Ancient History HSC > Greece: Spartan Society to the Battle of Leuctra 371BC

Features and structure of the Spartan government: Gerousia

One of the key elements of the Spartan constitution is the Gerousia. The Gerousia is also known as the Council of Elders. It consisted of 28 Gerontes (Senators... elders over the age of 60) plus two kings. These elders were elected by the Assembly for life. The Gerousia controlled much of the public business and decided on what the Assembly could debate. They could also veto actions taken by the Assembly.

Please explore the following Internet sites and write a small report on the powers and responsibilities of the gerousia using the four questions that follow. Email your report to your teacher or utilise this template and submit your report in person.

1. Definitions of Gerousia @ (i) Wikipedia (ii) (iii) Glossary at USYD (iv) The 1911 Encyclopedia

2. Gerousia (A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). This account contains an interesting account of the possible origins of the ephorate.

3. Aristotle: On the Lacedaemonian Constitution, c. 340 BCE (Ancient History Source Book) Aristotle refers to the Gerousia as the Council of Elders. Scroll down the page to find his criticisms of the Council of Elders.

4. Sparta ( Ancient History Source Book)(11th Brittanica Sparta. You will have to search within the article to find references to the gerousia.)

5. The Spartan System.
A brief description. Scroll down the page to locate it. Also describes the Ephors, Kings, and the Ecclesia (assembly).

6. Contrast of Athens and Sparta. Scroll down the page to see the brief notes on the Gerousia and a reference to its probouleutic function.

7. Sparta in the Sixth Century BC. Some lecture notes on Sparta. Scroll down to see the information on the Gerousia. The author raises some questions.

8. NSW HSC Online: Features of the Spartan Government.

1. Define the roles and responsibilities of the Gerousia.

2. The Gerousia had a probouleutic function. What is meant by probouleutic?

3. The Spartan constitution is made up organs that can be labelled as examples of an oligarchy, monarchy, and democracy. Which of these three political types apply to the Gerousia? Explain your answer.

4. Arsistotle criticises the Gerousia. List and describe three of these criticisms.