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eracle, exhibits the principal features of the Spar-tan polity:—"Build a temple," says the Pythian g'od, " to Hellanian Zeus and Hellanian Athena ; divide the tribes, and institute thirty obas ; ap­point a council with its princes ; call an assembly (a7T6AAa£efj/) between Babyca and Knakion, then make a motion and depart ; and let there be a right of decision and power to the people " (8c£yU<£> <Je Kvpidv ^uej/ kcu Kpdros, Pint. Lycurg. 6 ; Miiller, Dor. iu. 5. § 8).

By this ordinance full power was given to the people to adopt or reject whatever was proposed to them by the king and other magistrates. It was, however, found necessary to define this power more exactly, and the following clause, ascribed to the kings Theopompus and Polydorus, was added to the original rhetra, " but if the people should follow a crooked opinion the elders and the princes shall withdraw " (rovs 7rp€(Tovy€V€as Kal ap%a-7eras aTroffrdrypas ^ev). Plutarch (I. e.) in­terprets these words to mean " That in case the people does not either reject or approve in toto a measure proposed to them, the kings and council­lors should dissolve the assembly, and declare the proposed decree to be invalid." According to this interpretation, which is confirmed by some verses in the Eunomia of Tyrtaeus, the assembly was not competent to originate any measures, but only to pass or reject, without modification, the laws and decrees proposed by the proper authorities : a limi­tation of its power, which almost determined the character of the Spartan constitution, and justifies the words of Demosthenes, who observed (c. Lep. p. 489. 20), that the ytpovcrla at Sparta was in many respects supreme—Aec-Trd-r^s effri t&v •jroA-Aooi'. All citizens above the age of thirty, who were not labouring under any loss of franchise, were admissible to the general assembly or &7reAAa (Plut. Lycurg. 25), as it was called in the old Spar­tan dialect; but no one except public magistrates, and chiefly the ephors and kings, addressed the people without being specially called upon. (Miil­ler, Dor. iii. 4. § 11.) The same public functionaries also put the question to the vote. (Thuc. i. 80. 87.) Hence, as the magistrates only (ra T€\rj or ap%cu) were the leaders and speakers of the assembly, decrees of the whole people are often spoken of as the decision of the authorities only, especially in matters relating to foreign affairs. The intimate connection of the ephors with the assembly is shown by a phrase of very frequent occurrence in decrees (e5o|e rcfist e^)6pois kai rfj €KK\Tfj(ri<$). The method of voting was by acclamation ; the place of meeting between the brook Knakion and the bridge Babyca, to the west of the city, and en­closed. (Plut. Lycurg. 6.) The regular assemblies were held every full moon ; and on occasions of emergency extraordinary meetings were convened. (Herod, vii. 134.)

The whole people' alone could proclaim " a war, conclude a peace, enter into an armistice for any length of time' ; and all negotiations with foreign states, though conducted by the kings and ephors, could be ratified by the same authority only." With regard to domestic affairs, the highest offices, such as magistracies and prie'stho'ods, were filled " by the votes of the people ; a disputed succession to the tliforie was decided upon by them ; changes in the constitution were proposed and explained, and fill new laws, after a previous decree in the senate, were confirmed by them," (Milller, Dor, 4. § 9.)


It appears, therefore, to use the words of Miiller, that the popular assembly really possessed the supreme political and legislative authority at Sparta, but it was so hampered and checked by the spirit of the constitution, that it could only exert its au­thority within certain prescribed limits ; so that the government of the state is often spoken of as an aristocracy.

Besides the eKKXrjarta which we have just de­scribed, we read in later times of another called the small assembly (Xen. Hell. iii. 3. § 18), which appears to have been convened on occa­sions of emergency, or which were not of sufficient importance to require the decision of the entire body of citizens. This more select assembly was probably composed of the ojjloioi, or superior citi­zens, or of some class enjoying a similar prece­dence, together with some of the magistrates of the state [EccLETl], and if, as appears to have been the case, it was convened more frequently than the greater assembly, it is evident that an ad­ditional restraint was thus laid upon the power of the latter (PhiloL Museum, vol. ii. p. 65), the functions of which must have been often superseded by it.

The preceding remarks will enable us to decide a question which has been raised, what was the real nature of the constitution of Sparta ? From the expressions of Greek writers, every one would at once answer that it was aristocratic ; but it has been asserted that the aristocracy at Sparta was an aristocracy of conquest, in which the conquering people, or Dorians, stood towards the conquered, or Achaians, in the relation of nobles to commons, and that it was principally in this sense that the constitution of Sparta Was so completely anti-popu­lar or oligarchical. (Arnold, Thuc. Append, ii.) Now this indeed is true ; but it seems no less true that the Spartan government would have been equally called an oligarchy or aristocracy even if there had been no subject class at all, on account of the disposition and administration of the sove­reign power within the Spartan body alone. The fact is, that in theory at least, the Spartan constitu­tion, as settled by Lycurgus, was a decided demo­cracy, with two hereditary officers, the generals of the commonwealth, at its head ; but in practice (at least before the encroachments of the ephors) it was a limited aristocracy ; that is, it worked as if the supreme authority was settled in the hands of a minority. The principal circumstances which justify us in considering it as such, are briefly " the restraints imposed upon the assembly, the exten­sive powers of the councillors, their election for life, their irresponsibility, the absence of written laws, of paid offices, of offices determined by lot," and other things thought "by the Greeks character­istic of a democracy. Independent of which we must remember that Sparta was at the head of the oligarchical interest in Greece, and always sup­ported, as at Corcyra and Argos, the oligarchical party, in opposition to the democratic, which was aided by Athens. In fact Dr. Arnold himself ob­serves, that even m the relations of the conquering people among themselves the constitution was far less popular than at Athens. We must, however, bea'r in mind that the constitution, as settled by Lycurgus, was completely altered in character by the usurpation of the ephors. To such an extent was this the case, that l*Iato {Leg. iv. p. 713) doubted whether the government at Sparta might

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