University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Ancient History

Undergraduate Course: Sparta and Crete: Classical Greek Society Beyond Athens (ANHI10061)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course is an introduction to the histories of ancient Sparta and Crete. Through examining evidence from Sparta and Crete during the classical period, this course aims to go beyond an Athenocentric view of 'Greek society'.
Course description In this course, students will encounter the complex and contradictory evidence for the fabric and character of classical Spartan society and the nature of her institutions through a close study of texts in translation. Lectures will focus upon political, social and economic institutions as well as ideologies of warfare and community, the role of women, and sexuality. Other topics include the character of slavery in Sparta (helotage), how it compares in legal terms to slavery at Athens, and its function in Sparta's political economy. Crete presents very different material for study. Though the lectures shall present the evidence of Aristotle, Ephorus and other non-Cretan writers who comment on Cretan society, the main focus will be on epigraphy and in particular the 'Great Code' of Gortyn (IC IV 72), supplemented by a selection of other Gortynian inscriptions in translation. Beyond an in-depth study of Gortynian laws on the household, family, and slavery, students will compare the example of Gortyn to the generalisations found in the literary sources which present Crete as undifferentiated (though it contained over 60 different city states, most of them independent of one another) in order to gauge the degree to which Cretan city states displayed common institutions and practices.

A typical class schedule will cover the following topics:

1. Introduction
2. The mirage of classical Sparta and the invention of tradition (Sparta in the basic textbooks; Sparta in popular culture; invention of tradition as a subject in historiography)
3. Behind the mirage: problems with our sources, with classical land tenure as a case study
4. Sparta's political institutions
5. Social groups and aspects of status (citizens, helots, perioikoi and other subaltern groups)
6. The political economy of helotage
7. The threat of helots? Revolts and management of slavery in Sparta
8. Citizen military ideology in Sparta: the education system
9. Spartan women: myth and reality
10. Messenia and national identity
11. Wealth and the power of wealth in Sparta
12. Sparta: an unusual society?
13. The archaic origins of Sparta's institutions
14. Introduction: Plato and Aristotle on the similarity of Spartan and Cretan society (and a look at the Geography and settlement archaeology of Crete)
15. Introduction to the Gortyn lawcode: formation, purpose, format
16. The family and the household in Gortynian law
17. Legal procedure at Gortyn
18. Slavery at Gortyn
19. Cretan pederasty and education
20. Common institutions of the Cretans? The question of diversity
21. Helotic slavery in comparative perspective: Crete, Sparta, Thessaly, Heraclea
22. Review: How similar was Spartan and Cretan society?

At the end of the course, students will compare Spartan and Cretan society to reflect on the similarities and differences between the two.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Ancient History 2a: Past and Present in the Ancient World (ANHI08014) AND Ancient History 2b: Themes and Theories in Ancient History (ANHI08013)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Passes in Ancient History 2A and Ancient History 2B are recommended, or at the Course Organiser's discretion.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics related subject matter(at least 2 of which should be in Ancient History) at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate in written examination, coursework and class discussion, a specialist knowledge of the evidence for classical Spartan and Cretan society, as well as the critical ability to compare historical societies (here, Sparta and Crete) and discern their distinctive cultural and institutional features;
  2. demonstrate in written examination, coursework and class discussion, a familiarity with theoretical and conceptual issues such as property, legal procedure, and institutional structures, next to an improved familiarity with the nature and use of a range of ancient evidence, including in particular epigraphic evidence, esp. in relation to Gortyn;
  3. demonstrate in written examination, coursework and class discussion, both competence in comparative methodology in relation to the legal concepts of property and procedure, and improved problem solving skills through study of complex issues such as the nature of land tenure in Sparta and the law of slavery in Gortyn;
  4. demonstrate in written examination, coursework and class discussion, an ability to access, understand, and employ the standard conventions in the field, from publisher's conventions (e.g. bibliographical styles, referencing systems, text displays, etc.) to scholarly conventions in the study of evidence pertaining to ancient Sparta and Crete (e.g. epigraphic abbreviations, legal and literary referencing, etc.);
  5. demonstrate especially through in the coursework and class discussion, improved research skills in formulating a historical argument, along with skills in prose style, citation style and the compilation of a bibliography.
Reading List
Cartledge, Paul, Spartan Reflections (Berkeley/L.A.: 2003).
Cartledge, Paul, The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece, from Utopia to Crisis and Collapse (London: 2003).
Gagarin, M., Writing Greek Law (Cambridge and New York: 2008).
Hodkinson, S., Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta (London: 2000).
Hodkinson, S.. and Powell, A. (edd.), Sparta: New Perspectives (London: 1999).
Hodkinson, S.. and Powell, A. (edd.), (edd.), Sparta and War (Swansea: 2006).
Nixon, L. and Price, S. (edd.), The Sphakia Survey (Greece): Methods and Results (Oxford: 1995).
Pomeroy S., Spartan Women (NY and Oxford: 2002).
Powell, A., Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 B.C. second edition (London/NewYork: 2001).
Powell, A. and Hodkinson, S. (edd.) Sparta beyond the Mirage (London: 2002).
Whitley, J., 'Cretan Laws and Cretan Literacy', American Journal of Archaeology 101.4: 1997.
Willetts, R. F., The Law Code of Gortyn (Berlin: 1967).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsSparta Crete
Course organiserDr David Lewis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3851
Course secretaryMs Elaine Hutchison
Tel: (0131 6)50 3582
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information