—helotage, n./hel"euht, hee"leuht/, n.1. a member of the lowest class in ancient Laconia, constituting a body of serfs who were bound to the land and were owned by the state. Cf. Perioeci, Spartiate.2. (l.c.) a serf or slave; bondman.[1570-80; < L helotes (pl.) < Gk heílotes]
* * *Any of the native peoples of Laconia and Messenia conquered and controlled by Sparta.They were state-owned serfs or slaves who worked the land to feed and clothe the Spartan population, whom they vastly outnumbered. Their masters could not free them or sell them. The Spartans lived in constant fear of a helot revolt and annually declared war on them to legally keep them in place by force. During wartime, helots attended their masters on campaigns, serving as troops and as rowers in the fleet. The Messenian helots were liberated с 370 BC, those in Laconia not until the 2nd century BC.
* * *▪ Greek slavea state-owned serf of the ancient Spartans (Sparta). The ethnic origin of helots is uncertain, but they were probably the original inhabitants of Laconia (the area around the Spartan capital) who were reduced to servility after the conquest of their land by the numerically fewer Dorians. After the Spartan conquest of Messenia in the 8th century BC, the Messenians were also reduced to the status of helots. The helots were in a sense state slaves, bound to the soil and assigned to individual Spartans to till their holdings; their masters could neither free them nor sell them, and the helots had a limited right to accumulate property, after paying to their masters a fixed proportion of the produce of the holding. Owing to their own numerical inferiority, the Spartans were always preoccupied with the fear of a helot revolt. The ephors (ephor) (Spartan magistrates) of each year on entering office declared war on the helots so that they might be murdered at any time without violating religious scruples. It was the responsibility of the Spartan secret police, the Krypteia, to patrol the Laconian countryside and put to death any supposedly dangerous helots. Sparta's conservative foreign policy is often attributed to the fear of revolts by the helots. During wartime helots attended their masters on campaign and served as light-armed troops, and sometimes also as rowers in the fleet. The Messenian helots were lost to Sparta when Epaminondas liberated Messenia c. 370, but the helot system continued in Laconia until the 2nd century BC.
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