Social Struggle Essay

1167 words - 5 pages

In the military state of Lacedaemon, generally referred to as Sparta, the social struggle between the helots and Spartiates caused a system of slavery unlike that of any other city in ancient Greece . Rather than individually owned, the Spartan helots were conquered Greeks who were owned collectively by the Spartan government; since no one Spartan owned a helot, helots could not be sold and were able to live in their own separate communities this causing the helots to be in an in between status of “free and un-free” . According to Critias of Athens the “distinction between slave and free was greatest in Sparta” , this due to that the helots preformed all the mundane agricultural and economic labor, which was considered uneducated work , thus allowing the Spartiate elite class to fully dedicate their efforts to military training. While this use of forced labor provided the foundation which would permit the Spartans to become the greatest warriors in ancient Greece, the helots were given frequent reminders that they were at the bottom of the social structure. Aspects such as labor, rights and treatment, and roles in war were all elements of the helot’s enslavement which caused not only hatred between the two classes but a necessary arrangement.
The origins of the helots is debated throughout ancient sources; while it is commonly except that the helots were pre-Dorian’s conquered in the Messenian war , Antiochus of Syracus and Ephorus of Cyme had different theories. Antiochus in his account of the Partheniai revolt stated that, “when the Messenian war had began the Lac that did not take part in the campaign were judged slaves and called helots” ; while Ephorus declared that they were perinoeci ( dwellers in surrounding communities) who become helots as a result of a failed revolution . While key information is lost, what is known is that during the 8th century B.C. the Lacedaemonians invaded the Messenian plains, and as a result native born Greeks became helots. From their capture till the disbandment of the Spartan empire in number c. B.C. helots supported the Spartan economy through food production and product manufacturing. Aristotle articulates that, “agriculture, and the arts and crafts-cannot be rendered by the full citizen, because their life need leisure”, as Spartans were free from supplying their economy they were able to fully dedicate their way of life to physical training. The helots primary function was working the klēroi designated to each Spartan citizen; according to Plutarch Lycurgus, a lawgiver in Sparta, divided the Messenian plains into 9 thousand lots and at birth each male was give a lat as well as helots to work the land . From the land the helots were required to give half of the produce to the owner of the land, the rest was left to them. Comparative to other slave systems, this appears to be a reasonable share as the remaining harvest could be used supply individual families or sold to acquire needed goods; if a...

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