Who Are the Descendants of Spartans?


Although Sparta is one of the best-known cities in the Mediterranean, little remains of the Spartan city, and very few people who live there today are descendants of the Doric Spartans. Most of the descendants of Spartans can be found south along the Peloponnese, where they are few. 

The descendants of Spartans are the Maniots, who live south of the Spartan city on the Laconian Peninsula. The Maniots claim to be direct descendants of the Spartans, who settled in the south to escape invaders. 

Sparta is no longer home to the Spartans, but the noble clans and bloodlines have not yet died out. Some descendants of the Spartans still live on, prolonging the Spartan race and the legends that surround their descent from the heroes of the Ancient Mediterranean. 

Spartan warrior
Are there any living descendants of Spartans? See below

Are There Any Living Descendants of Spartans?

There are living descendants of the Spartans, called the Maniots. These people can trace their ancestry to the Spartans who fled their city following the hostile invasions of Alaric in 396 A.D.

By the time the Spartans left the city that was once home to the Mediterranean’s proudest, most powerful warriors, the Spartan name had become far less impressive. Sparta was no longer autonomous and needed military protection after many military defeats and rebellions from the state-enslaved helots.

By the 1st century A.D. Sparta had little left of its unique law code and military training, although it clung to some of its ideals. For the most part, Sparta became a popular tourist attraction for the people of the Roman Empire. 

People flocked to Sparta to observe the unique social dynamics, religious practices, and athletic games of the Spartans during this period. In addition, Cicero writes that many people came to the city to see the traditional Spartan ritualistic whipping of young boys. [1]

Although Sparta had lost its prestige, it remained independent until Diocletian launched Roman forces against the Achaean League in the 3rd century A.D. 

However, Roman rule in Sparta was short-lived. In 396 A.D., Alaric and his Visigothic army invaded Sparta and the rest of Greece, enslaving as many people as possible. [2]

During this time, the Spartans who escaped the Visigoths searched for a new, safer city to settle in. They moved south along the Laconian peninsula, finally settling along the sea in Mani, where the harsh mountainous landscape and surrounding waters could serve as a natural barrier against invaders.

Sparta
Where are the descendants of the Spartans? See below

Where Are the Descendants of the Spartans?

The descendants of the Spartans live in Mani, located on the Laconic Peninsula in the Greek Peloponnese. The Spartans moved to Mani after attacks from the Visigoths and sought refuge in the mountainous territories of Mani. 

Mani, which most scholars believe means “barren” or “dry land,” is a small city on the southernmost tip of the Laconic Peloponnese. Surrounded by sea and towering mountains, this location is isolated from the rest of the Peloponnese. It has no natural freshwater source, although it is a world-renowned producer of olives.

This area was once a perioikos (peripheral city-state) under the Spartan domain. [3] From the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D., the Maniots lived under a Spartan puppet government, and they were known for their Spartan-like strength and harshness.

The natural terrain in this area was at a distinct advantage for the Spartans who fled their home in the 4th century since the large, steep Taygetos mountains surround it to the north. These mountains served as a great wall that kept the Visigoths from pursuing them. 

Even during Sparta’s dominance in the Peloponnese, the Maniots were considered ruthless pirates and mercenaries. [4] Therefore, few city-states and foreign powers were willing to attack Mani in fear of retaliation, making it the safest place for the Spartans to recuperate after the Visigothic invasion. 

Today, Mani only has a population of 5,000, and there is little left of Spartan law, social structure, and politics. However, Maniots are still well-known for their military prowess, and they retained their independence for thousands of years, repelling Turkish, Egyptian, and Frankish forces. 

They were the first Greek people to join the Greek Liberation movement in the 19th century and still enjoy their independent nature, strength in war, and ability to subdue the rugged terrain in the area. 

Likewise, the Maniots still take pride in their Spartan heritage and plan to carry on the line of their ancestors. [5]

Spartan shield
Who did the Spartans descend from? See below

Who Did the Spartans Descend From?

The Spartans descended from the Leleges and Dorians, although some mythological accounts and ancient authors trace Spartan descent back to figures such as Zeus, Heracles, and Abraham. 

According to archaeological evidence, Sparta was inhabited by humans as early as the Neolithic Period, well before the founding of the Spartan city. However, in the Iliad, Homer writes that the first inhabitants of Laconia were the Leleges, who hailed from Anatolia. 

The first king of the Spartans was Lelex, and his sons Myles and Eurotas succeeded him. However, when Eurotas died with no male heirs, Lacadaemon, said to be the son of Zeus and Taygete, married Eurotas’ daughter Sparta and took the throne. Lacedaemon founded the Spartan city around the 16th century B.C. and named it after his wife.

In the 13th century B.C., Dorians, likely from Macedon, moved into the Laconic peninsula, bringing the Heraclidae, who were the reputed descendants of the mythic hero Heracles. The Dorians settled in Sparta and the surrounding areas, and they brought with them the Doric Greek dialect as well, which the descendants of the Spartans in Mani still use today. 

In the 3rd century B.C., Spartan king Areus wrote a letter to Onias, a Jewish ruler, that the Spartans hailed from the stock of Abraham through their Dorian heritage. 

Scholars cannot prove the mythical and legendary claims regarding the Spartans’ descent. However, most experts agree that the Spartans are the descendants of Dorians and the Leleges, who had inhabited the area known as Sparta since the dawn of man. 

Conclusion

The descendants of the Spartans, the Maniots, carry on the Spartan bloodline and its legendary foundation, although the Spartan city is no longer their home. 

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source

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