Sparta and Delphi
By Benton Rose

(a map showing Sparta and its allies)

Sparta and Delphi

Sparta is known for its rigorous military organization and has an organized government. The Spartan polis was ruled by two kings, who were advised by an honored council of elders. Although they had kings, Spartan government was not a aristocracy. All citizens in Spartan civilization were treated as equals and fought as equals and so they were called equals. The spartan council of elders were a group of twenty-eight nobles who proposed laws and authority in law cases. As all spartan men served in the military the council of elders consisted of soldiers and retired soldiers.

Delphi's government was based around the power of kings and oracles. Although the kings had the final say for any important decision, many say that the oracles had more power than the kings. In this way, religion became closely tied to government in Delphi as people of all social classes went to the oracles for advice. The oracles of Delphi quickly became more powerful as they claimed to be performing the will of Delphi's patron god Apollo.

Religion in Sparta followed the standard Greek religion which consisted of twelve major gods and goddesses or Olympians. These Olympians included Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hades, and Dionysus. Although Sparta did practice this Greek religion, they were considerably less religious than most city-states, especially Delphi whose culture is centered around religion. In place a heavy focus on religion Spartans followed an honor code which was a deep part of their militaristic society.

Religion in Delphi is quite the opposite of religion in Sparta. Although they both practice the same religion Delphi's entire culture was based on this religion. Also, although Delphi worshipped the same gods as Sparta, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hades, and Dionysus they worshipped one, Apollo, above all others. Apollo quickly came to be called the patron god of Delphi and the people of Delphi believed that he communicated to them using oracles. The most important oracle was called simply, the oracle of Delphi. She was known to go on fits of rage while muttering strange words. These words were said to be the words of Apollo.
(a picture of the oracle of Delphi)

Spartan culture did not focus very strongly on their own economy. Spartan equals were not very concerned with farming or the skills of artisans but instead were concerned with war. They used helots or serfs, who were essentially slaves to manage their land. They did produce some goods as they had a small class of artisans and merchants who created and sold materials.

Delphi was one of the richest city-states and had an expansive economy. It was not at all based on the production of goods but instead focused on controlling peoples offerings to the gods. Many wealthy people paid vast sums of money for a chance to commune with the oracle of Delphi and as a result delphi soon developed vast treasuries and became the envy of other city states because of its wealth. From this vast wealth Delphi quickly became a target for other city states and was involved in several wars.

Although many believe that spartan culture did not focus on much art or architecture, there are many Spartan built temples that exhibit extensive ability in architecture. Some of these temples include the Menelaion or the Amyklaion. The Spartans were also excellent bronze workers and made many sculptures of bronze or ivory.

Delphi is widely known to have art and architecture embedded in their culture. A prominent example of this would be the famous temple of Apollo. Although razed during war, the temple to Apollo was rebuilt and was then one of the most visited places on earth. The temple was rebuilt a third time when an earthquakes destroyed it in 373. Delphi obtained art from all over the world in the form of offerings to the gods and to the god Apollo. Delphi, like many greek city states, were skilled with pottery and sculpting.temple_of_Athena.jpg
(a picture of the temple to Athena at Delphi)

Sparta's greatest technology was Its weapons and armor. They had extremely skilled smiths and were notorious for their large bronze shields and armor. They had basic ships and chariots although they did not go extensively into woodwork.

Delphi, like the Spartans did have some metalworking capabilities. Both Delphi and Sparta used the gear, the screw, and among other things extensive bronze casting techniques. All of Greece was noted for its extensive technology and especially for their use of steam in some basic machinery Although this use of steam was used mainly in toys, it was the first significant use of steam machinery ever.
(an example of the classic spartan weapon, the hoplite spear)
Spartan education started at the age of seven when boys started military training. They ran and swam in races and fought brutal mock battles. They were given very little food and were forced to go barefoot in order to become tougher. from the age of seven until their mid teens this brutal training and survival exercises continued. Although they did undergo extensive military training they were also taught in the basics of Greek music, culture, and mythology.

Delphi did not stress such a uniform education but instead took on people to choose the extensiveness of the education their children received. Most boys did attend school until either the age of 15 or 18. At school children were taught basic arithmetic, as well as reading and writing skills and lessons in greek culture. Although it was not common for girls to attend schooling some wealthy families hired tutors to teach their children.

Social values:
Spartan social values focused on equality and, unlike many city states focused on equality for men and women. They valued that all men should be included in the military and that all women and children were strong. Not only did the men train themselves physically, the women also went through extensive physical training because their main purpose was to give birth to healthy sons. Although there was not total equality among men and women it was much better than many other city states

The people of Delphi valued religion above all else. Culture and income was centered around the gods and the words of the oracles. The word of an oracle was like law and was to be treated as such. Kings had the oracle as their most important adviser and many went to great lengths in attempts to please the gods.

Lingering Questions:
1. Do you think that Delphi was taking advantage of other city states by making them pay offerings?

2. Do you think that Sparta's warlike culture was a good way of life?

3. Would you rather have lived in Delphi or Sparta?

4. Do you think that Spartan values were more important than Delphi's values?

5. Do you think that the Spartan economy would have been successful without helots and serfs?

10 facts:

1. Sparta was the capital of Laconia

2. Sparta left all unhealthy babies to die in the hills because they were not fit for battle.

3. Delphi was supposedly founded when Apollo took the form of a dolphin and steered a ship to the island.

4. Delphi's decline started when Christianity became a popular religion

5. Spartan armies fought in blocks of soldiers using spears called a phalanx

6. The Spartans heavily worshiped the god Ares, the god of war.

7.The ancient Pythenian games were held at delphi

8. Marriage was very important to Spartans.

9. Almost all of Spartan buildings were very practical.

10. Spartans were well known for their bronze armor and spears.


Pomeroy, Sarah B., et al. Ancient Greece A Political, Social, and Cultural
History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.

Schrader, Helena r P. "Sparta Reconsidered." elysium gates. N.p., 1 Jan. 2010.
Web. 3 Oct. 2010. <>.

"Athens and Sparta (Overview)." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010. <>

"Delphi." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010. <>

"Sparta." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010. <>
"Delphi." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.