I've found sources saying that Sparta's population was about 3% citizens, but obviously that number fluxed over time, and given that at one point the Spartan Empire was about 80% helots, it makes me wonder if at an earlier time a much larger population were citizens (say 15%).

Does anyone have any sources mentioning the percentages of citizens at various times, or the populations of citizens and corresponding total populations so I can calculate percents?

  • about 80% helots, it makes me wonder if at an earlier time a much larger population were citizens (say 15%) Do you count perioikoi as citizens too?
    – Matt
    Feb 11, 2016 at 7:39
  • I was not counting, and the source that I read didn't mention perioikoi. But it seems perioikoi were explicitly not citizens.
    – B T
    Feb 11, 2016 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


Sparta always was a closed society, and the exact numbers of citizens (i.e. warriors) were an absolutely secret information all the time, no doubt.

After all, what do we know for sure? In the Battle of Platea there were 5000 spartiates, 5000 perioikoi, and 35000 helots. Also let's add that Plutarch in "Lycurgus" mentions 39000 shares in Laconia: 9000 spartiates families, and 30000 perioikoi.

Thus no one really doubts that there were several times more helots and perioikoi than spartiates. And the situation was only getting worse. So Brasidas even had to recruit helots-hoplites. Moreover, there is a point of view that only helots of Laconia were ever recruited. But the helots of Messenia - never. Probably even Spartans themselves never knew how many helots of Messenia are there.

So we don't know what percentage of population of Sparta were spartiates, but compared to the full population of Laconia and Messenia they were a negligible part, for sure. Those 15%, you've mentioned, may be reached only after later manumissions of neodamodes and such.

  • 1
    So I'm seeing that perhaps very very approximately, 5000/45,000 in the battle of Platea might have been able to vote, and that of course doesn't include any women, which i have to assume were ~50% of the population. So would 5% be a reasonable estimate? Also, sources for these number would be very much appreciated.
    – B T
    Feb 12, 2016 at 8:26
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    @BT 3-5% if talking of spartiates vs. full population of both Laconia and Messenia (i.e. both helots and perioikoi), and before manumissions of neodamodes in Peloponessian war. I believe, yes.
    – Matt
    Feb 12, 2016 at 8:36

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