Sparta was a warrior nation of ancient Greece that reached its zenith after defeating the rival land of Athens in the Peloponnesian (431-404 B.C.) war. Spartan culture relied heavily on allegiance to the government and the military. At the age of seven, the Spartan boys entered a strong program of government support, military training, and welfare. The program, known as the Agoge, emphasized work, discipline, and endurance. Although Spartan women did not serve in the military, they were more educated and enjoyed greater status and freedom than other Greek women. Because the Spartan men were paid soldiers, all manual labor was performed by a slave class, the Helots. Despite their military might, the Spartan rule was short-lived: In 371 B.C., they were defeated by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra, and their empire entered a long period of decline.