Constitution of the Lacedaimonians


Xenophon, creator; Scripta minora; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, translator; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor, translator; Bowersock, G. W, (Glen Warren), 1936-, editor, translator

And they are bound, too, to keep themselves fit, for one effect of the strife is that they spar whenever they meet; but anyone present has a right to part the combatants. If anyone refuses to obey the mediator the Warden takes him to the Ephors; and they fine him heavily, in order to make him realize that he must never yield to a sudden impulse to disobey the laws.

To come to those who have passed the time of youth, and are now eligible to hold the great offices of state. While absolving these from the duty of bestowing further attention on their bodily strength, the other Greeks require them to continue serving in the army. But Lycurgus established the principle that for citizens of that age, hunting was the noblest occupation, except when some public duty prevented, in order that they might be able to stand the fatigues of soldiering as well as the younger men.

I have given a fairly complete account of the institutions of Lycurgus so far as they apply to the successive stages of life. I will now try to describe the system that he established for all alike.

Lycurgus found the Spartans boarding at home like the other Greeks, and came to the conclusion that the custom was responsible for a great deal of misconduct. He therefore established the public messes outside in the open,[*](Lit. moved the Syskania out into the open. See Introduction 3.) thinking that this would reduce disregard of orders to a minimum.

The amount of food he allowed was just enough to prevent them from getting either too much or too little to eat. But many extras are supplied from the spoils of the chase; and for these rich men sometimes substitute wheaten bread. Consequently the board is never bare until the company breaks up, and never extravagantly furnished.