Lycurgus In Sparta

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When thinking about the ancient power of the Greek polis Sparta, there are many things that come to mind, any many things that come into question. One of the first topics that usually comes to mind is where did Sparta come from, and how did they rise to be the most powerful polis in all of Greece. When this topic arises, the name Lycurgus is usually associated with some part of the creation story. The name Lycurgus is the traditional name of the founder of the Spartan constitution (founder 2016). From everything that has been compiled on Spartan history, the earliest mention of Lycurgus is in Herodotus. However, nothing is known about Lycurgus life, the time period he lived in, his personal traits or characteristics, whether he was a god, or…show more content…
From Herodotus, Xenophon, Thucydides, Plutarch, Strabo, Aristotle, Plato, it seems no Historian comes to the same exact conclusion on who Lycurgus was and to what degree he might have affected the possible reforms or implementing of the hegemony, and politeia in Sparta. In Plutarch “On Sparta” Lycurgus, he opens up by stating that “it is impossible to make any undisputed statement about Lycurgus the lawgiver, since conflicting accounts have been given of his ancestry, his travels, his death, and above all his activity with respect to his laws and government (Plut. Lyc.1.).” Throughout this paper, I aim to question the degree of the reforms that were implemented by the supposed Lycurgus in hopes of explaining the significance of the meaning of Lycurgus, the possible reforms to Spartan society over a long period of time, who gave Spartans the laws that they obey, and how much of what we know is actually…show more content…
Based off of what is given in Herodotus the Histories, Lycurgus is first mentioned as the son of Aristolaides, and the leader of the people in the plains in Lacedaemonia whom form together with Megacles who controlled the coasts (HDT.1.59). Prior to the alleged kingship of Lycurgus, Lacedaemon/Sparta was in a political upheaval between a diarchy of Kings who could not agree upon anything, and therefore set limitations to the powers of the Kings. These political disagreements continued all the way to Lycurgus inheritance who comes across a Sparta that seems to be wavering between being a Monarch or a Democracy. The state of Sparta prior to Lycurgus can be described as a aristocratic tyranny, one in which the rich easily preyed upon the poor. The combining of powers between Lycurgus and Megacles allowed them to expel the tyrannical leader Pisistratus who takes control of and later becomes the leader of Athens (Hdt. 1.59.60). Paired with the first mentionings of Lycurgus in Herodotus the Histories, the next mentioning of Lycurgus comes shortly after when Herodotus describes the horrendous quality of foreign and domestic policies the Lacedaemonians had at the time. Rather than describing who Lycurgus was, or what his credentials may have been Herodotus simply writes that a “Spartiate of some eminence went to consult the Oracle at Delphi and as soon as he entered the temple the Pythia
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