SPARTA spär’ tə (Σπάρτη). Also often Lacedaemon, Lacedaemonians (1 Macc 14:16; 2 Macc 5:9). During Hel. and Rom. times, a city of the S central Peloponnesus. Earlier a powerful city-state and chief antagonist of Athens.
A number of references to Sparta are to be found in extra-Biblical Jewish lit., some of which have been questioned. There seems to have been a colony of Jews there in the 2nd cent. b.c., and a warm relationship between the Spartans and the Jews had developed. Jason, the high priest, found asylum there in 168 b.c. (2 Macc 5:9). Later Jonathan Maccabeus tried to strengthen his government by foreign alliances and appealed to the Spartans to renew a friendship which had begun with King Arios I of Sparta and Onias I, the high priest, on the basis of their common descent from Abraham (1 Macc 7:5-23). The relationship was prob. the result of an ethnological error. The Jews regarded the Pelasgi, the ancestors of the Spartans, as descendants of Peleg, the son of Eber (Gen 11:16-19). After the death of Jonathan the Spartans wrote to Simon to renew the friendship and league (1 Macc 14:16-23). Finally, Sparta was included among the cities which received the declaration of friendship between the Rom. senate and the Jews, written by the consul Lucius to the king of Egypt in 139 b.c. (1 Macc 15:16-22).
S. Schüller, “Some Problems Connected with the Supposed Common Ancestry of Jews and Spartans” JSS I (1956), 257-268; E. Bölte, V. Ehrenberg and L. Ziehen in Pauly-Wissowa, RE s.v. “Sparta.”
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
spar’-ta, spar’-tanz (Sparte (1 Macc 14:16), Spartiatai; Lacedaemonians (the King James Version 1 Macc 12:2,5,6,10,21; 14:20-23; 15:23; in 2 Macc 5:9, Greek Lakedaimonioi)): The passages in 1 Macc relate to a correspondence initiated by Jonathan, the priest, during the Maccabean revolt, and continued after his death with his brother Simon, between the Jews and the Lacedaemonians or Spartans, with a view to a friendly alliance. The proposals, curiously based on a claim to kindredship, were favorably received by the Lacedaemonians. See the letters (1 Macc 12:5 ff,19 ff; 14:16 ff). The claim to blood-relationship (compare 1 Macc 12:21; 2 Macc 5:9) is of course absurd, but there is no good reason to doubt the genuineness of the transaction described.