Sparta was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece. In antiquity the city-state was known as Lacedaemon, while the name Sparta referred to its settlement on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia. Around 650 BC, it rose to become the dominant military land-power in ancient Greece, given its military pre-eminence, Sparta was recognized as the overall leader of the combined Greek forces during the Greco-Persian Wars. Between 431 and 404 BC, Sparta was the enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, from which it emerged victorious. Spartas defeat by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC ended Spartas prominent role in Greece, however, it maintained its political independence until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. It then underwent a period of decline, especially in the Middle Ages. Modern Sparta is the capital of the Greek regional unit of Laconia, Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which completely focused on military training and excellence. Its inhabitants were classified as Spartiates, mothakes, perioikoi, Spartiates underwent the rigorous agoge training and education regimen, and Spartan phalanges were widely considered to be among the best in battle. Spartan women enjoyed more rights and equality to men than elsewhere in the classical world. Sparta was the subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in the West following the revival of classical learning and this love or admiration of Sparta is known as Laconism or Laconophilia. At its peak around 500 BC the size of the city would have been some 20,000 –35,000 free residents, plus numerous helots, olliers theory of the Spartan mirage has been widely accepted by scholars. The ancient Greeks used one of three words to refer to the location of the Spartans. The first refers primarily to the cluster of settlements in the valley of the Eurotas River. The second word was Lacedaemon, this was used sometimes as an adjective and is the name commonly used in the works of Homer. Herodotus seems to denote by it the Mycenaean Greek citadel at Therapne and it could be used synonymously with Sparta, but typically it was not. It denoted the terrain on which Sparta was situated, in Homer it is typically combined with epithets of the countryside, wide, lovely, shining and most often hollow and broken. The hollow suggests the Eurotas Valley, Sparta on the other hand is the country of lovely women, a people epithet. The name of the population was used for the state of Lacedaemon
Territory of ancient Sparta
Hollow Lacedaemon. Site of the Menelaion, the ancient shrine to Helen and Menelaus constructed in the Bronze Age city that stood on the hill of Therapne on the left bank of the Eurotas River overlooking the future site of Dorian Sparta. Across the valley the successive ridges of Mount Taygetus are in evidence.
The theater of ancient Sparta with Mt. Taygetus in the background.