Helots  

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[ Cinema is] "a pastime for helots, a diversion for uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries . . ., a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence . . ., which kindles no light in the heart and awakens no hope other than the ridiculous one of someday becoming a 'star' in Los Angeles."--Scènes de la vie future (1930) by Georges Duhamel

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The helots (heílotes) were a subjugated population group that formed the main population of Laconia and Messenia, the territory controlled by Sparta. Their exact status was already disputed in antiquity: according to Critias, they were "slaves to the utmost", whereas according to Pollux, they occupied a status "between free men and slaves". Tied to the land, they primarily worked in agriculture as a majority and economically supported the Spartan citizens.

The number of helots in relation to Spartan citizens varied throughout the history of the Spartan state; according to Herodotus, there were seven helots for each Spartan at the time of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. Thus the need to keep helot population in check and preventing rebellion was one of the main concerns of the Spartans. Helots were ritually mistreated, humiliated and even slaughtered: every autumn the Spartans would declare war on the helots so they could be killed by a member of the Crypteia without fear of repercussion. Uprisings and attempts to improve the lot of the helots did occur, such as the Conspiracy of Cinadon.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Helots" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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