Helots were Spartan slaves. Unlike other slaves in Greece at the time, they were Greeks themselves, primarily captured in the Spartan conquest of Messenia. Helots were state owned, and were assigned to work with the plots of land given to each Spartan at birth.

Helots outnumbered the Spartans 20 to 1, and the Spartans made every effort to keep them under control. There are stories of a secret police made up of eager young Spartans, and times when the ephors would declare it open season on helots. The helots had one major successful revolt in 464 B.C. after an earthquake. The Spartans fought them off, and they retreated to Mount Ithome, where they were beseiged for ten years, before an agreement was reached, allowing the helots on Ithome could leave Sparta. Those that left were settled at Naupactus by the Athenians.