Lycurgus (around 900-800 BC) Sparta lawgiver

Law instead of throne
Lycurgus (or Lykourgos) is said to be the lawgiver of Sparta, together with Athens the most important city of ancient Greece. In his time, Sparta had decayed, leaving the kings powerless. Lycurgus' father had also been king but he had died on duty. Then his brother became king, but he also kicked the bucket soon. Lycurgus refused to take the throne when it was his turn. He left Sparta to study the law in other countries.

New system
In Delphi, he asked the famous oracle for advice. Then he returned to his hometown and introduced a completely new legislation, based on the 'rhemata' (words) of the Delphi oracle. Lycurgus then decided to leave again, but he let his fellow Spartans swear they would respect the law at least until he would return. He never came back, consequently blocking changes in a system that (according to ancient historian Plutarch) would remain intact until the Cleomenes reform initiatives in the 3rd century BC.

Probably Lycurgus has never existed.

Historians now think he was just a legendary figure. Through the ages he has been described however as the great legislator of Sparta, like Solon was to Athens and Numa Pompilius to Rome.

Division of power
Plato praised Lycurgus for his system of division of power: two kings, who were basically military generals, had to respect the gerousia (a college of old men) and the public assembly. Very famous is Lycurgus' view on the upbringing of children. As soon as the Spartan boys were seven years old, they were to be enrolled in certain companies and classes, where they all lived under the same order and discipline, doing their exercises and taking their play together. From the age of twelve, they received nothing but military training.

Praised by the great
Lycurgus is not only cited by Plato. Machiavelli, Bodin, Grotius, Montesquieu and Rousseau all refer to his ideas.

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