Lycurgus was the legendary lawgiver of Sparta, who established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. He is referenced by ancient historians Herodotus, Xenophon, and Plutarch. It is not clear if this Lycurgus was an actual historical figure; however, many historians believe Lycurgus was responsible for the communalistic and militaristic reforms which transformed Spartan society, the most major of which was known as The Great Rhetra. Ancient historians place him in the first half of the 9th century BC.

According to ancient sources, Lycurgus was a war veteran who, with the support of his comrades, he managed to become regent or tutor to the Spartan king Charilaus. He lost an eye in a fight with a political opponent; the opponent was sentenced to serve as his servant for a period of time and became one of Lycurgus' biggest supporters. Among the reforms attributed to Lycurgus are the abolition of gold and silver coinage (an anachronism, since coins did not come into use until the 500's BC) and the substitution of iron money, the requirement of eating in commons and living (for unmarried men) in rough-hewn barracks, the destruction of the city walls to promote martial skill, the juvenile militia units responsible for raising children, and the system of government that divided power between king, the Spartan citizenry, the gerousia, and the ephors.



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