Kings of Sparta

Article

July 6, 2022

The Spartan kings are one of the highest and most ancient bodies of the Spartan state. From the 11th century B.C. e. at the same time, two kings (diarchy) from two different royal houses (Agiad and Euripontis) ruled, at the same time being two branches of the Heraclid dynasty. Both kings had equal powers, and each of them had the right to make decisions without the consent of his colleague in the royal office, which made it impossible to concentrate power in one hand.

Title

The usual naming of Spartan kings in narrative sources is basilei (ancient Greek βᾰσῐλεῖς), that is, actually “kings”, “rulers”. However, in the text of the Great Retra, which is generally recognized as an authentic ancient document that had constitutional significance for early Sparta, the kings are called the title of archagetes (ἀρχαγέται), "leaders".

Causes of diarchy

Regarding the causes of diarchy in Sparta, there are 3 versions: Etiological: King Aristodem had two twin sons - Eurysthenes and Proclus. After the death of Aristodemus, they were both proclaimed kings of Laconia. Two dynasties of Spartan kings originated from them - Agiades, named after the son of Eurysthenes, and Eurypontis, named after the grandson of Proclus. Historical: diarchy arose after the arrival of the Dorians as a result of a mixture of two communities - Dorian and Achaean. Confirmation of this theory can be found in the words of King Cleomenes I, who claimed that he was an Achaean, not a Dorian.

Functions

Political

They are members of the Gerousia. Can use xenelasia. They can conduct preliminary negotiations with foreign ambassadors.

Sacred

They are the main representatives of the community before the gods and as such perform the main rituals (sacrifices) on behalf of the community. They are responsible for communication with the Delphic oracle and store divinations received from Delphi.

Military

They command the Spartan army on a campaign (initially both went to war, each at the head of his detachment; later one had to stay at home).

Litigation

Judgment in cases of daughters-heirs (Epikler). Court in cases of state roads. Participation in court