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Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch

Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch



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Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch

Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch

Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns 550-362 BC

The city of Sparta dominated land warfare in Classical Greece, winning an impressive reputation in battles against Greek and Persian armies. After two centuries of dominance, Sparta suffered a series of defeats, and never really recovered. These defeats came at the hands of fellow Greek city states, and so can't be explained as part of the rise of Macedon or of Rome.

Rusch focuses on the period between 550 BC, when Sparta formed an alliance with Croesus of Lydia, and the Spartan defeat in the second battle of Mantinea of 362 BC. He examined Spartan culture, and the army that culture produced, the tactics the Spartans used in battle, the reasons for their years of victories and the way in which their own system played a part in their downfall.

Rusch uses his sources well. I was interested to read about the limited sources for some of Sparta's early wars - the First Messenian War appears to come from a reference in a later poem! It's also rather refreshing to read an account of the Great Peloponnesian War written from the Spartan point of view.

This is a very readable examination of Sparta's military history, with enough use of the sources to back up the text but that avoids getting bogged down in too many technicalities.

Chapters
1 - The Race of Unconquered Heracles
2 - Leader of the Peloponnese, c.550-481
3 - The Great King Invades, 481-480
4 - The Fairest Victory, 480-479
5 - Messenians and Athenians, 479-431
6 - Defeat and Disgrace, 431-421
7 - Turn of the Tide, 421-413
8 - The Navarchs' War, 413-404
9 - Imperial Adventures, 404-395
10 - End of Empire, 395-386
11 - Nemesis, 385-371
12 - Decline and Fall, 371-362 and Beyond

Author: Scott M. Rusch
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 259
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2011



The story of this military powerhouse of ancient Greece, and its nearly two centuries of battlefield triumphs.

During the eighth century BC, Sparta became one of the leading cities of ancient Greece, conquering the southern Peloponnese, and from the mid-sixth century BC until the mid-fourth, Sparta became a military power of recognized importance. For almost two centuries the massed Spartan army remained unbeaten in the field. Spartan officers also commanded with great success armies of mercenaries or coalition allies, as well as fleets of war galleys.

Although it is the stand of the Three Hundred at Thermopylae that has earned Sparta undying fame, it was her victories over both Persian invaders and the armies and navies of Greek rivals that upheld her position of leadership in Greece. Even a steady decline in Spartiate numbers, aggravated by a terrible earthquake in 464 BC, failed to end Spartan dominance. Only when the Thebans learned how to defeat the massed Spartan army in pitched battle was Sparta toppled from her position of primacy.

In this volume, Scott Rusch examines what is known of the history of Sparta, from the settlement of the city to her defeat at Theban hands, focusing upon military campaigns and the strategic circumstances that drove them. Rusch offers fresh perspectives on important questions of Spartan history, and illuminates some of antiquity’s most notable campaigns.


Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch - History

During the eighth century bc, Sparta became one of the leading cities of ancient Greece, conquering the southern Peloponnese, and from the mid-sixth century bc until the mid-fourth, Sparta became a military power of recognized importance. For almost two centuries the massed Spartan army remained unbeaten in the field. Spartan officers also commanded with great success armies of mercenaries or coalition allies, as well as fleets of war galleys. Although it is the stand of the Three Hundred at Thermopylae that has earned Sparta undying fame, it was her victories over both Persian invaders and the armies and navies of Greek rivals that upheld her position of leadership in Greece. Even a steady decline in Spartiate numbers, aggravated by a terrible earthquake in 464 bc, failed to end their dominance. Only when the Thebans learned how to defeat the massed Spartan army in pitched battle was Sparta toppled from her position of primacy.

Scott Rusch examines what is known of the history of Sparta, from the settlement of the city to her defeat at Theban hands, focusing upon military campaigns and the strategic circumstances that drove them. Rusch offers fresh perspectives on important questions of Spartan history, and illuminates some of antiquity&rsquos most notable campaigns.

About The Author

Scott Rusch studied Greek and Roman history at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his Ph.D. in 1997. Reflecting his lifelong interest in military history, he examined in his dissertation Greek military operations during the Peloponnesian War, a valuable preparation for this work. He has written on ancient military history for many publications.

REVIEWS

"Author Scott M. Rusch presents students, academics, researchers, and general interest readers with an examination of the city-state of Sparta in times of war over the two centuries between 550 and 362 BCE. The author has organized the main body of his text in twelve chapters devoted to Messenians and Athenians, the Persian invasions, the end of the Spartan Empire, and a wide variety of other related subjects. The author is an independent scholar and historian"

- ProtoView

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Top reviews from other countries

Although this does not seem to have been the author's intention, this book is an excellent introduction and overview of Sparta. In slightly more than 200 pages and plenty of well drawn maps and shematics for Sparta's major battles, Scott Rush has produced a very good summary of Sparta's military history. Although the book contains the date 550-362 BC, it also presents what happened before and after.

In fact, and to a large extent, this book is also a summary of the main conflicts over a period of about 200 years. Unsurprisingly, 2 and 3 chapters are devoted to, respectively, the War aganist the Persians and the Great War (or the war against Athens, as the Spartans called it with the Athenians calling it the war against the Peloponesians). I particularly enjoyed the last four chapters from 404 to 362 BC, the period of domination and Fall, simply because it is usually less well known and less studied. There are some very interesting developments on Theban tactics and their impact on Sparta. The limits to Sparta's power and the importance of Messenia are also clearly shown, but the importance of Argos as the secular rival is also emphasized while the other cities could be either (more or less voluntary) allies or adversaries, depending on their interests.

One limit of this book is that the discussion on "oliganthropia", its causes and its effects on Spartan armies are a bit on the "light side". Since this is one of the key reasons for Sparta's ultimate demise, this is proably a weak point. To learn more on this, read Cartledge's book (and "Agesilaus and the Crisis of parta", in particular).

Another limit of this book is perhaps that it is mostly focused on campaigns, battles and tactics, with the larger picture (diplomatic ties, politics etc. ) being less developed. One example is the rather shoprt piece on the period between the end of the Persian Wars and the beginning of the Great war between Athens and Sparta. Also, the outbreak of the Peloponesian war could have been better covered. For those wanting to learn more on this, Donald Kagan's first volume that bears this very title (of four) is a must. In particular, Kagan shows very convincingly in my view that neither Sparta nor Athens wanted to go to war initially, but that they were dragged into it by their respective allies.

Anyway, this is certainly not "the definitive work on the subject", as the other reviewer claims. However, it is a rather excellent introduction to Sparta, and to its main claim to undying fame: War. Not perfect perhaps, but certainly very good.

This is a great overview of the history of the Lacedaemons, a people who viewed themselves as the "sons of Hercules." Scott Rusch does a terrific job of piecing together Spartan history by referencing primary & secondary ancient sources such as Xenophon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Diodorus and Plutarch.

As Rusch points out, the Spartan strategy was comprised in a military machine that focused on superior soldiering over superior generalship. Even when Spartan generals turned out to be inept (which they did from time to time), the Spartan phalanx could still deliver Sparta a victory on the battlefield via a brutal combat training regimen. In short, even if you out-schemed the Spartans on the battlefield, they could still pound your land army into submission.

This is a book whose target audience is comprised of people who have a fascination with the historical denizens of Laconia. It is not recommended for people who may have accrued a passing interest after seeing the 300 [HD ] and 300: Rise of an Empire [HD ] movies. While entertaining, both of these films have some serious historical fudging. For those who had their interest piqued by these films but are @ the same time unwilling to read a hardcore history book such as this one, I would recommend Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae .

For people who enjoy the present book, I would also recommend Sparta , Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300-362 BC , Spartan Women , On Sparta (Penguin Classics) and The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece by Cartledge, Paul unknown Edition [Paperback(2004) ]. Whatever books you choose to read or not read, just remember that Sparta lives in our reflections on the ancient Greek world!


Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch - History

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During the eighth century bc, Sparta became one of the leading cities of ancient Greece, conquering the southern Peloponnese, and from the mid-sixth century bc until the mid-fourth, Sparta became a military power of recognized importance. For almost two centuries the massed Spartan army remained unbeaten in the field. Spartan officers also commanded with great success armies of mercenaries or coalition allies, as well as fleets of war galleys. Although it is the stand of the Three Hundred at Thermopylae that has earned Sparta undying fame, it was her victories over both Persian invaders and the armies and navies of Greek rivals that upheld her position of leadership in Greece. Even a steady decline in Spartiate numbers, aggravated by a terrible earthquake in 464 bc, failed to end their dominance. Only when the Thebans learned how to defeat the massed Spartan army in pitched battle was Sparta toppled from her position of primacy.
Scott Rusch examines what is known of the history of Sparta, from the settlement of the city to her defeat at Theban hands, focusing upon military campaigns and the strategic circumstances that drove them. Rusch offers fresh perspectives on important questions of Spartan history, and illuminate some of antiquity's most notable campaigns.

Author Scott M. Rusch presents students, academics, researchers, and general
interest readers with an examination of the city-state of Sparta in times of war over the two centuries between 550 and 362 BCE. The author has organised the main body of his text in twelve chapters devoted to Messenians and Athenians, the Persian invasions, the end of the Spartan Empire, and a wide variety of other related subjects.

ProtoView

This well-researched book will be enormously valuable for all those embarking on an interest in the Golden Age of Greece.

Firetrench

This well-researched book will be enormously valuable for all those embarking on an interest in the Golden Age of Greece, but it will also be valuable for established enthusiasts and scholars. A rewarding read.

Firetrench

'Here we have, in a single volume, the collected materials together and the author has by and large done an excellent job'

Ancient Warfare, Paul McDonnell

'This narrative is excellent at bringing together the source material that makes up our histories of this period'

Ancient Warfare, Paul McDonnell

In Sparta at War, classicist Rusch gives us a detailed look at the most admired military force of “Golden Age” Greece.
Although it opens with a survey of the early history of Sparta and the origins of its unique social and military institutions, Sparta at War concentrates on the period during which the city-state was most influential in the affairs of Greece, from roughly the sixth century BC through the fourth. Rusch devotes a chapter to the imposition of Spartan dominance over the Peloponnese in the sixth century, and follows this with two chapters on the Persian Wars (c. 490-475 BC). There follows a chapter on rising tensions with Athens, including the First Peloponnesian War (460-445 BC) and its consequences. Three chapters are needed for the Great Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC): one each for the early period of Athenian success, the Spartan revival, and the final campaigns and collapse of Athens. The last four chapters cover the Spartan dominance over the Greek world, the eclipse of Sparta by Thebes, and the long decline of the city. Rather than leap to conclusions over sometimes thorny questions of historiography, Rusch often usefully reminds the reader that there is much we don’t know even about this relatively well-documented period, a refreshing change from some overly definitive treatments of these events.
Although written primarily for those having only a passing familiarity with the “Golden Age of Greece”, Rusch's analysis will likely to be of interest to the more serious student of the period as well.

Albert Nofi, Strategypage.com

Perhaps the ancient culture that is most likely associated with war is Sparta, which is the subject of Scott Rusch's easy-to-read Sparta at War. This book is excellently illustrated with maps, and presents the history of the period 500-362 BC in an engaging and lively manner.

Minerva

It is rather extraordinary to think that, no one before Scott M.Rusch has though to attempt what he has pulled off rather triumphantly here – a battle-by-battle account of Spartan armies' performance on the field.

This is a most serviceable and highly recommendable volume.

The Anglo-Hellenic Review

Rusch uses his sources well. I was interested to read about the limited sources for some of Sparta's early wars - the First Messenian War appears to come from a reference in a later poem! It's also rather refreshing to read an account of the Great Peloponnesian War written from the Spartan point of view.
This is a very readable examination of Sparta's military history, with enough use of the sources to back up the text but that avoids getting bogged down in too many technicalities.

History of war website

Sparta at War, Scott M. Rusch - History

Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns, 550-362 BC, by Scott M. Rusch

Barnsley, England: Frontline/Philadelphia: Casemate, 2011. Pp. xii, 246. Illus., maps, notes, append., biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1848325304 .

In Sparta at War, classicist Rusch gives us a detailed look at the most admired military force of “Golden Age” Greece.

Although it opens with a survey of the early history of Sparta and the origins of its unique social and military institutions, Sparta at War concentrates on the period during which the city-state was most influential in the affairs of Greece, from roughly the sixth century BC through the fourth.  Rusch devotes a chapter to the imposition of Spartan dominance over the Peloponnese in the sixth century, and follows this with two chapters on the Persian Wars (c. 490-475 BC).  There follows a chapter on rising tensions with Athens, includnig the First Peloponnesian War (460-445 BC) and its consequences.  Three chapters are needed for the Great Peloponnesian War ( 431-404 BC): one each for the early period of Athenian success, the Spartan revival, and the final campaigns and collapse of Athens.  The last four chapters cover the Spartan dominance over the Greek world, the eclipse of Sparta by Thebes, and the long decline of the city.  Rather than leap to conclusions over sometimes thorny questions of historiography, Rusch often usefully reminds the reader that there is much we don’t know even about this relatively well-documented period, a refreshing change from some overly definitive treatments of these events. 

Although written primarily for those having only a passing familiarity with the “Golden Age of Greece”, Rusch's analysis will likely to be of interest to the more serious student of the period as well.


Buy ‘Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns, 950-362 B.C.’

So instead of expanding the economy by seeking new markets as a colonizing seafaring power would have done, Sparta grew by conquering, subjugating and/or enslaving nearby lands.

The link between oligarchical slave societies and military conquest has appeared in other eras, such as 19th century American filibusters who attempted to carve out new slave territories in Mexico and Cuba, and Nazi Germany’s attempt to enslave Europe through warfare in the 20th century.

“That the [Spartan] kings competed in conquest is explained by geography,” Rusch wrote. “The inland Spartans were ill-suited to trade or piracy, making war with neighbours the obvious route to martial glory, good farmland, and slave labour.”

Of course, keeping a majority of the population in the active or reserve military also helped Sparta to suppress slave and serf revolts, allowing the wealthiest land-owning elites to maintain their status.

Furthermore, while Spartan society privileged men, and women could not be citizens, women had a relative degree of freedom for the time that included handling administrative and business tasks, which was virtually absent in Athens’ extreme patriarchy. Naturally, this freed up men for more warfare.

The statue of Leonidas I at Thermopylae. Steven Auger photo via Flickr

Sparta — a well-organized, disciplined society geared toward territorial conquest. Obviously, this meant turning young men into warriors, and the Spartans did that very well. Spartan boys trained from a young age.

However, Rusch in Sparta at War noted “indoctrination and initiation, not education as such, was stressed.” The Spartans also prized athleticism and physical fitness, but suffice to say modern filmmakers have probably exaggerated the adult warriors’ physique.

In any case, the Spartans were generally fitter and stayed fit. They regularly worked out when campaigning, and stuck to regular schedules — basically, there was no skipping leg day. The soldiers were also fanatical to the point of suicidal in combat and the society punished cowardice through severe social ostracization.


Об авторе

Предварительный просмотр книги

Sparta At War - Scott M. Rusch

Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics, and Campaigns, 550–362 BC

This edition published in 2011 by Frontline Books, an imprint of

Pen & Sword Books Limited, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, S. Yorkshire, S70 2AS

Copyright © Scott M. Rusch, 2011

The right of Scott M. Rusch to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

Front cover: draped (Spartan) warrior figurine, c.510–500 BC (1917.815: detail).

Image courtesy of Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, CT. Gift of J. Pierpoint Morgan, Jr.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a

retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying,

recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any

unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and

CIP data records for this title are available from the British Library and the Library of Congress

For more information on our books, please visit

or write to us at the above address.

Typeset by JCS Publishing Services Ltd, www.jcs-publishing.co.uk in Jenson Pro font (11.25pt on 13.5pt)

Maps created by Alex Swanston, Pen and Sword Mapping Department

Printed in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe


Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns, 950-362 BC Digital – 1 December 2011

This is a great overview of the history of the Lacedaemons, a people who viewed themselves as the "sons of Hercules." Scott Rusch does a terrific job of piecing together Spartan history by referencing primary & secondary ancient sources such as Xenophon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Diodorus and Plutarch.

As Rusch points out, the Spartan strategy was comprised in a military machine that focused on superior soldiering over superior generalship. Even when Spartan generals turned out to be inept (which they did from time to time), the Spartan phalanx could still deliver Sparta a victory on the battlefield via a brutal combat training regimen. In short, even if you out-schemed the Spartans on the battlefield, they could still pound your land army into submission.

This is a book whose target audience is comprised of people who have a fascination with the historical denizens of Laconia. It is not recommended for people who may have accrued a passing interest after seeing the 300 [HD ] and 300: Rise of an Empire [HD ] movies. While entertaining, both of these films have some serious historical fudging. For those who had their interest piqued by these films but are @ the same time unwilling to read a hardcore history book such as this one, I would recommend Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae .

For people who enjoy the present book, I would also recommend Sparta , Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300-362 BC , Spartan Women , On Sparta (Penguin Classics) and The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece by Cartledge, Paul unknown Edition [Paperback(2004) ]. Whatever books you choose to read or not read, just remember that Sparta lives in our reflections on the ancient Greek world!


How Sparta Rose to Power

Sparta spent nearly three centuries as the preeminent military power in Ancient Greece. It rose to dominate the Peloponnese, Greece’s large southern peninsula, and led an alliance of city-states to defeat a Persian invasion which became immortalized in Western history.

The Spartans went on to subjugate Athens during the Peloponnesian War, but their hegemony was not to last. Sparta began a rapid decline after the city-state of Thebes inflicted a shocking defeat at the Battle of Leuctra.

But how did Sparta emerge into the power that it did? A curious group of geographical, social and political circumstances created the city-state’s legendary military culture and propelled its expansion around the 6th century B.C.

But its explosive growth — and oligarchical society — contained a hidden demographic time bomb which would contribute to its later eclipse.

Sparta’s location differed from most other Greek city-states. The city of Sparta — like the modern city — was more than 20 miles north of the Peloponnese’s southern coast.

To be sure, Sparta certainly couldn’t compete with Greece’s seafaring city-states in terms of trade. But it could match, even exceed them, by expanding physically and with muscle. Sparta’s center of a large agricultural region gave it a boost.

But the Greek city-states, Sparta included, lacked the technology to build sophisticated siege weapons, and the peninsula’s small populations — Sparta had around 40,000 inhabitants in 500 B.C. — discouraged lengthy campaigns.

Making expansion by conquest more difficult, the Peloponnese’s mountainous geography made terrain easily defensible. To vanquish their regional foes, the Spartans came up with better ideas.

‘Leonidas at Thermopylae’ by Jacques-Louis David, 1814, on display in the Louvre. Illustration via Mookiefl/flickr

Mainly, the Spartans sent raiding parties to scour the farmlands of their enemies, exhausting their populations and stoking internal divisions. And they were adept diplomats, recruiting allies through coercion and cajolery.

After Sparta subjugated Laconia — a region which present-day Sparta serves as its administrative capital — and Messenia to the west, the city-state grew to control most of the Peloponnese by the 530s.

Keeping such a vast area under control was a challenge even for the Spartans, and they quelled several revolts. To keep Spartan lands pacified also required the city-state to develop an efficient, organized and disciplined political structure. In fact, it was Sparta’s political system which helped drive conquest in the first place.

For one, Sparta had two kings. Thus, battlefield success was a way for the dueling monarchs to one-up each other, according to historian Scott Rusch’s 2011 book Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics, And Campaigns 550–362 B.C.

The drive to conquer also tied back to the fact that Sparta was an oligarchy that relied on a form of slave labor. Spartan citizens, or Spartiates or Homoioi, served in the military from age 20 to 30 — with reserve duty lasting until 60. A state-owned class of helots, or serfs, worked the land in addition to slaves.

So instead of expanding the economy by seeking new markets as a colonizing seafaring power would have done, Sparta grew by conquering, subjugating and/or enslaving nearby lands.

The link between oligarchical slave societies and military conquest has appeared in other eras, such as 19th century American filibusters who attempted to carve out new slave territories in Mexico and Cuba, and Nazi Germany’s attempt to enslave Europe through warfare in the 20th century.

“That the [Spartan] kings competed in conquest is explained by geography,” Rusch wrote. “The inland Spartans were ill-suited to trade or piracy, making war with neighbours the obvious route to martial glory, good farmland, and slave labour.”

Of course, keeping a majority of the population in the active or reserve military also helped Sparta to suppress slave and serf revolts, allowing the wealthiest land-owning elites to maintain their status.

Furthermore, while Spartan society privileged men, and women could not be citizens, women had a relative degree of freedom for the time that included handling administrative and business tasks, which was virtually absent in Athens’ extreme patriarchy. Naturally, this freed up men for more warfare.

The statue of Leonidas I at Thermopylae. Steven Auger photo via Flickr

Sparta — a well-organized, disciplined society geared toward territorial conquest. Obviously, this meant turning young men into warriors, and the Spartans did that very well. Spartan boys trained from a young age.

However, Rusch in Sparta at War noted “indoctrination and initiation, not education as such, was stressed.” The Spartans also prized athleticism and physical fitness, but suffice to say modern filmmakers have probably exaggerated the adult warriors’ physique.

In any case, the Spartans were generally fitter and stayed fit. They regularly worked out when campaigning, and stuck to regular schedules — basically, there was no skipping leg day. The soldiers were also fanatical to the point of suicidal in combat and the society punished cowardice through severe social ostracization.

If you weren’t cut out to be a soldier, Spartan society really sucked.

“Often when sides are picked for a game of ball [the coward] is the odd man left out,” the Athenian historian Xenophon wrote in the Constitution of the Lacedaimonians — another term for the Spartan kingdom.

“In the chorus he is banished to the ignominious place in the streets he is bound to make way when he occupies a seat he must needs give it up, even to a junior.”

He must support his spinster relatives at home and must explain to them why they are old maids: he must make the best of a fireside without a wife, and yet pay forfeit for that: he may not stroll about with a cheerful countenance, nor behave as though he were a man of unsullied fame, or else he must submit to be beaten by his betters.

Small wonder, I think, that where such a load of dishonour is laid on the coward, death seems preferable to a life so dishonoured, so ignominious.”

Spartan battle tactics were varied and complicated. One of the biggest differences from other city-states is the Spartan emphasis on organizing groups of soldiers in files, or columns, as opposed to ranks — with officers at the head of each file. According to Xenophon, this meant the Spartans were quicker to maneuver and face threats on their flanks.

When Sparta went to war at sea, it handed command to a “navarch” with a one-year term limit, according to Rusch. This was a peculiar way of dealing with inter-service rivalry … in favor of the army in typical Spartan fashion.

However, Sparta’s oligarchical society was unsustainable, because of a catch-22 inherent in what it meant to be a citizen. All Spartiates were required to eat communally, which contributed to military and social cohesion, but it came with a fee. And to pay the fee required owning enough land.

Now, let’s say you’re an ordinary, middle-class Spartan. Who inherits your land if you have multiple children? And you better have more than one or two considering the high death rate from disease, accidents and illness in the ancient world.

The answer is that you would split the land equally among your progeny.

But that risked your children inheriting insufficient land to pay the fee, thus they’d all lose their citizenship. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Spartiates kept on buying land — remember, Sparta was an oligarchy — and increased the gap between rich and poor.


Watch the video: Spartaner Atreus u0026 die Geschichte (August 2022).