General Information on Laconia
Sparta is the capital town of Laconia Prefecture, situated in the fertile Evrotas plain, which is enclosed between the Taygetos range and Mountain Parnon and bounded by the sea to the south.
In antiquity, Sparta was a Dorian Greek military city state. It possessed the most formidable army in the ancient Greek world, and after achieving notable victories over the Athenian and Persian Empires, regarded itself as the natural protector of Greece.
Nowadays modern Sparta, which is built directly on top of the ancient settlement, is an easy-going city with wide, tree-lined streets and offers many ruins to visit and also it is by far the best base for exploring the ruins of Byzantine Mystras, 6km away.
History of Laconia
Tradition says that Sparta was founded by Lacedaemon, son of Zeus and Taygete, who called the city after his wife, daughter of Eurotas. The recorded history of Sparta began with the Dorian invasions –the early years after the Trojan War–, when the Peloponnese was settled by Greek tribes coming from Epirus and Macedonia, submitting or displacing the older Achaean Greek inhabitants.
The newly founded state did not became powerful until Lycurgus (former King of Sparta) unified the state and instituted the training which was its distinguishing feature and source of its greatness. The unwritten laws of Lykurgos followed eunomia (good application of the laws), but at the same time they had the seeds of aggressiveness. After a few years of use, Sparta conquered almost all of Laconia. The Spartans didn’t stop there. They conquered Messenia, because of its rich and fertile plains, after two wars (743-724, 685-668 B.C.) and the city established itself as a local power in Peloponnese and the rest of Greece.
During the following centuries, Sparta developed a reputation as a land-fighting force. When Persia under the ambition of expanding into Europe threatened to invade, the Greek cities recognized Sparta as their leader and became one united power. In 480 B.C. a small Spartan unit under King Leonidas made a legendary last stand against a massive, invading Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. One year later, Sparta assembled at full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at Plataea. There, a decisive Greek victory put an end to the Greek-Persian War.
In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens, Thebes and Persia had been the main powers fighting for supremacy against each other. The greatest series of conflicts between Athens and Sparta, which resulted in the dismantling of the Athenian Empire, is called the Peloponnesian War. The Athenian attempts to control Greece and take over the Spartan role of “guardian of Hellenism" ended in failure. Sparta, a traditionally continental culture, became a naval power to win the powerful Athenian fleet.
By the end of the 5th century B.C. Sparta stood out as a state which had defeated the Athenian Empire and had invaded Persia, a period which marks the Spartan Hegemony. During the Corinthian War, Sparta faced a coalition of the leading Greek states: Thebes, Athens, Corinth and Argos. The alliance was initially backed by Persia, whose lands in Anatolia had been invaded by Sparta and which feared further Spartan expansion into Asia. Sparta achieved a series of land victories but many of its ships were destroyed at Cnidus by a Greek-Phoenician mercenary fleet that Persia had given to Athens. The event severely damaged Sparta’s naval power but didn’t end its aspirations of invading further into Persia, until Conor the Athenian ravaged the Spartan coastline and provoked the old Spartan fear of a helot revolt. After a few more years of fighting, the “King’s Peace” was established. All Greek states were to remain independent and Persia’s Asian border would be free of the Spartan threat.
Sparta entered its long-term decline after a severe military defeat to Epaminondas of Thebes and the Battle of Leuctra. This was the first time that Sparta lost a land battle at full strength. Because Spartan citizenship was inherited by blood, the city started facing the problem of having a helot population vastly outnumbering its citizens. Despite Sparta’s decline, the citizens continued to believe in their superiority. Even when Philip of Macedon created the League of the Greeks in order to stop Persian expansionism, Spartans were excluded on their own will. Philip, who was well aware of Spartan stubbornness, chose not to put his hegemony at risk by attempting to take Laconia by force. After the Roman conquest of Greece, Spartans continued their way of life and the city became a tourist attraction for the Roman elite who came to observe the “unusual” Spartan customs.
How to Reach Laconia
Bus: The city has a well organized, modern bus station at the east end of Lykourgou. There are several daily buses to Athens (3¼ hours) via Corinth (2 hours), Gythio (1 hour), Neapoli (3 hours), Tripoli (1¼ hours), Geraki (45 minutes) and Monemvasia (2½ hours). Also there is a service to Kalamata (2½ hours), Gerolimenas (3 hours) via Areopoli (2 hours) and one daily service to the caves at Pyrgos Dirou (2¼ hours). Finally, there are several daily buses to Mystras (30 minutes).
Weather in Laconia
The Peloponnese Peninsula has a typical Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Rain falls mostly between October and March.
Top 10 Destinations in Laconia
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Map of Laconia