Land tenure and Inheritance in Classical Sparta

Classical Quarterly 36 (02):378- (1986)

‘The problem of Spartan land tenure is one of the most vexed in the obscure field of Spartan institutions.’ Walbank's remark is as true today as when it was written nearly thirty years ago. Controversy surrounding this subject has a long tradition going back to the nineteenth century and the last thirty years have witnessed no diminution in the level of disagreement, as is demonstrated by a comparison of the differing approaches in the recent works by Cartledge, Cozzoli, David and Marasco. Although another study runs the risk of merely adding one more hypothesis to the general state of uncertainty, a fundamental reassessment of the question is required, not least because of its significance for the historian's interpretation of the overall character of Spartiate society. Through the introduction of a new perspective it may be possible to advance our understanding of the subject. In Section I of this essay I shall attempt to review several influential scholarly theories and to examine their feasibility and the reliability of the evidence upon which they are based. Section II will begin to construct a more plausible alternative account which is based upon more trustworthy evidence. Finally, Section III will discuss a comparatively underemphasised aspect of the topic, the property rights of Spartiate women, which suggests a rather different interpretation of the character of land tenure and inheritance from those more usually adopted
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DOI 10.1017/S0009838800012143
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