“The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Lycurgus and Numa Compared” by Plutarch (Notes)
1 – Similar: Moderation, piety, talent for governing and educating, deriving laws from a divine source.
Different: Numa accepted the role of king without asking for it, Lycurgus was given the role of king and resigned from it. Numa was made king of Rome, although he was foreign and private. Lycurgus was a king and made himself into a private person. Lycurgus made the Spartans accept a more modest life without want, while Numa allowed the Romans to live a more materialistic life without opulence and laziness. Numa was gentle and humane in bringing together two tribes to peace. Lycurgus was fairly brutal to the Helots, while Numa was kind to the Roman slaves, elevating their status in society.
2 – Similar: wanted to lead their people to independence and sobriety. Removed excesses and supplied the deficiencies, which required a lot of innovation. Both through different ways of ordering society reduced inequality.
Different: Lycurgus focused on bravery and Numa focused on righteousness. Numa put a stop to war, not out of cowardice, but to prevent injustice. Lycurgus made his people warlike, not to promote injustice but not to suffer injustice. Numa was popular and tended to favor popular decision and this lead to the mixing of different classes of workers. Lycurgus was rigid and aristocratic – he made the slave class perform the production of the city while the citizens became the army of the city, obeying all of their masters’ commands. Sparta had pretty much banned business among citizens, while Numa only banned violence to cause business to flourish. Lycurgus allotted the land equally, while Numa allowed the original distribution of land to stay as it was.
3 – Similar:
Different: Roman family had a husband relinquish his wife to a man with no children to start a family for him. The Spartan wife remained in the house and only by consent of the husband would be allowed to help another man start a family. The Spartan way was a sort of indifference toward to the wife and jealousy, while the Roman way hid these actions from outside view. Numa started a culture of confining femininity and decorum, while Lycurgus had women unconfined, where they were very scantily clad in order to excite the men. Spartan women ruled their households (mostly because the men didn’t really live in them) and Roman women were removed from decision making and put into what we would normally think of a “traditional female” role. Roman women were expected to be more demure and obedient and Spartan women were given more freedom and say in society.
4 – Different: Spartan women were only to brides once they were physically mature and willing to marry a man and start a family. The relationship between a man and woman in a marriage was very friendly and on somewhat equal footing. Roman couples were wed once the girl was 12 years old and were meant to be pure and undefiled before their husbands got a hold of them. Marriage for them was purely to start a family and have children. There was no friendship often between the pair. Spartan boys were taken from their families and placed in the care of a military company to raise them to be soldiers. Boys were not considered their fathers’ son, but a son of the whole city. Roman boys were raised according to their fathers’ wishes. The father was in complete control of the child’s upbringing and discipline. He even had the right to kill the boy if he so chose.
The role of the Roman government was to continue peace and friendship toward Rome’s neighbors. This really only lasted as long as he was alive. The wars began almost as soon as he died. You could say that Rome benefited from the wars but only materially, injustice was rampant. So, while they disobeyed Numa in his death, they weren’t completely worse off for doing so. But Lycurgus’s rules also stopped being so closely followed after his death. In comparison, Rome’s role of the government was much more superior to that of Sparta. Sparta’s role of the government was to order society to preserve the type of society that Lycurgus felt would keep justice – lack of inequality, reasons for being idle, and avarice – alive in the city. Once the force was no longer there to preserve justice, injustice as well as war and corruption ran riot in Sparta.
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