The Spartans

The Spartans : An Epic History

By (author) Paul Cartledge

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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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  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 22mm | 280g
  • 03 Oct 2003
  • Pan MacMillan
  • Pan Books
  • London
  • English
  • Illustrations (some col.), maps
  • 0330413252
  • 9780330413251
  • 127,196

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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'.

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Review text

The recent UK television series The Spartans has revived the interest in this exceptional race of warrior heroes, whose very name has passed into our lexicon as a synonym for toughness and self-sacrifice. Paul Cartledge's accompanying book is less populist than the television series, and none the worse for that: although firmly based on translations from ancient texts, it is made more accessible for the lay reader by the potted biographies of individual Spartan men and women which are interspersed throughout its pages. We experience the drama of the battle of Thermopylae and the devastating impact of the earthquake that struck Sparta town, followed by a revolt of the Helot slaves that was to continue for four years. In addition to famous leaders such as Lysander and Pausanias, we learn something of how life was lived by the famously independent and wayward Spartan women, including the fact that Spartan girls were often educated to the same standard as their brothers, and took part in athletics competitions, unlike their Athenian counterparts. In fact, throughout the book, Cartledge argues that, although we revere the Athenians, with their culture, arts and democratic ideals, as the founders of Western civilization, the Spartans are equally our ancestors. The book, illustrated with a selection of photographs of artefacts, covers the period from 480 to 360 BC, ending with the decline and fall which seems to be the inevitable fate of every great empire, and satisfyingly answers the question of why we are still so gripped by the myth of Sparta. (Kirkus UK)

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