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

Nor does this exhaust the list of the customs established by Lycurgus at Sparta that are contrary to those of the other Greeks. In other states, I suppose, all men make as much money as they can. One is a farmer, another a ship-owner, another a merchant, and others live by different handicrafts.

But at Sparta Lycurgus forbade freeborn citizens to have anything to do with business affairs. He insisted on their regarding as their own concern only those activities that make for civic freedom.

Indeed, how should wealth be a serious object there, when he insisted on equal contributions to the food supply and on the same standard of living for all, and thus cut off the attraction of money for indulgence’ sake? Why, there is not even any need of money to spend on cloaks: for their adornment is due not to the price of their clothes, but to the excellent condition of their bodies.

Nor yet is there any reason for amassing money in order to spend it on one’s messmates; for he made it more respectable to help one’s fellows by toiling with the body than by spending money,[*](Agesilaus, 9.6.) pointing out that toil is an employment of the soul, spending an employment of wealth.

By other enactments he rendered it impossible to make money in unfair ways. In the first place the system of coinage that he established was of such a kind that even a sum of ten minae[*](Some 40 pounds about the year 1925;.) could not be brought into a house without the master and the servants being aware of it: the money would fill a large space and need a wagon to draw it.

Moreover, there is a right of search for gold and silver, and, in the event of discovery, the possessor is fined. Why, then, should money-making be a preoccupation in a state where the pains of its possession are more than the pleasures of its enjoyment?