Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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10.4.17

Some, he says, alleged that many of the institutions supposed to be Cretan were of Lacedæmonian origin; but the truth is, they were invented by the former, but perfected by the Spartans. The Cretans, when their cities, and particularly Cnossus, were ravaged, neglected military affairs, but some usages were more observed by the Lyttii and Gortynii, and some other small cities, than by the Cnossians. Those persons, who maintain the priority of the Laconian institutions, adduce as evidence of this those of the Lyttii, because as colonists they would retain the customs of the parent state. Otherwise, it would be absurd for those, who lived under a better form of constitution and government, to be imitators of a worse. But this is not correct. For we ought not to form conjectures respecting the ancient from the present state of things, for each has undergone contrary changes. The Cretans were formerly powerful at sea, so that it was a proverbial saying addressed to those who pretended to be ignorant of what they knew, a Cretan, and not know the sea; but at present they have abandoned nautical affairs.

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Nor did it follow necessarily that, because there were some cities in Crete colonized by Spartans, they should continue to observe Spartan usages, since many of the cities of colonists do not preserve the customs of the mother country; and there are many cities in Crete, the inhabitants of which are not colonists, and yet have the same usages as those that have received colonies. 10.4.18

Lycurgus, the Spartan legislator, he says, was five generations later than Althæmenes, who conducted the colony into Crete. He is said by historians to have been the son of Cissus, who founded Argos [Note] about the same time that Procles was engaged in establishing a colony at Sparta. It is also generally admitted that Lycurgus was the sixth in descent from Procles. [Note] Copies do not precede the models, nor modern precede ancient things. The usual kind of dancing practised among the Lacedæmonians, the measures, and the pæans sung according to a certain mood, and many other usages, are called among them Cretan, as if they came from Crete. But among the ancient customs, those relative to the administration of the state have the same designations as in Crete, [Note] as the council of Gerontes [Note] and that of the Knights, [Note] except that in Crete the knights had horses; whence it is conjectured, that the council of Knights in Crete is more ancient, since the origin of the appellation is preserved. But the Spartan knight did not keep a horse. They who perform the same functions as the Cosmi in Crete, have the different title of Ephori [in Sparta]. The Syssitia, or common meal, is even at present called Andreia among the Cretans; but among the Spartans they did not continue to call it by its former name, as it is found in the poet Alcman; In festivals and in joyous assemblies of the Andreia, it is fit to begin the pean in honour of the guests. 10.4.19

The occasion of the journey of Lycurgus to Crete is said by the inhabitants to be as follows. The elder brother of Lycurgus was Polydectes, who, at his death, left his wife pregnant. Lycurgus reigned in place of his brother till the

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birth of a son. He then became the guardian of the child, who was heir to the kingdom. Some one said to him insultingly, he was sure Lycurgus would be king. Suspecting that by this speech he might be accused of contriving a plot against the child, and fearing that, if the child should die by any accident, his enemies might impute its death to him, he departed to Crete. This is said to have been the cause of his journey. Upon his arrival in Crete he became acquainted with Thales, the lyric poet and legislator. He learnt from this person the plan adopted by Rhadamanthus in former times, and afterwards by Minos in promulgating their laws, so as to procure a belief that they proceeded from Jupiter. He was also in ægypt, and obtained information respecting the laws and customs of that country. [Note] According to some writers, he met at Chios with Homer, who was living there, and then returned to his own country, where he found Charilaus, the son of his brother Polydectes, upon the throne. He then began to frame laws, repairing to the god at Delphi, and bringing thence ordinances, as Minos brought his from the cave of Jupiter. [Note] The greater part of these ordinances were similar to those of Minos. 10.4.20

The following are the principal of the laws of Crete, which Ephorus has given in detail.

All the Cretans, who are selected at the same time from the troop (ἀγέλη) of youths, are compelled to marry at once. They do not however take the young women whom they have married immediately to their homes, until they are qualified to administer household affairs.

The woman's dower, if she has brothers, is half of the brother's portion.

The children are taught to read, to chaunt songs taken from the laws, and some kinds of music.

While they are still very young they are taken to the Syssitia, called Andreia. They sit on the ground, eating their food together, dressed in mean garments, which are not changed in winter or summer. They wait upon themselves and on the men. Both those of the same and those of different messes have battles with one another. A trainer of boys presides over each Andreion. As they grow older they are formed into

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(αγέλαι) or troops of youths. The most illustrious and powerful of the youths form Agelæ, each individual assembling together as many as he can collect. The governor of the troop is generally the father of the youth who has assembled them together, and has the power of taking them to hunt and to exercise themselves in running, and of punishing the disobedient. They are maintained at the public charge.

On certain set days troop encounters troop, marching in time to the sound of the pipe and lyre, as is their custom in actual war. They inflict blows, some with the hand, and some even with iron weapons.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 10.4.14 Str. 10.4.19 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 10.4.22

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