Helots , (Gr. slaves of the Spartans, serfs bound to the soil, and tilling it for the benefit of the proprietors. The three classes in Sparta were the Spartans, the Pe-riOeci, and the helots. The first two were united and constituted one national aggregate, known by the common name of Lacedamionians; but the last was for ages an entirely separate and interior class. Several derivations of the name helots are given, including that from Helos, the Laconian town, but perhaps the most probable is that from to take, making the name signify captives. They were regarded as the property of the state, which reserved the power of emancipating them, and were attached to the soil, each Spartan citizen receiving the number that belonged to his allotment of land, without any power to sell or free them. With the exception of the few who lived in the city as domestic servants, the helots occupied rural villages apart from their masters, and with only the obligation to till the land and pay a certain proportion of the produce to their masters as rent. The amount of rent was 82 medimni (about 120 bushels) of barley and a proportionate amount of wine and oil for each allotment, which was inhabited by six or seven families. This rent had been established at a very early period, and any increase of the amount was impera-tively forbidden. Their number has been va-riously estimated, but it is certain that, though few at first, they increased through the conquest of rebel towns, till they far exceeded the Lacedaemonians themselves.
O. Muller computes their number to have been about 224,000, at a time when the Lacedaemonians numbered but 156,000. They were liable to service in time of war, generally as light-armed troops, and a certain number of them attended on each Spartan. They were also in later times much employed in the navy. Only in particular emergencies did they serve as heavy-armed troops, and then they were generally emancipated after the war. The manumitted helots were not received into the Perioeci, but still were a separate class, under the name of neodamodes, or newly enfranchised. Particularly liable to suspicion, they were often employed on foreign service, or among the different trades at Sparta. At the end of the second Messenian war, 608 B. C, the Messenians were reduced to slavery and incorporated with the helots. In 404 the helots revolted, and marched directly against Sparta, which they nearly succeeded in taking. After long and obstinate struggles they were finally subdued. They were constant subjects of apprehension to the Spartans, and were sometimes cruelly massacred, in order to keep down their numbers, the young men being sent out secretly to slaughter them.
The most noted of these massacres was in 424, when 2,000 of the helots who had rendered distinguished services in war were slain.