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The perioeci, or perioikoi, were the members of an autonomous group of free but non-citizen inhabitants of Sparta. Concentrated in the coastal and highland areas of Laconia and Messenia,[1] the name περίοικοι derives from περί, peri, "around", and οἶκος, oikos, "dwelling, house". They were the only people allowed to travel to other cities, which the Spartans were not, unless given permission.


The city-state of Sparta was formed during the Greek Dark Ages, controlling the plains around the Eurotas river. Those communities already existing in the area which could not be assimilated into the Spartan state, or subjugated as helots, became the perioeci.[2] Whether they were Dorians, like the Spartans, or descended from pre-Dorian populations in the Peloponnese is unknown.[3]


The perioeci were free, unlike the helots, but were not full Spartan citizens. They lived in their own settlements in the perioecis, which were described by ancient authors as poleis.[4][5][6] These settlements were largely under the control of the Spartan state,[1] but were self-governing on domestic issues.[7]

The perioeci were obliged to follow Spartan foreign policy, and supplied men to fight in the Spartan army.[7] Like the homoioi (full Spartan citizens), the perioeci fought in the army as hoplites, probably in the same units.[8] The perioeci had the right to own land, which would have been necessary to support those in the army.[9]

In the Classical period, the Spartans were not permitted to engage in any economically productive activities, and so the perioeci were responsible for Spartan manufacturing, including producing weapons and armour, as well as conducting the trade that the Spartan state needed.[10] For instance, the large number of masks and figurines dedicated at the site of the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia were probably produced by perioecic craftsmen.[11]

See also[edit]

  • Helots, non-free inhabitants of Sparta
  • Metics, similar social class of Athens.
  • Sciritae, distinct group of non-citizens of Sparta occupying a roughly equivalent social stratum


  1. ^ a b Cartledge, Paul (2002). The Spartans: An Epic History. Macmillan. p. 67. 
  2. ^ Toynbee, Arnold J. (1913). "The Growth of Sparta". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 33: 247. 
  3. ^ Hammond, N.G.L.; Scullard, H.H., eds. (1970). Oxford Classical Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 801. 
  4. ^ Herodotus, Histories, VII.234
  5. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, V.54.1
  6. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica, VI.5.21
  7. ^ a b Hammond, N.G.L. (1982). "The Peloponnese". In Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. The Cambridge Ancient History (2 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 333. 
  8. ^ Figueira, Thomas J. (1986). "Population Patterns in Late Archaic and Classical Sparta". Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974–). 116: 167. 
  9. ^ Ridley, R.T. (1974). "Economic Activities of the Perioikoi". Mnemosyne. 27 (3): 188. 
  10. ^ Cartledge, Paul (2002). The Spartans: An Epic History. Macmillan. p. 68. 
  11. ^ Cartledge, Paul (2002). The Spartans: An Epic History. Macmillan. p. 99. 


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