Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The first Helots were Laconians that Sparta defeated and conquered. It is possible that the name Helot comes from Helos , the main city in Laconia. Sparta conquered Messenia around 640 BC–620 BC; the enslaved Messenians formed the bulk of the Helots.
Helots lived in their master's household but were owned by the state; unlike regular slaves, their master could not declare them free. They served as agricultural and domestic slaves, and sometimes military servants as well. Spartans usually allowed agricultural Helots to keep excess produce.
The Helots outnumbered the Spartans around 20 to one and became the backbone of Spartan agricultural production. Fearing rebellion, the Spartans continually kept themselves militarily prepared to crush any uprising, and hesitated to join military campaigns far from Sparta. A force known as the Krypteria also kept the Helots under control. According to Aristotle, the Spartan ephors annually redeclared war against the Helots to justify the use of force against them.
In wartime Helots served as light infantry and as rowers in ships. During the Peloponnesian War they also fought as heavy infantry , and Helots who excelled in battle could earn their freedom. Some 2000 were freed and reputedly later assassinated.
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