Xenophon of Athens, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians

LCL 183: 136-137

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I. Ἀλλ᾿ ἐγὼ ἐννοήσας ποτέ, ὡς ἡ Σπάρτη τῶν ὀλιγανθρωποτάτων πόλεων οὖσα δυνατωτάτη τε καὶ ὀνομαστοτάτη ἐν τῇ Ἑλλάδι ἐφάνη, ἐθαύμασα, ὅτῳ ποτὲ τρόπῳ τοῦτ᾿ ἐγένετο· ἐπεὶ μέντοι κατενόησα τὰ ἐπιτηδεύματα τῶν Σπαρτιατῶν, οὐκέτι ἐθαύμαζον.

2Λυκοῦργον μέντοι τὸν θέντα αὐτοῖς τοὺς νόμους, οἷς πειθόμενοι ηὐδαιμόνησαν, τοῦτον καὶ θαυμάζω καὶ εἰς τὰ ἔσχατα σοφὸν ἡγοῦμαι. ἐκεῖνος γὰρ οὐ μιμησάμενος τὰς ἄλλας πόλεις, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐναντία γνοὺς ταῖς πλείσταις προέχουσαν εὐδαιμονίᾳ τὴν πατρίδα ἐπέδειξεν.

3Αὐτίκα γὰρ περὶ τεκνοποιίας, ἵνα ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἄρξωμαι, οἱ μὲν ἄλλοι τὰς μελλούσας τίκτειν καὶ καλῶς δοκούσας κόρας παιδεύεσθαι καὶ σίτῳ ᾗ ἀνυστὸν μετριωτάτῳ τρέφουσι καὶ ὄψῳ ᾗ δυνατὸν μικροτάτῳ· οἴνου γε μὴν ἢ πάμπαν ἀπεχομένας ἢ ὑδαρεῖ χρωμένας διάγουσιν· ὥσπερ δὲ οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν τὰς τέχνας ἐχόντων ἑδραῖοί εἰσιν, οὕτω καὶ τὰς κόρας οἱ ἄλλοι Ἕλληνες ἠρεμιζούσας ἐριουργεῖν ἀξιοῦσι. τὰς μὲν οὖν οὕτω τρεφομένας πῶς χρὴ προσδοκῆσαι μεγαλεῖον ἄν τι γεννῆσαι;


The Lacedaemonians, i.

Constitution of the Lacedaemonians

I. It occurred to me one day that Sparta, though among the most thinly populated of states, was evidently the most powerful and most celebrated city in Greece; and I fell to wondering how this could have happened. But when I considered the institutions of the Spartans, I wondered no longer.

Lycurgus, who gave them the laws that they2 obey, and to which they owe their prosperity, I do regard with wonder; and I think that he reached the utmost limit of wisdom. For it was not by imitating other states, but by devising a system utterly different from that of most others, that he made his country pre-eminently prosperous.

First, to begin at the beginning, I will take the3 begetting of children.1 In other states the girls who are destined to become mothers and are brought up in the approved fashion, live on the very plainest fare, with a most meagre allowance of delicacies. Wine is either withheld altogether, or, if allowed them, is diluted with water. The rest of the Greeks expect their girls to imitate the sedentary life that is typical of handicraftsmen—to keep quiet and do wool-work. How, then, is it to be expected that women so brought up will bear fine children?

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.xenophon_athens-constitution_lacedaimonians.1925