The city of Sparta was a city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the River Eurotas in the southern part of the Peloponnese. Between c. 650 and 362 B.C. it was the dominant military power in the region, and as such was recognised as the overall leader of the combined Greek forces during the Greco-Persian Wars. Between 431-404 it was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War.By the year 362 Sparta's role as the dominant military power in Greece was over, but the so-called Spartan myth continues to fascinate Western culture. The majority of inhabitants of Sparta were helots who, every autumn during the Crypteia, could be killed by a Spartan citizen without fear of blood or guilt.
Ancestral law in ancient Sparta mandated same-sex relationships with youths who were coming of age for all adult men, so long as the men eventually took wives and produced children. The Spartans thought that love and erotic relationships between experienced and novice soldiers would solidify combat loyalty and encourage heroic tactics as men vied to impress their lovers. Once the younger soldiers reached maturity, the relationship was supposed to become non-sexual, but it is not clear how strictly this was followed. There was some stigma attached to young men who continued their relationships with their mentors into adulthood. For example, Aristophanes calls them euryprôktoi, meaning "wide arses", and depicts them like women.
Women, being more independent than in other Greek societies, were able to negotiate with their husbands to bring their lovers into their homes. According to Plutarch in his Life of Lycurgus, men both allowed and encouraged their wives to bear the children of other men, due to the general communal ethos which made it more important to bear many progeny for the good of the city, than to be jealously concerned with one's own family unit. However, some historians argue that this 'wife sharing' was only reserved for elder males who had not yet produced an heir.
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