David M. Lewis
Lycurgus was the legendary founder of Sparta’s political order and of many of its social institutions. His legend initially developed as part of the transformation that gave Sparta its distinctive features during the Archaic period. The role that Spartan tradition attributed to Lycurgus ended up subsuming and eventually cancelling any memory of this process, and his role in the establishment of the city’s laws and customs, along with Apollo’s blessing, rendered them more legitimate and binding. As it was Lycurgus’s laws that granted Sparta her distinctive greatness, the lawgiver continued to be an influential source of civic identity throughout antiquity, and in Sparta, his legend continued to be revived through a process known as invention of tradition. Throughout the Greek world, Lycurgus and his legislation were the object of deep historical, political and ethical-philosophical interest, usually admired or idealised, but occasionally viewed more critically.
Scholarly views concerning ancient evidence relating to Lycurgus vary.
The demography of Greece is a very difficult subject to investigate because of the shortage of relevant statistical data. Ancient authors did not write any books about demography and give hardly any figures for population sizes, and none at all for vital rates. Owing to the emphasis on war in ancient historiography, most ancient demographic estimates relate to the size of military forces or to the manpower available for military purposes—i.e., to adult males only. Total population sizes must be extrapolated from such information because women, children, and slaves were usually not enumerated at all. Moreover, literary authors were prone to exaggeration—with respect to the size of Persian armies, for example—although Thucydides (2) was a notable exception to this rule. Even in Classical Athens, for which the sources are relatively abundant, it seems unlikely that there was a central register of hoplites in addition to the deme registers. In general, Greek states did not have taxes payable by all inhabitants that would have required the maintenance of detailed records for financial purposes, and censuses of citizens were rare in the ancient Greek world. It is certain, however, that both mortality and fertility in ancient Greece were high by the standards of modern developed countries. Human mobility, whether voluntary or involuntary, was also an important factor in the population history of individual cities.
Lydiadas, son of Eudamus, of Megalopolis (d. 227
Those who owned property in the Greek world enjoyed all the basic rights and duties recognized in all legal systems. They had the right to security against arbitrary confiscation and theft, the right to enjoy the fruits, the right to alienate, the right to manage, and the right to pass on their property to their heirs. Their property could also be seized by the state as a penalty or to pay for fines or by private lenders in satisfaction of debts or other obligations. Property could be owned by private individuals, by private groups, by the state or by subdivisions of the state. In certain cases women had the right to own property, but their rights might be restricted by law. Most Greek communities only allowed citizens to own land unless they obtained permission to acquire land from the Assembly.
Secure property rights are crucial for economic prosperity.1 If owners of land cannot rest assured that their control over their property will not be threatened, they will have no incentive to build or make improvements. If they fear that someone may take their land at any moment, there will be no reason to invest in crops such as olives that will not produce immediate returns. If their title to the land is not secure, lenders will not be willing to accept the farm as security for a loan. If the threat of arbitrary confiscation hangs over owners, it becomes impossible to make any plans for the future. Finally, if the state does not protect the rights of owners, it is very difficult for individuals to buy and sell movable and immovable property in ways that lead to a better allocation of resources.