Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Σάββατο, 19 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

The complete history of the legendary Spartans through centuries

The prehistory of Sparta is difficult to reconstruct because the literary evidence is far removed in time from the events it describes and is also distorted by oral tradition. However, the earliest certain evidence of human settlement in the region of Sparta consists of pottery dating from the Middle Neolithic period, found in the vicinity of Kouphovouno some two kilometres (1.2 miles) south-southwest of Sparta. These are the earliest traces of the original Mycenaean Spartan civilisation, as represented in Homer's Iliad. This civilization seems to have fallen into decline by the late Bronze Age, when, according to Herodotus, Macedonian tribes from the north marched into Peloponnese, where they were called Dorians and subjugating the local tribes, settled there. The Dorians seem to have set about expanding the frontiers of Spartan territory almost before they had established their own state. They fought against the Argive Dorians to the east and southeast, and also the Arcadian Achaeans to the northwest. The evidence suggests that Sparta, relatively inaccessible because of the topography of the Taygetan plain, was secure from early on: it was never fortified. Nothing distinctive in the archaeology of the Eurotas River Valley identifies the Dorians or the Dorian Spartan state. The prehistory of the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the Dark Age (the Early Iron Age) at this moment must be treated apart from the stream of Dorian Spartan history. The legendary period of Spartan history is believed to fall into the Dark Age. It treats the mythic heroes such as the Heraclids and the Perseids, offering a view of the occupation of the Peloponnesus that contains both fantastic and possibly historical elements. The subsequent proto-historic period, combining both legend and historical fragments, offers the first credible history. Between the 8th and 7th centuries BC the Spartans experienced a period of lawlessness and civil strife, later attested by both Herodotus and Thucydides. As a result, they carried out a series of political and social reforms of their own society which they later attributed to a semi-mythical lawgiver, Lycurgus. These reforms mark the beginning of the history of Classical Sparta. In the Second Messenian War, Sparta established itself as a local power in Peloponnesus and the rest of Greece. During the following centuries, Sparta's reputation as a land-fighting force was unequalled. In 480 BC a small force of Spartans, Thespians, and Thebans led by King Leonidas (approximately 300 were full Spartiates, 700 were Thespians, and 400 were Thebans although these numbers do not reflect casualties incurred prior to the final battle), made a legendary last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae against the massive Persian army, inflicting very high casualties on the Persian forces before finally being encircled. The superior weaponry, strategy, and bronze armour of the Greek hoplites and their phalanx again proved their worth one year later when Sparta assembled at full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at the battle of Plataea. The decisive Greek victory at Plataea put an end to the Greco-Persian War along with Persian ambition of expanding into Europe. Even though this war was won by a pan-Greek army, credit was given to Sparta, who besides being the protagonist at Thermopylae and Plataea, had been the de facto leader of the entire Greek expedition. In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens, Thebes, andPersia had been the main powers fighting for supremacy against each other. As a result of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta, a traditionally continental culture, became a naval power. At the peak of its power Sparta subdued many of the key Greek states and even managed to overpower the elite Athenian navy. By the end of the 5th century BC it stood out as a state which had defeated the Athenian Empire and had invaded the Persian provinces in Anatolia, a period which marks the Spartan Hegemony. During the Corinthian War Sparta faced a coalition of the leading Greek states: Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos. The alliance was initially backed by Persia, whose lands in Anatolia had been invaded by Sparta and which feared further Spartan expansion into Asia. Sparta achieved a series of land victories, but many of her ships were destroyed at the battle of Cnidus by a Greek-Phoenician mercenary fleet that Persia had provided to Athens. The event severely damaged Sparta's naval power but did not end its aspirations of invading further into Persia, until Cononthe Athenian ravaged the Spartan coastline and provoked the old Spartan fear of a helot revolt. After a few more years of fighting, in 387 BC the Peace of Antalcidas was established, according to which all Greek cities of Ionia would return to Persian control, and Persia's Asian border would be free of the Spartan threat. The effects of the war were to reaffirm Persia's ability to interfere successfully in Greek politics and to affirm Sparta's weakened hegemonic position in the Greek political system. Sparta entered its long-term decline after a severe military defeat to Epaminondas of Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra. This was the first time that a Spartan army lost a land battle at full strength. As Spartan citizenship was inherited by blood, Sparta now increasingly faced a helot population that vastly outnumbered its citizens. The alarming decline of Spartan citizens was commented on by Aristotle. Sparta never fully recovered from the losses that the Spartans suffered at Leuctra in 371 BC and the subsequent helot revolts. Nonetheless, it was able to continue as a regional power for over two centuries. Neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to conquer Sparta itself. Even during its decline, Sparta never forgot its claim to be the "defender of Hellenism" and itsLaconic wit. An anecdote has it that when Philip II sent a message to Sparta saying "If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta", the Spartans responded with the single, terse reply: αικα, "if". When Philip created the league of the Greeks on the pretext of unifying Greece against Persia, the Spartans chose not to join, since they had no interest in joining a pan-Greek expedition unless it were under Spartan leadership. Thus, upon the conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great sent to Athens 300 suits of Persian armour with the following inscription: Alexander, son of Philip, and all the Greeks except the Spartans, give these offerings taken from the foreigners who live in Asia.During Alexander's campaigns in the east, the Spartan king, Agis III sent a force to Crete in 333 BC with the aim of securing the island for Sparta. Agis next took command of allied Greek forces against Macedon, gaining early successes, before laying siege to Megalopolis in 331 BC. A large Macedonian army under general Antipater marched to its relief and defeated the Spartan-led force in a pitched battle. More than 5,300 of the Spartans and their allies were killed in battle, and 3,500 of Antipater's troops. Agis, now wounded and unable to stand, ordered his men to leave him behind to face the advancing Macedonian army so that he could buy them time to retreat. On his knees, the Spartan king slew several enemy soldiers before being finally killed by a javelin. Alexander was merciful, and he only forced the Spartans to join the League of Corinth, which they had previously refused to join. During the Punic Wars Sparta was an ally of the Roman Republic. Spartan political independence was put to an end when it was eventually forced into the Achaean League after its defeat in the decisive Laconian War by a coaltion of other Greek city-states and Rome and the resultant overthrow of its final king Nabis. In 146 BC Greece was conquered by the Roman general Lucius Mummius. Following the Roman conquest, the Spartans continued their way of life, and the city became a tourist attraction for the Roman elite who came to observe exotic Spartan customs. The Koinon (or "League" from Greek: κοινόν) of Free Laconians was established in 21 BC by the Emperor Augustus, giving formal structure to a group of cities that had been associated for almost two centuries. The Eleutherolakones (ἘΕλευθερολάκωνες, free Laconians) are first mentioned in 195 BC, after Sparta's defeat in the Roman-Spartan War. The Roman general Titus Quinctius Flamininusplaced several coastal cities of the Mani Peninsula under the protection of the Achean League, separating them from Spartan hegemony. The most important of its cities was Gythium. A few years later, in 192 BC, Gythium was recaptured by Nabis of Sparta, but the Achean League immediately attacked the city. The city of Las was attacked and captured by the Spartans. The Achean League retaliated and attacked Las and Sparta. The highest officer in the Union was the strategos, who was assisted by the treasurer. At its height the koinon consisted of 24 cities; however, the number decreased to 18. The koinoncontinued to exist into the second half of the 3rd century AD, as is demonstrated by the coins and inscriptions of its member states. It continued until 297 AD when the Emperor Diocletian reformed the provincial administration.
According to Byzantine sources, some parts of the Laconian region remained pagan until well into the 10th century AD. Doric-speaking populations survive today in Tsakonia. In the Middle Ages, the political and cultural center of Laconia shifted to the nearby settlement of Mystras, and Sparta fell further in even local importance. As the power of the Byzantine Empire declined, the peninsula drifted out of the Empire's control. The fortress of Maini in the south became the area's centre. Over the subsequent centuries, the peninsula was fought over by the Byzantines, the Franks, and the Saracens. The Melingoi or Milingoi (Μηλιγγοί) were a Slavic tribe that settled in the Peloponnese in southern Greece during the Middle Ages. Proto-Slavic tribes (Sclaveni) settled throughout the Balkans following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire's defense of the Danube frontier in the early decades of the 7th century, with some groups reaching as far south as the Peloponnese. Of these, two groups are known by name from later sources, the Melingoi and the Ezeritai, of whom the Melingoi settled on the western slopes of Mount Taygetos. The origin and etymology of the Melingoi name is unknown. The Ezeritai (Greek: Εζεριται) were a Slavic tribe settled in the Peloponnese in southern Greece during the Middle Ages. Southern Slavs (Sclaveni) settled throughout the Balkans following the collapse of the East Roman (Byzantine) defenses of the Danube frontier in the early 7th century, with some groups reaching as far south as the Peloponnese. Of these, two groups are known by name from later sources, the Ezeritai and the Melingoi, both having settled on the slopes of Mount Taygetos. The Ezeritai were apparently settled in the area known as Helos (Greek for "swamp"), from which their name derives (South Slavic ezero means "lake"). The Ezeritai are mentioned in the De administrando imperio of Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (r. 945–959), who records that they paid a tribute of 300 gold nomismata. The emperor further records that they had rebelled, along with the Melingoi, during the reign of Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920–945), but were defeated by the strategos Krinites Arotras and forced to pay double tribute as a consequence. They are not mentioned thereafter, except for a reference to a bishopric of Ezera in the area, dating to 1340. Like the Ezeritai, the Melingoi are first mentioned in the De administrando imperio, a manual on statecraft written by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (r. 945–959). The emperor records that in his time they paid a tribute of 60 gold nomismata, but that after they had revolted and been defeated, in the reign of Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920–945), by the strategos Krinites Arotras, they had to pay 600 nomismata. Under Byzantine rule, the Melingoi retained an autonomous existence, but adopted Christianity and became hellenized in language and culture. During the period of Frankish rule in the 13th–14th centuries, they were employed by both the Frankish lords of the Principality of Achaea and by the Byzantine Greeks of the Despotate of the Morea as soldiers. For instance, according to the Chronicle of the Morea, Prince William II of Villehardouin (r. 1246–1278) awarded to the "great droungos of the Melingoi" exemption from all duties except military service. The Melingoi are still attested during the 1330s in a number of founder's inscriptions attached to churches in Laconia. One of them, Constantine Spanes, from the notable Spanes family, is called "tzaousios of the droungos of the Melingoi", implying its continued existence as a separate community. N. Nicoloudis identifies the late medieval thema of Kinsterna or Giserna (from Latin cisterna, "cistern") with the area of the Melingoi in the northwestern Mani peninsula. After the Fourth Crusade in 1204 AD, Italian and French knights (known collectively by the Greeks as Franks) occupied the Peloponnese and created the Principality of Achaea. They built the fortresses of Mystras, Passavas, Gustema (Beaufort), and Great Maina. The area fell under Byzantine rule after 1262, forming part of the Despotate of the Morea. In 1460, after the fall of Constantinople, the Despotate fell to the Ottomans. Mani was not subdued and retained its internal self-government in exchange for an annual tribute, although this was only paid once. Local chieftains or beys governed Mani on behalf of the Ottomans. As Ottoman power declined, the mountains of the Mani became a stronghold of the klephts, bandits who also fought against the Ottomans. There is also evidence of a sizeable Maniot emigration to Corsica sometime during the Ottoman years. Petros Mavromichalis, the last bey of Mani, was among the leaders of the Greek War of Independence. He proclaimed the revolution at Areopoli on March 17, 1821. The Maniots contributed greatly to the struggle, but once Greek independence was won, they wanted to retain local autonomy. Tsakonians (Τσάκωνες) are a native Greek population group, speakers of the Tsakonian dialect, or more broadly, inhabitants of Tsakonia in the eastern Peloponnese and followers of certain Tsakonian cultural traditions, such as the Tsakonian dance. The term Tsakonas or Tzakonas first emerges in the writings of Byzantine chroniclers who derive the ethnonym from a corruption of Lakonas, a Laconian/Lacedaemonian (Spartan)—a reference to the Doric roots of the Tsakonian language and the people's relatively late conversion to Christianity and practice of traditional Hellenic customs. According to the Byzantine historian George Pachymeres, some Tsakonians were resettled by the Byzantine emperor Michael VII Ducas in Propontis. They lived in the villages of Vatka and Havoutsi, where the Gösen River (Aesepus) empties into the sea. However, based on the preservation of features common to both Propontis and the Peloponnesian dialects, Prof. Thanasis Costakis thinks that the date of settlement must have been several centuries later. Tsakonians in later time were known for their masonry skills; many were also shepherds. A common practice was for a small crew of men under a mastora to leave their village after the feast of Saint Demetrius and to return at Easter. They would travel as far as Attica doing repairs and white-washing houses. The Tsakonian village of Kastanitsa was known for its chestnuts and derives its name from the Greek word for the nut.

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