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25/10/2007

Lycurgus

Prefectural Administration of Lakonia


Lycurgus

The celebrated lawgiver of the Spartan polity. The evidence we have for him is more symbolic than historical, and often conflicting. Most evidence has been preserved by Plutarch and Xenophon, and is based on myths and legends of antiquity. Tradition holds that Lycurgus was the youngest son of king Eunomus. His father was killed in a rebellion, and his elder brother Polydectes then died. Lycurgus thus became king, until his dead brotherís widow gave birth to a boy, Charilaus, who was now legitimate successor. Lycurgus became guardian of the underage successor. He then began to travel, according to the tradition that the ancient historians have handed down to us. He first went to Crete and studied its political system, and then visited Asia, Egypt and Iberia, finally returning, after many calls from his fellow citizens, to Sparta and proceeded with reforming the political system there. He obliged his fellow citizens to agree not to change the political system until he had returned from Delphi. When he received the prophecy from the oracle that Sparta would be glorious once it applied his political system, he sent the prophecy to Sparta and never returned to his city. Lycurgusís reforms were oral laws (provisions), which formed the basis for the whole Spartan social and political structure, and regulated the upbringing and discipline of the citizens. These were unique in human history, but cannot be considered the work of just one man, even if we do accept that Lycurgus was a real historical figure.

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