The Great Helot Revolt

379 BCE


378 BCE


Sparta, Greece


Decisive Helot Victory;

Destruction of Sparta





Agesilaus II



20,000 Spartans

5000 Allied Warriors

200,000 Helots

Casualties and Losses


Very Heavy



 The Great Helot Revolt, other times referred to as the Third Slave Rebellion was a domestic conflict that erupted into Sparta following the restoration of the Spartan monarchy in early 379 BCE. The defeat of the Athenian backed democracy prompted Helot slaves, who had experienced a "freer" life, were once again forced into slavery, and as a result railed against Sparta.  

The Declaration of Aderin

The Peloponnesian Wars had been a dark time in Spartan history, resulting in a series of decisive defeats by the Athenian navy and army that forced the once superpower, into a puppet-democracy of the growing Athenian Empire. Despite resentment towards Athens, Sparta was unable to act against it, as the Athenians had become extremely strong and wealthy, and any military action would be squashed by the new Empire. 

Following the Battle of Eleusis, Athens sphere of influence drastically expanded, though its manpower reserves were crushed. This presented the enemies of Athens to move against it politically, gaining aa over-whelming majority in the Spartan Assembly for nearly a decade. Then, Spartan conspirators moved on surrounding cities, and founded the Samus League, which secretly prepared itself to dethrone Athens. 

Several powerful colonial states joined the secret alliance, though in truth Sparta could not be a leader until it rid itself of the Athenian influence. In an act of defiance, the popular conservative movement declared the dissolution of the Assembly and the re-creation of the dual Spartan Monarchy. The so called, "Declaration of Aderin" (as it was declared by a Spartan warrior, Aderin) freed Sparta from Athenian influence. However, the Declaration also "re-restricted" the rights of the Helots, and reduced their freedoms to a slave level. In fact, slaves became such an important factor of post-Aderin life (because they required them for the reconstruction process), that most poor Dorian families owned two or more Helots. The Spartans also instituted their previous military training system, that brought even harsher restrictions and requirements of Helots, eventually cultivating in an open Helot rebellion.

The Rebellion

After Athens was politically defeated by the Samus League, Sparta prepared to strike Athenian allies directly afterwards, but instead was dragged back by domestic issues and lack of a stable monetary system. A group of local Helot leaders, known as the ζηλωτές (zealots), identifying the weakness of the new government, rallied together 3000 Helots during a Spartan ceremony. The Helots, all of whom were young and angry, marched out and burned down the aristocratic suburb of Sparta. The Helots, quickly left the area, and returned to their "homes", pretending to be just as frightened as the ordinary Spartan citizen. 

The fire razed for many days, distracting the majority of the Spartan population. The Helots joined together in bands, and discussed their position, still acting innocent to the questionable fire. Many Helots had no desire to part take in the efforts, but eventually a group of Spartan warriors killed a large number of Helot boys, ranging from nine to 15 years of age in an act of anger. 

The Spartan Warriors had just ignited the real fire. Thousands of Helots, rampaged through the streets of Sparta amidst the burning chaos. The Spartan Hoplites rushed to defeat the Helots, but the sheer number of the Helot warriors overwhelmed the Spartan lines. As the fire ran rampant across Sparta, many citizens fled the city, while many more died amidst the fire. The Helots used the fire as an advantage, attacking at night, where the fire illuminated their attire, making them seem like blazing warriors to the frightened Spartans. Despite the seemingly total anarchy, Spartan soldiers held back the Helot advance, until both women and children smashed against the Spartan lines. Finally, after three months of fighting, the Helot army broke Sparta's lines and pillaged the palace, driving the kings and their families out of the city.

The majority of Spartans fled as their city burned, but the furious Helots denied them mercy, and ambushed the "migrating" force at every opportunity. In the end, the Dorian population was either completely destroyed, or deserted to other parts of the peninsula. 

It was also discovered by modern historians while uncovering some of the ancient Helot cities that had emerged out of Sparta, large quantities of Athenian currency, convincing them that the Helot ζηλωτές were heavily bribed by the Athenian democracy.


The final defeat of Sparta ushered in a short period of peace in Greece. Athens, who had chopped off the head of the Samus League, was able to comfortably admit that their oldest enemy had finally been defeated. The Samus League was not dissolved, though, but the Athenian army had taken the first step in restoring order to an otherwise chaotic continent.        

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