are less-than-everyday terms that will be encountered on this site
and that relate to aspects of the Spartan experience. Rather than
assume prior knowledge or constantly stopping for definitions, we'll
explain them here in one place. You know-it-alls and smartypants'
can just keep moving along.
Note on spelling: There is no real consensus even
among scholars on transliterating Greek names or words into English.
For many years Greek words were routinely given Latinized forms,
which are still more common in both older sources and common usage.
(Lacedaemon rather than Lakedaimon, Aeschylus for Aischylos, Lycurgus
for Lykourgos, Alexander for Alexandros, Plato for Platon, and so
on.) The current trend is to remove Latinate influences and use
forms that are more euphonious and closer to modern Greek. (But
this is also deceptive, since modern Greek and classical Greek pronunciations
can be very different.) Still, the Latinized forms are encountered
frequently and are probably more familiar to the layman, if any
of this can be said to be familiar at all. These will therefore
be favored here in the interests of ease over academic accuracy.
We will not pretend to be 100 percent consistent in this approach,
however. Nitpickers may hold our feet to the fire in the Assembly.
Ready? (It's all Greek to us, too.)
agoge - "training"; the education and discipline
system enforced on Spartan citizens.
Dioscuri - "Sons of God"; the twin mythic heroes
Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces), celebrated as a state cult at Sparta.
Dorians - Greek-speaking tribes originating north of Greece
proper who moved south into the Aegean world beginning c.1100 B.C.
They are thought to have ended the Mycenaean Greek civilization
and instituted the so-called Dark Ages of Archaic Greece. Many Archaic
Greek city-states were established or assimilated by the Dorians,
including Sparta (c.1000 B.C.).
Ecclesia - the Assembly in Spartan government, comprised
of all male citizens over age 30 (or possibly 20). Also sometimes
known as the Apella.
enomotia - the smallest tactical unit in the Spartan army,
roughly comparable to a platoon, commanded by an enomotarch.
ephor - one of five powerful civil magistrates in Spartan
government, elected annually by the Assembly.
Eurotas River - flows south through Laconia between the
Taygetus and Parnon mountain ranges. Sparta lies on the west (right)
Gerousia - the Council of Elders in Spartan government,
comprised of the two kings plus 28 citizen members aged at least
60 years who were elected by the Assembly to life terms.
harmost - a Spartan military governor.
Hellas - Greek term for Greece. A "Greek" is a
helot - subjected peoples under Spartan state control, forming
an underclass of serfs.
hippeis - the royal bodyguard of 300 picked soldiers. Often
translated as "knights," but the royal guard did not fight
hoplite - a heavily armed footsoldier in Greek armies, typically
of the citizen class.
hypomeiones - "inferiors"; a shadowy class thought
to be Spartiates who had lost full citizenship status due to poverty
or other disenfranchising circumstances.
kleros - an allotment of cultivatable land distributed to
a Spartan citizen.
Lacedaemon - the river plain surrounding Sparta itself,
often used synonymously for the city or the Spartan state. The initial
letter L (lambda), the Greek "L", was the shield blazon
of the Spartan soldier.
Laconia - the southeastern section of the Peloponnesus,
of which Sparta was the chief city.
lochos - a unit of the Spartan army, roughly comparable
to a battalion or regiment, commanded by a lochagos.
Messenia - the southwestern section of the Peloponnesus,
conquered by Sparta in two bitter wars between c.735 B.C. and c.620
mora - a unit of the Spartan army, roughly comparable to
a brigade or corps, commanded by a polemarch.
mothaces - "warriors"?; this term is still far
from clear or agreed upon, but seems likely to refer to the sons
of certain hypomeiones (not helots) who shared the full agoge training
and upbringing as foster-brothers of more privileged Spartiates.
Also called mothones by some sources.
neodamodeis - "new citizens"; helots awarded their
freedom in exchange for military service or as reward for meritorious
actions. They were not, however, considered true Spartiates and
did not share in their political rights.
Peloponnesus - the large southern peninsula of mainland
Greece, home to Laconia and other regions and connected to central
Greece by the Isthmus of Corinth.
perioeci - "dwellers around," or "neighbors";
Laconians who were largely self-governing freemen but not Spartan
phalanx - a tight formation of hoplites, typically eight
ranks or more deep, in a line of battle.
rhetra - literally "a law," the Rhetra is often
used to mean the whole of the classical Spartan constitution attributed
to the lawgiver Lycurgus.
Sciritis - highland region of the central Peloponnesus between
Laconia proper and Arcadia, ruled by Sparta and supplying a corps
of specialized infantry to the Spartan army.
Spartiate - a member of the citizen class of Sparta; also
known as the homoioi, "equals," or "peers."
syssitia - the communal, military-style dinner messes of
adult Spartan males, generally of about sixteen members each. Admission
to a syssition was a requirement for full citizenship.
Thermopylae - "Hot Gates"; a pass between the
mountains and the sea connecting central with northern Greece. In
480 B.C. a Greek army led by the Spartan King Leonidas fought a
desperate battle here against invading Persians, and the Spartans
fell to the last man.