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 I think that in this matter too he succeeded. So it would not be easy to find healthier or handier men than the Spartans. For their exercises train the legs, arms and neck equally.

In the following respects, again, his institutions differ from the ordinary type. In most states every man has control of his own children, servants and goods. Lycurgus wanted to secure that the citizens should get some advantage from one another without doing any harm. He therefore gave every father authority over other men’s children as well as over his own.

When a man knows that fathers have this power, he is bound to rule the children over whom he exercises authority as he would wish his own to be ruled.[*](The text of this sentence is open to suspicion. οὗτοι πατέρες can hardly be sound.) If a boy tells his own father when he has been whipped by another father, it is a disgrace if the parent does not give his son another whipping. So completely do they trust one another not to give any improper orders to the children.

He also gave the power of using other men’s servants in case of necessity; and made sporting dogs common property to this extent, that any who want them invite their master, and if he is engaged himself he is glad to send the hounds. A similar plan of borrowing is applied to horses also; thus a man who falls ill or wants a carriage or wishes to get to some place quickly, if he sees a horse anywhere, takes and uses it carefully and duly restores it.

There is yet another among the customs instituted by him which is not found in other communities. It was intended to meet the needs of parties belated in the hunting-field with nothing ready to eat. He made a rule that those who had plenty should leave behind the prepared food,[*](i.e., so much of it as remained over.) and that those who needed food should break the seals, take as much as they wanted, seal up the rest and leave it behind.

The result of this method of going shares with one another is that even those who have but little receive a share of all that the country yields whenever they want anything.