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Document Details :

Title: Spartan Smart Power and the Perioikoi
Author(s): BERNARDO, Gabriel C.
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 52    Date: 2022   
Pages: 35-67
DOI: 10.2143/AS.52.0.3291456

Abstract :
For a long time, the ties between Sparta and its perioikoi poleis were conceptualised almost as those between a modern capital and subordinate municipalities of a state. Although Jean Ducat’s work in the last decade has questioned the foundations of this idea, there is still no update on how his new proposed framework changes our understanding of these ties. Therefore, this paper reassesses a topos present even in more recent studies: the supposedly high degree of control that Spartan exercised over its perioikoi. This issue is tackled here considering both literary and archaeological sources in light of Ducat’s conceptualization of Lacedaemon as an ethnic community, not as a 'state'. It is argued that during the Classical period the perioikic loyalty to Sparta was maintained not by political threats or interventionism, but through the permission of a high degree of autonomy and the building of a common identity. Even if it is impossible to exclude the so called 'hard power' measures from Spartan-perioikoi relationship, our sources indicate that these were not the main tools in the Spartan toolbox. Consequently, the Classical period Lacedaemonian perioikoi might have experienced a lifestyle closer to those of other known perioikoi, who did not live under strict obedience to central polities.

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