The article below was originally written in the form of an undergraduate assignment for the Greek Open University in 2004, during a period when the author's academic skills were still under development. Although the quality of this article does not match the quality of later examples of the same author's work, it is written in a thorough manner and contains useful information to nowadays students and other readers with non-specialised knowledge; therefore, it has been proudly included on this website.
The reader needs to be warned that the original assignment, on which this article was based on, was written in Greek and was intended to be read by specialised academics. Despite the author's best intentions to present his essay in the clearest way possible, some points and arguments might still be lost in translation. The author recommends that for any unknown words or specialised vocabulary, the readers should refer to the web for additional information.
The author admits that the bibliography for this article is limited, matching the requirements of an undergraduate assignment of this level. The author did not include any additional bibliography during the translation of his work in English due to time and access limitations. It must also be noted that the original bibliography for this article was studied from translated copies in Greek; therefore, the page numbers suggested in the citations below match the page numbers of the translated copies and not the original volumes.
Land ownership (Egktisis = Έγκτησις), descent and full political rights were the three elements that characterised the status of free citizens in the ancient Greek world (Milios 2000, 33). Furthermore, land ownership played an important role in the development of the social, political and military institutions of Greek city-states. The article below discusses the contribution of land ownership in the above domains by focusing on Athens and Sparta during the Archaic (c.700–490/80 BC) and Classical periods (c. 490/480–323 BC). The paper is divided in two sections, which discuss the case of each city-state respectively, and at the end, there is a conclusive section with comparisons on the social, political and military aspects of the two city-states.
Land ownership in ancient Athens
During the 7th century BC, a restricted military aristocracy possessed most of Attica's land and exclusive access to Athens' higher offices. This same aristocracy comprised the army, formed the laws and delivered justice in accordance with its own interests (Mossé 1983, 19).
The social hierarchy at the beginning of the Archaic period was characterised by three groups, which had different degrees of access to the political and military institutions of the city-state. These were the Nobles (Eupatrides = Ευπατρίδες), who were rich landlords; the 'Craftsmen' (Demiourgoi = Δημιουργοί), who were artisans, merchants, free workers, fishermen and other self-sustained professionals, who did not possess any land at all; and finally the farmers (Geomoroi = Γεωμόροι or Agroikoi = Αγροίκοι), who were peasants owning small or medium-sized plots of land (Mpirgalias 2000, 131). There were also two separate social groups, which neither had access to the city-state's institutions, nor were allowed the possession of land. These were the slaves (Douloi = Δούλοι) and the foreign professionals (Metoikoi = Mέτοικοι) (Milios 2000, 34-6).
Prior to Solon's government, there were two groups of indebted peasants (Geomoroi) who either lived on 'mortgaged' loans placed on their individual freedom ('body-loans'), or rented someone else's land in return of one-sixth of their agricultural production. The name of the latter group, the Ektemoroi (Εκτήμοροι), derived from this contribution rate, as the word Ekton means one-sixth (Mossé 1983, 21-22). In both cases, the farmers' inability to repay the debts they owed, led to the loss of their property and personal freedom, often resulting to slavery. In 594 BC, Solon passed a series of social reforms, which erased the debts of the poor peasants (Seisachtheia = Σεισάχθεια) and forbade 'body-loaning' by law. Despite these reforms, Solon did not proceed to the redistribution of Attica's land, which had fallen to the hands of few powerful landlords in previous years. Furthermore, the social stratification continued to be based on land ownership, although the criterion for the definition of the four new social groups was not the actual ownership of the land, but the output of its agricultural production. More specifically, the Pentakosiomedimnoi, Triakosiomedimnoi or Hippeis, Diakosiomedimnoi or Zeugitae, and the Thetes were classified according to their income measured in Medimnoi, which were the capacity units of that time (Mpirgalias 2000, 132-5). Social stratification was indirectly depended on land ownership, as the rich landlords who possessed more land than the poor farmers, were able to produce larger volumes of grain. After the Cleisthenic reforms in 508/7 BC, however, land ownership ceased to be the criterion for social and political stratification (Milios 2000, 62). The production of wealth through economic activities other than agriculture (e.g. shipping and trade) led to the emergence of social groups that could have been part of the wealthiest social strata, without necessarily owning any land.
In terms of access to Athens' political institutions, prior to Solon's reforms the aristocrats were the only ones who could elect the members of Athens' Nine Archons (Archon = Άρχων) and the members of the Areopagus (Areios Pagos = Άρειος Πάγος), which was the city's supreme council. This privilege was maintained after Solon's reforms, only this time the old aristocracy was divided into two new groups based on their income, the Pentakosiomedimnoi and the Triakosiomedimnoi or Hippeis (Ιππείς). The second group, the name of which meant cavalry, probably consisted of members of the old military aristocracy, which had survived since the beginning of the Archaic period. Furthermore, the two wealthiest social groups had access to the Council of the 500 (Boule = Βουλή). Through his reforms, Solon delivered a political blow to the old aristocracy, as he allowed rich landlords of non-noble descent to enter the groups of the Pentakosiomedimnoi and the Triakosiomedimnoi. This way, they were granted access to the political offices once possessed solely by the aristocrats. During Solon's era, the Zeugitae (Diakosiomedimnoi) and the Thetes, who did not own any land at all, gained access the the People's Council (Ecclesia tou Demou = Εκκλησία του Δήμου) and to the city's Supreme Court (Heliaia = Ηλιαία). In the past, such institutions would have only been accessible to those who owned land.
After Solon's government, social unrest led to violent clashes. In 580 BC, the old social group of the 'Craftsmen' (Demiourgoi = Δημιουργοί) were allowed to elect two representatives in the council of the Nine Archons (governors). This reform was probably important during that time, as the Demiourgoi owned no land, and yet, they were offered representation in one of the highest political institutions of the city-state. The political privileges of the Athenian landlords finally ceased in 561 BC, when Peisistratos established his tyranny (Mpirgalias 2000, 131-40). As explained earlier, with the new reforms introduced by Cleistenes after the end of the Peisistratid Tyranny, land ownership ceased to be a precondition for adult males to be citizens and to enjoy full political rights. The only precondition for these was for the citizens to be registered in their local municipal catalogues (Milios 2000, 51). Furthermore, during the same period, citizenship and full political rights were offered to many foreigners and slaves, despite the fact that they did not possess any land at all (Mpirgalias 2000, 141).
The military obligations of the Athenians were always based on the city-state's social stratification. During the earlier Archaic period, the Nobles, who possessed significant land and held full political rights, probably played the most important role in the cavalry and heavily armed infantry. Even after Solon's reforms and the division of the Athenian society in four new income-based groups, military obligations were still defined by land ownership (Milios 2000, 71-2). The two wealthiest and most prominent social groups, the Pentakosiomedimnoi and the Hippeis, served in the cavalry, as they could purchase and maintain horses at their own expenses (Mpirgalias 2000, 131, 160-1). Of course, such cavalry probably did not function as a combat unit in the same sense it did during the Classical period, but it probably served as a form of mounted infantry with enhanced mobility. The third social group, the Zeugitae, served in the infantry as hoplites and were expected buy and maintain their armour and weapons at their own expenses. The Thetes, who were of low income, served as lightly armed infantry (psiloi = ψιλοί) (Mpirgalias 2000, 131). It must be noted that during the Archaic period, there were limited occasions when slaves (Douloi) were allowed to serve in the army, as it is for example recorded at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC (Mpirgalias 2000, 160-1).
The Cleisthenic reforms of the late 6th century BC introduced social and political innovations, which characterise the birth of Classical Athenian democracy. Cleisthenes disengaged citizenship and the possession of full political rights from land ownership; however, there were occasions when the connection was still obvious. For example, one of the strictest penalties for someone who disrespected the laws was total ignominy (olike atimia = ολική ατιμία), which included the deprivation of one's political rights and the confiscation of all his land (Milios 2000, 66). Furthermore, during the Classical period (490/479 – 323 BC), land ownership consisted an important apparatus for the promotion of one's social status. The prestige of wealthy landlords, who were solely adult males, was confirmed and enhanced though their contributions to sponsorships (choregies = χορηγίες), which operated as a form of wealth re-distribution. Such sponsorships derived from the income of land ownership and agricultural activities and associated with the two wealthiest social groups, the Pentakosiomedimnoi and the Triakosiomedimnoi (Milios 2000, 79) .
The political powers of the two wealthiest social groups were restricted significantly with a series of reforms introduced by Ephialtes in 457 BC. These new reforms transferred the powers held by the Council of the Elders to the People's Assembly, the Supreme Court and the Council of the 500. A little later, Pericles passed a law, which allowed the Thetes to be elected governors (Archons). Until that time, the Thetes were primarily shop owners and artisans, who possessed no land and could not access this specific office; however, their political rights needed to expand due to the important role they played as oarsmen in the Athenian navy (Mpirgalias 2000, 146-7). In reality, Pericles' amendment never became accepted and right after his death, the law fell out of used (Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1998, 138). At the same period, democratic institutions went through crisis. Despite the introduction of an 'ecclesiastic salary' (ecclesiasticos misthos = εκκλησιαστικός μισθός), which was paid to the citizens who participated in the Peoples' Assembly, the participation of the Athenians declined due to their disappointment towards the state after the catastrophic consequences of the Peloponnesian War (Mpirgalias 2000, 149).
Women in Classical Athens did not have any legal capacity and for this reason they were not allowed to own land (Milios 200, 68-9). The Peloponnesian War undermined land ownership as Attica's land was deserted or destroyed during the Lacedaemonian raids. At that time, the phenomenon of land speculation appeared for the first time: people bought the abandoned land cheaply, they re-cultivated it and then resold it at an expensive price. Gradually, most of the land ended up in the hands of the rich. After the Peloponnesian War, discontent prevailed against the wealthy landlords. Slanders (sykophantes = συκοφάντες) accused many of illegal possession of land, who ended up in court (Mpirgalias 2000, 148-9).
After the restoration of democracy in 403 BC, the Peoples' Assembly considered for the first time a proposal by Phormisios, who suggested the restriction of political rights and voting capacity only to those who owned land (Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1998, 138). Although the proposal did not go through, several years later, in 322 BC, there appeared a degree which limited full citizenship and political rights to those who earned over twenty capacity units (this time measured in Mnas) from land exploitation (Milios 2000, 63).
In terms of the military obligations of the Athenian citizens, the Classical period brought major changes and a shift of mentality in the army. The relationship between land ownership and military duties can be understood through the words of the Euphebic Oath. The young recruits swore upon “the homeland's boarders, the wheat grains, the barley grains, the vineyards, the olive trees and the fig trees” (Austin and Vidal-Naquet 1998, 136-7). It is interesting that the Euphebic Oath spoke about to the protection of any cultivated land within the city's boarders and it did not associate that land with specific landlords, but with specific agricultural products that guaranteed the community's survival.
During the Classical period, there were strict views that foreign professionals (Metoikoi = Μέτοικοι) should not be allowed the possession of land. Still, it was possible for some foreigners to obtain full citizenship and full political rights. Such views reflected the social ideas of the Archaic period and are clearly evident in Xenophon's book Ways and Means (Poroi = Πόροι), which translates as 'Revenues'. The Metoikoi of Athens served in the navy as oarsmen next to other Athenian citizens and also served as members of the National Guard, which was assigned the protection of the city's walls, together with the units of the young Euphebes (Milios 2000, 75).
Since the time of Pericles, the Athenians put serious effort in increasing their naval power and in consolidating their hegemony in the Aegean sea. This would not have been possible without the warship contributions (trierarchies = τριηραρχίες) and the fees (eisphores = εισφορές) paid by the wealthiest Athenians, which were the product of land exploitation (Milios 2000, 79). On the other hand, such Athenian warships were manned by free citizens, who did not always possess land, and were not subject to military contributions in money. Furthermore, during the Classical period there appeared small landlords, the Clerouchoi (Κληρούχοι), who were given pieces of redistributed land in conquered territories, in exchange of their military services (Mpirgalias 2000, 147). Right after the Peloponnesian War, Athenian citizens withdrew from participating in military campaigns and focused primarily in the re-development of their land and the production of wealth. From that point onwards, warfare passed to the hands of highly experienced mercenaries (Milios 2000, 75).
Land ownership in ancient Sparta
The Spartan society of the 8th century BC was probably controlled by aristocrats, who managed to resolve the lack of cultivated land (stenochoria = στενοχώρια) by conquering the the neighbouring Messenia. After the end of the First Messenian War (735-715 BC), the conquered land was divided in plots (kleros = κλήρος) and was distributed to the Spartans and the Perioikoi (περίοικοι), who occupied the Laconian periphery (Mpirgalias 2000, 173). Little is know on how Messenian land was divided and distributed amongst the Lacedaemonians. The only surviving bits of information from this period, deriving from Herodotus and Thucydides, suggest that before the introduction of the Lycurgian Constitution during the late 6th century BC, Sparta was in constant social unrest due to its bad laws (Baltruch 2003, 26). It is likely that social unrest was due to the unfair distribution of the cultivated land and the social inequality among the aristocrats and the farmers, who were also Sparta's first hoplites.
According to the textual sources, justice prevailed in Sparta after a fair re-distribution of the Laconian land attributed to Lycurgus. More specifically, the land was divided equally to 30,000 Perioikoi, who received the less fertile plots located in the Spartan periphery, and to 9,000 Spartans, who were distributed equal plots along the fertile valley of river Eurotas (Baltrush 2003, 35). Such equal plots of land associated with the equal political and social status for the Spartan citizens, the name of whom (Homoioi = Όμοιοι) meant “the same”.
In reality, social equality among Spartan citizens was mainly due to the transition of the Laconian society from an aristocratic model to a militarised model. This happened after the Second Messenian War (640-620 BC), where the compulsory participation of the farmers in the army, where they served as hoplites in the phalanx, led to an increase of social equality. During this period, the society was divided into three social groups, which remained the same for centuries: the Homoioi, the Perioikoi and the Helots. The internal and external relationships among the three social groups were determined according to land ownership. The equality among the Homoioi was reflected upon the equal shares of paternal land (kleros = κλήρος) that each one possessed. According to Polybius (Histories, Book 22, 'Sparta and the League') the shares of the land of the Homoioi belonged to the state. This view contrasts with Classical writers, who suggest that the Homoioi were the sole owners of their plots, which they could transfer to others as they wished.
The cultivation and agricultural exploitation of these plots was under the Helots (Είλωτες). The Helots were state-owned slaves of non-Lacedaemonian origins, who were attached to the land of their master, but had no legal rights on this land. They would profit from the agricultural exploitation of the land in return of a share of their profit to their Spartan landlord. By contrast, the Perioikoi were part of the Lacedaemonian people and shared the same national and cultural identity with the Homoioi; however, they were considered inferior than the latter. Although many of them were artisans, traders and stock breeders, they were also farmers who possessed their own land in the Spartan periphery. Such farmers would have normally worked on their own plots without the assistance of Helots (Mpirgalias 200, 174-188).
The only citizens who were allowed to participate in Sparta's political affairs were the Homoioi, or in other words those who possessed a kleros, which was originally given to them or their predecessors by the state. In theory, they had equal rights to participate in the People's Assembly (Apella = Απέλλα) and the Elders' Council (Gerousia = Γερουσία). In praxis, however, the election in the Elders' Council was restricted to a group of former aristocrats, who were affiliated with the courts of the two Spartan kings. The two kings were never elected but they inherited their rights to their thrones though royal descent, as they always originated from two aristocratic families, the Agidae and the Euripontidae. Although equals, the political decisions made by the Homoioi, who were mostly landlords of non-aristocratic background, were limited due to a Retra (decree or legal amendment) introduced by King Theopombus sometime in the late 8th or early 7th century BC, who doubted the clarity of decisions made by the Apella. Furthermore, the political decisions of the Apella were by definition restricted due to the military character of the Spartan society. In other words, it would have been difficult for low-ranking soldiers to vote against the instructions of their superior officers, although Thucydides records one occasion that this actually happened. It was only after the introduction of a new institution, the Five Ephors, when the Apella's political powers became real (Mpirgalias 2000, 176). It is rather peculiar that although the Perioikoi were Lacedaemonians and possessed their own land, they had no political rights at all.
During the Archaic period, Sparta's military consisted of hoplites, who were citizens with full political rights, obtained through the possession of a kleros; therefore hoplites were by definition land owners. As explained earlier, this model was established from the Second Messenian War onwards. A young male, who descended from Spartan parents, needed to successfully complete the Agoge (Αγωγή) to be introduced to the ranks of the Homoioi. The Agoge was a highly militarised education system monitored by the state, which guaranteed the production of new hoplites. To remain in the ranks of the Homoioi, the new soldier was expected to contribute his share of foodstuffs to the common meals (Syssiteia = Συσσίτεια) shared by the hoplites. Such contributions came from the exploitation of the soldier's land, the kleros. The Perioikoi, who were also landlords, were not treated as equals (as Homoioi) and never contributed food supplies for the Syssiteia; still, they would attend the Agoge and they would serve in secondary units, which were different compared to the heavily armed infantry of the Homoioi. Land ownership in the Perioikian Territory, as Spartan periphery was described, operated as a protective umbrella against Sparta's Northern enemies, such as the Arcadians and the Argives. If there was an attack from the North, the Perioikoi would be the first to deal with it. Finally, there were occasions when the Helots served in the army as lightly armed skirmish troops (Psiloi = Ψιλoί). The leaders of Sparta's army were its two kings, who remained the representatives of the former noble aristocratic groups. During military campaigns, they retained full control over the armed forces, at least until 507 BC. Towards the end of the 6th century BC, the power of the kings was restricted through the introduction of two Ephors, who monitored the army and the kings during military campaigns (Mpirgalias 2000, 181-200)
After the end of the Persian Wars in 480/479 BC, Sparta was engaged in a competition with Athens for power and control over the Greek world. This led to a series of armed conflicts, which escalated during the Period of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). As with Athens, Sparta felt the devastation effects of the war and its society went through a period of economic, social and political crisis. During this period, new reforms were introduced in relation to the ownership of land, which changed the city-state's social character.
Aristotle (Politics, 'On the Lacedaemonian Constitution') notes that after the Peloponnesian War, 2/5 of Sparta's cultivated land had passed on the the hands of women. Unlike the case of Athens, this piece of information suggests that Spartan women had legal capacity and were allowed to own land (Milios 2000, 69). Furthermore, the decree (Rhetra) of Epitadeus, placed sometime in the early 4th century BC, allowed the Homoioi to transfer the ownership of their paternal land at their own will and to any recipient. Prior to this decree, land was only transferred by hereditary descent. This specific decree appeared in a time when traditional moral constraints had declined for the Spartans; there was a tendency towards the accumulation of wealth, which did not exist in the past, and soon, Spartan land was gathered in the hands of few rich landlords (Mpirgalias 2000, 178). The new regime in land ownership during the 4th century BC resulted to the recognition of new groups in Sparta's social hierarchy, which were allowed the ownership of land. These were the Ypomeiones (Yπομείωνες), the Tresantes (Tρέσαντες), the Mothakes (Mόθακες) and the Trophimoi (Tρόφιμοι). Furthermore, there appeared the group of the Neodamodeis (Νεοδαμώδεις), who were Helots offered land (kleros) and full political rights in exchange of their military services (Mpirgalias 2000, 192-6).
Sparta's political institutions were in decline right after the end of the Peloponnesian War due to severe casualties that reduced the number of the Homoioi. Political rights were further lost due to poverty. Several Homoioi were not allowed to vote as they could not contribute to the common meals (Syssitia) of their military units, or because they sold their paternal land, which was a requirement to be a member of the People's Assembly (Apella) (Mosse & Schnapp–Gourbeillon 2002, 326). These former Homoioi abandoned their homeland and joined mercenary armies abroad (Fraceliere 2003, 326). At the same time, the Perioikoi strengthened their economic and social position due to their involvement in prosperous enterprises that did not necessarily require the ownership of land. Together with the Neodamodeis, they were offered a kleros and full access to the city-state's political institutions (Mosse & Schnapp–Gourbeillon 2002, 326).
The necessity of introducing an admiral's rank in Sparta's armed forces generated further problems. This was a new reality that was no longer compatible with Sparta's military organisation as this was known during the Archaic period. The holder of this office was likely not to descend from a former aristocratic family of Spartan landlords, as for example did Lysander; yet, the admiral held the same powers as the two Spartan kings (Mpirgalias 2000, 191).
During the early 4th century BC, Sparta witnesses the first armed rebellion (Stasis) in its long history. Although the reasons for this stasis are unclear, it is likely to have associated with struggles for access to political power, which most likely began after the Conspiracy of Cinadon in 397 BC. The revolt was suppressed in a disorganised and spasmodic manner, which did not characterise the spirit of Spartan military efficiency of previous centuries (Mosse & Schnapp–Gourbeillon 2002, 326). The conscription of the Perioikoi and the Helots in the Spartan infantry, which followed after their recognition as Homoioi, did not improve Sparta's military power. As a result, it is recorded that during the Theban invasion in the Peloponnese right after the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, the Homoioi who formed the Spartan army were even less that 700 (Fracelière 2003, 326). The final defeat of the Spartans by the Thebans led to further loss of fertile Messenian lands. As a result, the crisis in land ownership increased, followed by devastating social, political and economic consequences (Mpirgalias 2000, 195).
A comparison between the two systems of land ownership in Athens and Sparta during the Archaic and Classical periods shows different approaches with a certain element of similarity. In Athens, changes in land ownership led to changes is social dynamics among different social groups. Such changes facilitated a shift from an aristocratic social hierarchy prior to Solon's reforms, to a plutocratic social hierarchy directly after his intervention. Furthermore, during the end of the Archaic period and directly after the reforms by Cleisthenes, the definition of social status was independent of the possession of land. In the Classical period, the democratisation of the Athenian society offered more social opportunities to those who did not possess land, while land ownership remained a significant indicator of higher social status. By contrast, the transition from an aristocratic society to a society of equals (Homoioi) in Sparta was achieved through the equalisation of land ownership under state intervention, and by the levelling of any notion of social status through the militarisation of the society. Even until the end of the Classical period, the possession of a kleros was the only indicator of one's social and political position within the society. An important innovation in Spartan law was the possession of land by women, who, in Athens and other city states, had no legal capacity and were not allowed to own land.
As early as the Archaic period, the political institutions of Athens were subject to a series of changes, which led to the birth of democracy during the Classical period. This gradual transition was achieved through the disconnection of political rights from land ownership. During the 5th century BC, full citizenship and full political rights were not restricted to landlords only. By contrast, land ownership continued to define the political rights of the Spartans from the earlier Archaic period, when the Lycurgian Constitution was first introduced, until the final decline of Sparta in the 4th century BC. Of course, it must be pointed out that both city states introduced non-citizens and non-landlords into the city-state's political body whenever difficult conditions dictated so. In Sparta, the introduction of new citizens in the political body was achieved through the offer of a new kleros, while in Athens this was done by subscription in the municipal catalogues.
Both city-states retained the same principle that a citizen must also be a soldiers at all times. In fact, in the ancient Greek world, the properties of being a citizen and a soldier were always the same. In Archaic Athens, the tactical combat forces consisted of the three land-owning income groups as these were defined by Solon's reforms. These groups gave place to a uniform army of citizen-hoplites during the Classical period, which also included non-landlords, particularly after the Cleisthenic reforms. By contrast, there was not a single Spartan soldier who did not possess his own land (kleros), and this was the case all along the history of Sparta.
The results of the different models of social, political and military organisation can be seen in the economic dynamics of the two city states a little before their fall to the Macedonians. During that time, Athens survived as an autonomous and flourishing economy, which also sustained a flourishing intellectual life. The presence of a market that allowed alternative means of subsistence, which were not tied to land ownership, attracted foreign populations, who were integrated in the Athenian society and became part of the city-state's development. By contrast, Sparta struggled to revive after the Peloponnesian War due to military casualties, which also reduced the numbers of politically active citizens. Furthermore, Spartan got disoriented under the pressure of new political and economic realities. It did not manage to adjust in the new circumstances, and by retaining a system of socio-political organisation that was traditionally attached to land ownership and land exploitation, it failed to introduce innovations that would guarantee its survival.
During the translation of this article in English, the author felt the need to re-assess his work 15 years later, to apply some changes and to add some personal critique to the points presented above. These derived from later maturity of thought and accumulation of knowledge.
First of all, the term “social classes” in relation to the social stratifications of ancient Athens and Sparta was purposely avoided. This was replaced by the term “social groups”, which now seems more appropriate. Greek Academia prefers the term “social classes” when discussing the Solonian and Lycurgian reforms of the Archaic period, as this is how they are originally mentioned in ancient textual sources. However, the modern reader needs to bear in mind that the translation of the Greek word Taxeis (τάξεις) does not only always relate to social classes, but to any form of social stratification that requires distinction among social groups. Unfortunately, in Western scholarship, the word Taxeis has become the equivalent of social classes according the Marxist approach. The author believes that the Marxist interpretation of Archaic Greek social stratification is invalid; therefore, he purposely avoids using the term “social classes”.
Secondly, the author felt that his original essay had been presented in a way that required an unnecessary fragmentation of various domains of ancient Greek life, which could have been avoided during the translation of his work in English. More specifically, in its original form, this paper dealt separately with the social, political and military aspects of land ownership in ancient Athens and Sparta. Given the nature of Archaic and Classical Greek city-states, where the politically-active population consisted solely of adult male citizen-soldiers, the separation of social, political and military activities can be confusing. Unlike modern societies, and Western democracies in particular, where these aspects of every-day reality can be separate from each other, in the ancient Greek cosmos there was no differentiation of social, political and military functions, at least in relation to adult males.
Thirdly, it must be borne in mind that the original undergraduate assignment that was handed to the class back in 2004, required the utilisation of specific bibliography, which was primarily based on the works of Milios (2000) and Mpirgalias (2000). Although the author of this paper admits respect to the aforementioned scholars, he feels that their work is based on historical approaches that only cover part of the topic. Milios (2000) focuses primarily on the key-aspect of ancient economy and his approach is heavily depended on Aristotle. Mpirgalias (2000) offers a useful critique to ancient textual sources and follows the theoretical framework of the 'deconstruction school', though rarely employs archaeological evidence that are likely to suggest something different.
Finally, the author wishes to comment on the last section of his own paper, which was once influenced by his own social and political beliefs, and the broader ideas that circulated in academia during the early 2000s. It is definitely true that in the minds of modern scholars, ancient Athens has been viewed as the the premature forerunner of modern Western capitalist societies. This belief was also strengthened by the approaches of Western philosophers and economists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which will be discussed in forthcoming articles. In reality, the true nature of Classical Athenian society bore little resemblance with modern Western societies, although some basic ideas can be traced back then. For example, there was a controlled form of democracy; there was a relatively open market-based economy; there was a positive approach to foreign labour; there was intention to cultural innovation; there was clear understanding of the relationship between warfare, control of resources and economic prosperity; and, there was use of complex socio-political institutions that required the participation of a large body of citizens, who were also paid for their services. Of course one must not forget that similar models of social organisation were followed by many other Greek city-states during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. By contrast, Western scholarship has viewed Sparta as a backward, agricultural, totalitarian and extremely militarised society, which was always to be threatened by any form of social, political, economic and military innovation. If one was to summarise the popular beliefs on Athens and Sparta, particularity as these were understood during the Cold War period, Athens would have been described as a adaptive, innovative, extrovert and profit-driven society, while Sparta would have been described as a monolithic, conservative, introvert and extremely militarised society. In reality, these distinctions are not always true. Ancient authors present 4th century Sparta as a corrupt and profit-driven society, while the militarised character of Athens is evident in the structure of the First Delian League. Although Athens might had been more prosperous and perhaps stronger than Sparta during the late 4th century BC, the reality remains that both (and many other allied city-states) had been socially, politically and economically drained after a century of continuous competition and conflict. Whatever the condition of these city-states, at the very end of the 4th century BC they were all conquered by the armies of Philip II of Macedon, which raises an interesting question: Why? Was there something that Athens and Sparta were doing wrong, or was there something that Philip was doing right?
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