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  • Open Access
    Authors: 
    Mait Kõiv;
    Publisher: University of Tartu

    Of all the Greek city-states, Sparta offers certainly the most abundant and partly also the best literary evidence about the development of the constitution of an early polis (prior to the 6th century BC). This is true at least in respect of what may be called early documentary evidence. In the first place we have the so-called Great Rhetra, allegedly a Delphic prescription to the Spartan lawgiver Lykourgos, quoted by Plutarch in the biography of Lykourgos as his main constitutional enactment. By all probability the Rhetra with its commentary derives from Aristotle’s lost “Lakedaimonion politeia”. Leaving here aside all the disputes about the exact meaning of particular clauses of the Rhetra, we can summarise its essence as follows. First, it prescribed the establishment of a new cult (Syllanian Zeus and Athena), the arrangement of the members of the community into structural units (phylai and obai), the establishment of the gerousia of 30 members, including the kings, and the regular holding of assemblies. And second, it prescribed the correct procedure to be followed in the assemblies, leaving the right of the final decision to the people. According to Aristotle, the kings Polydoros and Theopompos added later the so-called Rider to the Rhetra. It gave the gerontes and the kings the right to dissolve the assembly if the people would speak crookedly.

Include:
1 Research products, page 1 of 1
  • Open Access
    Authors: 
    Mait Kõiv;
    Publisher: University of Tartu

    Of all the Greek city-states, Sparta offers certainly the most abundant and partly also the best literary evidence about the development of the constitution of an early polis (prior to the 6th century BC). This is true at least in respect of what may be called early documentary evidence. In the first place we have the so-called Great Rhetra, allegedly a Delphic prescription to the Spartan lawgiver Lykourgos, quoted by Plutarch in the biography of Lykourgos as his main constitutional enactment. By all probability the Rhetra with its commentary derives from Aristotle’s lost “Lakedaimonion politeia”. Leaving here aside all the disputes about the exact meaning of particular clauses of the Rhetra, we can summarise its essence as follows. First, it prescribed the establishment of a new cult (Syllanian Zeus and Athena), the arrangement of the members of the community into structural units (phylai and obai), the establishment of the gerousia of 30 members, including the kings, and the regular holding of assemblies. And second, it prescribed the correct procedure to be followed in the assemblies, leaving the right of the final decision to the people. According to Aristotle, the kings Polydoros and Theopompos added later the so-called Rider to the Rhetra. It gave the gerontes and the kings the right to dissolve the assembly if the people would speak crookedly.

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