta
(323 BC. – 476 AD.)
Important Events of Global
• 330-323: Alexander the Great conquers the Persian Empire
323: After his Death the empire is broken to
pieces by his generals (Diadochi)
The Roman Conquest
• 146 BC: The Romans complete the conquest
of Greece and turn it into a Roman province
• 48: Caesar v. Pompey
• 42: Antony v. Brutus
• 31: Octavian v. Antony
• After 31 BC: Empire
The Roman World
• Under Rome there is widespread peace within the borders of the
empire (Pax Romana)
• 313: The Edict of Milan allows for tolerance of all religions in the
Roman Empire and stops the persecution of Christianity
• Under Constantine Christianity florishes
• 391: An edict of Theodosius makes Christianity obligatory and the
official religion
• 476: The western part of the Roman Empire is overrun by the
barbarians. The Christianized and Hellenized eastern part continues
the name and traditions of ancient Greece and Rome. Modern
scholars have called this Byzantium, and was destined to last until
the late middle ages. The fall of Byzantium jump-starts the
Renaissance and the modern Era.
Byzantium under Basil II (around 1000)
The Roman Theater at Sparta
Areus (309-265 BC)
• Sparta, although diminished and demoralized was not yet
finished at the time of Alexander
• She abstained from the Lamian war (a revolt of the
southern states from Macedonian control, after Alexander’s
• Under King Areus the dual kingship will start to falter and
eventually will disappear, as Sparta increasingly becomes a
true Hellenistic monarchy
• Whatever is left of the Lycurgan laws is sidelined
• Areus partially succeeds in re-establishing local dominance
for Sparta as a Hellenistic Kingdom
• Now Sparta has silver coinage, with Areus’ head on it
Agis IV (265-241) [Eurypontid Line]
With youthful enthusiasm he wished to restore Sparta to its past glories and
restore the Lycurgan system
He proposed a land re-distribution (4500 lots of homoioi + 15000 lots of perioikoi)
He planned to repopulate the homoioi with naturalizations from respectable
The Ephors, gerousia and Agiad King Leonidas II, serving the interests of the rich
resisted his plan fiercely
Agis overturned the ephors
When he was on campaign the exiled Leonidas II returned and staged a revolt
Agis was arrested and hurriedly executed
His widow Agiatis became the wife of the heir to the Agiad throne Cleomenes III
Character: noble, well-intentioned but not decisive enough to quash opposition
Cleomenes III (R: 235-222 BC.)
• Through his wife he came to admire the plan of Agis
• Unlike the idealistic Agis, a more pragmatic Cleomenes
began his reform with the assassination of the Ephors
• He then proceeded with the redistribution of land
• He created 4000 new homoioi and equipped them
Macedonian Style with long, heavy spears
• He restored, at least nominally, the Lycurgan order
• Characteristically in this period the ephors are no
longer seen as the guardians of the state, but as an
instrument for the rich and the privileged
Greece around 200 BC
The Battle of Sellasia (222 BC)
• Cleomenes was a great man, perhaps the last
truly great man in the Greek World
• However, the tide of history was against him
• The Achaean League, which dominated northern
Peloponnese and Boeotia, finally moved to annex
• Cleomenes was decisively defeated at Sellasia by
the superior forces of the League, Sparta was
eventually annexed, and lost its independence
Nabis: The Last Stand (207 192)
He claimed descent from the Eurypontid line
In reality a usurper and dictator, who killed the descendants of the two royal
He seized power, and tried to introduce reforms by force
He adhered to the policies of Cleomenes, but imposed them with violence and
extreme measures
He finally built walls around Sparta
Famous for his cruelty, he even invented a torture machine Apega of Nabis.
In his foreign policy, like his predecessors, opposed the Achaean League and
concluded peace with Rome
He re-conquered Messenia but was forced to abandon it, when he was defeated
by the brilliant general of the Achaean League Philopoemen.
Under Nabis Sparta became again a credible power, but since he was seen as a
threat by the Achaean and Aetolian League and Rome too, eventually he was
assasinated in 192 and Sparta was annexed into the Achaean Leagure.
With Nabis ends Spartan Independence
The Roman Period
• Roman Sparta becomes a tourist attraction for people drawn to her
glorious past
• Since it was the only Greek city which supported Augustus in his
struggle with Marc Antony, generous gifts brought prosperity
• More monumental structures than ever before are constructed (e.g.
the large theater)
• The re-instituted agoge becomes like a Roman theme park
• This re-invented Sparta lasts well into the Christian era, when
Sparta drops out of the picture, and at some point the site of the
ancient city is abandoned altogether
• In the late Byzantine period (2nd millenium) Mystras, a new
development on a fortified position west of the ancient city,
dominates the Peloponnese, and becomes an important center as
the ailing capital Constantinople comes under constant pressure by
Latin invaders and then the Ottoman Turks