Harmost

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Harmost (Greek: ἁρμοστής) in ancient Greece is a Spartan term that means military governor. The Spartan general Lysander instituted several harmosts during the period of Spartan hegemony after the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. They were sent into their subject or conquered towns, partly to keep them in submission, and partly to abolish the democratic form of government, and establish in its stead one similar to their own. Although in many cases they were ostensibly sent for the purpose of abolishing the tyrannical government of a town, and to restore the people to freedom, yet they themselves acted like kings or tyrants, whence Dionysius thinks that harmostae was merely another name for kings. How little sincere the Lacedaemonians were in their professions to restore their subject towns to freedom was manifest after the peace of Antalcidas; for although they had pledged themselves to re-establish free governments in the various towns, yet they left them in the hands of the harmostae. (Polyb. iv. 27.) Even Xenophon (De Rep. Lac. c. 14) could not help censuring the Lacedaemonians for the manner in which they allowed their harmostae to govern.

It is uncertain how long the office of an harmost lasted; but considering that a governor of the same kind, who was appointed by the Lacedaemonians in Cythera, with the title of Cytherodikes, held his office only for one year (Thucyd. iv. 53), it is not improbable that the office of harmostes was of the same duration.

The Thebans also used the term during the Theban hegemony.

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