Apella was the official title of the popular assembly in the Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, corresponding to the ecclesia in most other Greek states. Every Spartan male full citizen who had completed his thirtieth year was entitled to attend the meetings, which, according to Lycurgus's ordinance, must be held at the time of each full moon within the boundaries of Sparta.
They had in all probability taken place originally in the Agora, but were later transferred to the neighbouring building known as the Skias (Paus. iii. 12. 10). The presiding officers were at first the kings, but in historical times the ephors, and the voting was conducted by shouts; if the president was doubtful as to the majority of voices, a division was taken and the votes were counted. Lycurgus had ordained that the apella must simply accept or reject the proposals submitted to it, and though this regulation fell into neglect, it was practically restored by the law of Theopompus and Polydorus which empowered the kings and elders (gerousia) to set aside any "crooked" decision of the people (Plut. Lycurg. 6). In later times, too, the actual debate was almost, if not wholly, confined to the kings, elders, ephors and perhaps the other magistrates. The apella voted on peace and war, treaties and foreign policy in general: it decided which of the kings should conduct a campaign and settled questions of disputed succession to the throne: it elected elders, ephors and other magistrates, emancipated helots and perhaps voted on legal proposals. There is a single reference (Xen. Hell. iii. 3. 8) to a "small assembly" ἡ μικρα καλουμενη εκκλησια) at Sparta, but nothing is known as to its nature or competence. The term apella does not occur in extant Spartan inscriptions, though two decrees of Gythium belonging to the Roman period refer to the μεγαλαι απελλαι (Le Bas-Foucart, Voyage archéologique, ii., Nos. 242a, 243).
The apella was responsible for electing men to the gerousia for life. Candidates were selected from the aristocrats and presented before the apella. The candidate who received the loudest applause became a member of the gerousia.
The apella also elected the five ephors annually. Ephors presided over meetings of the gerousia and the apella. They could not run for re-election.
The gerousia presented motions before the apella. The apella then voted on the motions. However, unlike the ecclesia in Athens, the apella did not debate; it merely approved or disapproved of measures. Moreover, the gerousia always had the power to veto the decision of the apella.
- G. Gilbert, Constitutional Antiquities of Sparta and Athens (Eng, trans., 1895), pp. 49 ff.
- Studien zur altspartanischen Geschichte (Göttingen, 1872), pp. 131 ff.
- G. F. Schömann, Antiquities of Greece: The State (Eng. trans., 1880), pp. 234 ff.
- De ecclesiis Lacedaemoniorum (Griefswald, 1836) [=Opusc. academ. i. pp. 87 ff.]
- C. O. Müller, History and Antiquities of the Doric Race (Eng. trans., 2nd ed. 1839), book iii. ch. 5, §§ 8-10
- Georg Busolt, Die griechischen Staats- und Rechtsaltertümer, 1887 (in Iwan Müller's Handbuch der klassischen Altertumsiuissenschaft, iv. 1), § 90
- Griechische Geschichte (2nd ed.), i. p. 552 ff.