The Spartans: An Epic History

The Spartans: An Epic History


By (author) Paul Cartledge

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  • Publisher: Pan Books
  • Format: Paperback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 196mm x 22mm | 280g
  • Publication date: 3 October 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0330413252
  • ISBN 13: 9780330413251
  • Illustrations note: Illustrations (some col.), maps
  • Sales rank: 125,359

Product description

The Spartan legend has inspired and captivated subsequent generations with evidence of its legacy found in both the Roman and British Empires. The Spartans are our ancestors, every bit as much as the Athenians. But while Athens promoted democracy, individualism, culture and society, their great rivals Sparta embodied militarism, totalitarianism, segregation and brutal repression. As ruthless as they were self-sacrificing, their devastatingly successful war rituals made the Spartans the ultimate fighting force, epitomized by Thermopylae. While slave masters to the Helots for over three centuries, Spartan women, such as Helen of Troy, were free to indulge in education, dance and sport. Interspersed with the personal biographies of leading figures, and based on 30 years' research, The Spartans tracks the people from 480 to 360 BC charting Sparta's progression from the Great Power of the Aegean Greek world to its ultimate demise. "Cartledge's crystalline prose, his vivacious storytelling and his lucid historical insights combine here to provide a first-rate history of the Spartans, their significance to ancient Greece and their influence on our culture" Publishing News

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Author information

Paul Cartledge is widely acknowledged to be the world's leading expert on the subject of Sparta and the Spartans. He is Professor of Greek History at Cambridge University. He has written and edited many works, including Spartan Reflections and acted as academic consultant on the Channel 4 television series 'The Spartans'.

Editorial reviews

A lucid, literate history of a model society-though whether a model of good or evil remains a subject of debate. Tucked among the nearly impenetrable mountains of southern Greece, Sparta was less an empire or kingdom than an alliance of small, unostentatious villages. Its leaders, most famously Lycurgus ("wolf-worker"), whom Cartledge (Classics/Cambridge Univ.) memorably reckons to have been a cross between George Washington and Pol Pot, shunned the thought that these settlements should hide behind tall walls and acropolises, in the manner of other Greeks; instead, its warriors and its topography would keep it safe. And so it was for nearly 300 years, until first a threatened invasion on the part of the Persian empire gave insular Sparta a key role in Western history; it was then, at the close of the fifth century b.c., that Sparta's famed 300 fighters held off the invaders at Thermopylae. (The story, Cartledge notes wryly, will soon be coming to a theater near you, "with stars of the stature or at any rate the cost of George Clooney and Bruce Willis said to be running to play [the Spartan hero Leonidas].") Cartledge considers the Spartan defense of Thermopylae to have been an event more important to European, and even English, history than the Battle of Hastings. The Peloponnesian War, he allows, was perhaps of less importance, though it remade the Greek world following Sparta's defeat of Athens. Though admiring of Spartan accomplishments and the bravery of its warrior heroes, Cartledge takes pains to note the dark side of Spartan life: a martial society whose privileged youth took pleasure in hunting and killing slaves, whose well-organized secret police used murder and terror to keep the people in line. So much for utopia-though, as Cartledge notes, Sparta was the real-life model for Thomas More's vision of a virtuous and virile world. Chocked with learning lightly worn, and a pleasure for anyone interested in the ancient world. (Kirkus Reviews)