Aristotle: Constitution of Sparta

(ca. 335–323 BCE)

The Constitution of Sparta was written in the middle to late seventh century bce. No known copy of it remains, and there is debate about whether Lycurgus, its supposed creator, actually existed. What is known about the constitution comes from Aristotle's Politics, written probably in the 320s bce. Many of the laws in the Constitution of Sparta deal with strengthening the military, so the document is critical to the formation of the elite fighting force that put Sparta on the map in the ancient world.

The Constitution of Sparta is one of the earliest documents of its kind in the ancient world. If the dates of the ancient historians are trustworthy, the Spartan constitution predates that of Athens by 150 years. While the constitution established a mixed government that was occasionally monarchical, oligarchic, and even at some times tyrannical, it did stress democracy. All male citizens were allowed to participate in the Domos, the Spartan assembly, which gave them immense...

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Terra-cotta cup with image of hoplite (Yale University Art Gallery)

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