THE LOWER CLASSES AND THE CULTIVATION OF THE LAND
EVEN in the city states where the owners took a direct part in the cultivation of their land, the bulk of agricultural work was carried out by the class of servants and labourers who made up the mass of the rural population.
Their conditions and way of life differed widely; depending on their juridical status, that is, according as whether they belonged to the class of domestic slaves, or of slaves attached to the soil and leading a separate existence; or to the class of free workmen; or again to the class of vassals of various kinds, thetes, penestai, gymnetai, helots, clarotai, and so on, who might be bound by a permanent and personal tie to some lord or proprietor, or simply attached to the soil by legal statute. Conditions varied also according to the kind of cultivation, and according as the land was predominantly agricultural or pastoral.
We may begin with the group which, if not the best known, is at least known in most detail, and also the one which had the most restricted geographical distribution; for it is not met with outside the southern Peloponnese, in Sparta and Messenia, and on the island of Crete.
We have seen how the 'lots' were cultivated in the case of those assigned to the families of the Spartan warriors, on the civic lands in the Eurotas valley.
The 'lot' was completely divided up into a number of holdings. Each of these supported a family of helots who handed it on from