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Lycurgus (lĪkûrˈgəs) [key], traditional name of the founder of the Spartan constitution. The earliest mention of him is in Herodotus. Nothing is known of his life—when he lived or if he was a real man, a god, or a mythical figure. However, he is generally associated with the 7th cent. B.C. at the time when a revolt of the Messenian subjects nearly ruined Sparta. Lycurgus led a reform in the government and in the city's social system to establish a machine of war that would preclude further trouble from the helots and other subjects. Some features of the unique Spartan system were certainly more recent than 600 B.C. Later classical writers added details to his life as the tradition developed until Plutarch actually wrote a biography.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient History, Greece: Biographies

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