‘dwellers round about’, were neighbouring people, often constituting groups of subjects or half‐citizens, normally with local self‐government. The best‐known group of perioikoi are those of the Spartan state. The origins of their status and ethnic affiliation are unclear, though their dialect was the Laconian Doric (see laconia) common to all the state's inhabitants.
Like the full citizen Spartiates, perioikoi were counted as Lacedaemonians in military contexts, serving not only in the Spartan army but even (after c.450) in the same regiments. But they had no say in the making of Spartan policy and seem to have been subject to special taxation, and so can be considered at best second‐class citizens of Sparta. Their status vis‐à‐vis Sparta was akin to that of an ally in the Peloponnesian League. The perioikic poleis (see polis) possessed local autonomy and their own religious sanctuaries but were entirely subject to Sparta in foreign policy. Social stratification within the perioikic communities is on record; we read in Xenophon both of ‘gentlemen’ perioikoi and of a named perioikic cavalryman; they were presumably substantial landowners. But humbler perioikoi profited from the Spartans' abstention from all economic activity, by providing them with raw materials (esp. iron) and objects of manufacture and trade; Gytheum, the most important community, served Sparta both as chief port and as naval dockyard and muster‐station.
Subjects: Classical Studies.