Ancient History AS Sparta OCR

The Spartan Constitution 


The powers of the Kings

1.RELIGIOUS - Kings were regarded as intermediaries between the gods and men, and held their office as long as the gods were pleased

Herodotus Book VI (56-60) Xenophon 13-15

1."Two priesthoods, of Zeus Lacedaemon and of Zeus Uranius" (56)
1."He sacrifices to Zeus the Leader and the associated gods" (13)

2."On the first and seventh days of every month each king is given a full-grown animal to offer in sacrifice in the temple of Apollo, also a bushel of barley-meal and a Laconian quart of wine" (57)

3."Responsible for the safe-keeping of all oracles (the 'Pythians' also have knowledge of them)" (57)

4."and each of them nominates two 'Pythians' - officials, that is, whose duty it is to visit Delphi when occasion arises" (57)


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The powers of the Kings


Kings were the supreme commanders of the army. Only one of them was selected to lead a campaign, while the other remained in Sparta

Herodotus Book IV (56-6) Xenophon 13-15

1."On service, the kings go first and return last" (56)

1."Should lead the army wherever the city dispatches it" (15)

2."They have a bodyguard of a hundred picked men, and are allowed for their own wish as many cattle as they wish" (56)

3."Also present are two ephors, who do not involve themselves in any way unless the king calls them in, but observe each person's actions and ensure that they are correct in every case" (13)

4."Spartans alone are real master of the craft of war" (13)

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The powers of the Kings

JUDICIAL - Kings has only limited judicial duties. They decided on the marriages of orphaned heiresses, and had control of all matters concerning highways and the adoption of children

Herodotus Book IV (56-6) Xenophon 13-15

1."if a girl inherits her father's estate and has not been betrothed by him to anybody, the kings decide who has the right to marry her; secondly, all matters connected with the public roads are in their hands; and, thirdly, anyone who wishes to adopt a child must do it in the king's presence" (57)

2."They sit with the twenty-eight Elders in the Council chamber"

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The privileges of the Kings

Herodotus Book IV (56-6) Xenophon 13-15

1."To them are allotted the skins and chines of all animals offered for sacrifice" (56-57) 

1."He also granted him the privilege of taking parts of the animals sacrificed"

2."At all public religious celebrations they are the first to sit down at the dinner which follows the sacrifice" (57)

3."..each getting twice as much of every dish as anybody else" (57)

3."Gave them the honour of double portions at meals"

4."At public games seats of honour are reserved for them" (57)

5."If the kings happen not to attend the usual state dinner, two quarts of meal and half a pint of wine are sent to each of them at his house" (57)

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Death of a King

Herodotus Book IV (56-6) Xenophon 13-15

1."Women go the rounds of the capital beating cauldrons"

2."This is the signal for two people, one man and one woman, from every citizen's household to put on mourning - which they are compelled to do under penalty of a heavy fine"

3."When a death occurs, not only Spartans but a certain number of the country people from all over Lacedaemon are forced to attend the funeral"

4."Men and women together strike their foreheads with every sign of grief"

5."If a king is killed in war, they make a statue of him, and carry it to burial on a richly draped bier"

6."As to the honours shown a king after his death, the aim of the laws of Lycurgus here is to demonstrate that they have given special honour to Spartan kings no as humans but as heroes"

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Limitations of power

-Dual nature of kingship ensured that each could keep a check on the other

-A monthly oath was taken jointly, by the kings and the ephors, whereby the king;s office was guaranteed as long as they acted constitutionally

-The kings were reported upon the ephors during campaigns

-The kings could be - and at times were - deposed by the people

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