Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Ian Macgregor Morris
The ancient Greek city-state (polis) of Sparta has been regarded by many thinkers since antiquity as an ideal state, embodying both political and social virtues. In antiquity writers suggested Sparta was an exceptional polis, ascribing its political supremacy to its social order. This image proved influential in the Renaissance, and especially the Enlightenment, when Sparta repeatedly emerged as a sociopolitical model. François Ollier coined the term mirage spartiate (Spartan mirage) to describe the semimythical aura surrounding Sparta, actively promoted by the Spartans themselves, which continues to hamper historical studies of the city. The political and social arrangements of Sparta were attributed to the semi-legendary lawgiver Lycurgus, although even ancient authorities were skeptical about his existence. General opinion places the reforms that underlie the Spartan system in the period of expansion in the sixth century BCE, which established Sparta as the dominant polis in the Peloponnese, and one of the leading ...