Sparta: A Novel of Ancient Greece

Steven Pressfield: Exploring Ancient Greece through Fiction
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Cartledge punctuates his absorbing tale with brief, engaging biographies of the city-state's kings from Lycurgus, the earliest Spartan leader, who brought constitutional law to the city, to Leonidas, who led the Spartans at Thermopylae. According to Cartledge, the Spartans' legacy to Western culture includes devotion to duty, discipline, the willingness to sacrifice individual life for the greater good of the community and the nobility of arms in a cause worth dying for.

The Spartans - Part 1 of 3 (Ancient Greece Documentary) - Timeline

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. It ties in to a PBS series to air this summer. Agent, Lucas, Alexander, Whitley. July This fragment from the poet Alcman, which he composed for a Spartan festival, stands out. It refers to a choir girl named "Agido.

Any good Spartan History Books?

There is such a thing as retribution from the gods. Happy is he who, sound of mind, weaves through the day unwept. I sing the light of Agido. I see it like the sun, whom Agido summons to appear and witness for us.

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But the glorious chorus mistress forbids me to either praise or blame her. For she appears to be outstanding as if one placed among a grazing herd a perfect horse, a prize-winner with resounding hooves, one of the dreams that dwell below the rock A key event on Sparta's road to becoming a more militaristic society was its conquest of the land of Messenia, located to the west of Sparta, and its conversion of its subjects to helots slaves.

Early Sparta

Kennell points out that this conquest appears to have begun in the eighth century B. The incorporation of the people of Messenia into Sparta's slave population was important as it provided Sparta with "the means to maintain the nearest thing to a standing army in Greece," Kennell writes, "by freeing all its adult male citizens from the need for manual labor. Keeping this population of slaves in check was a problem the Spartans would have for centuries with some deeply cruel methods employed.

The writer Plutarch who lived A. In the day time they scattered into obscure and out-of-the-way places, where they hid themselves and lay quiet; but in the night they came down into the highways and killed every Helot whom they caught.

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Spartan poetry written in the seventh century B. Tyrtaeus writes:. Here is courage, mankind's finest possession, here is the noblest prize that a young man can endeavor to win, and it is a good thing his city and all the people share with him when a man plants his feet and stands in the foremost spears relentlessly, all thought of foul flight completely forgotten, and has well trained his heart to be steadfast and to endure, and with words encourages the man who is stationed beside him.

Here is a man who proves himself to be valiant in war The presence of large numbers of slaves relieved Spartan men from manual labor and allowed Sparta to build a citizen training system that prepared the city's children for the harshness of war. If they got too hungry, the boys were encouraged to try stealing as a way of improving their stealth but were punished if they got caught. The Spartans trained rigorously and progressed through this training system until the age of 20 when they were allowed to join a communal mess and hence become a full citizen of the community.

Each member of the mess was expected to provide a certain amount of foodstuffs and to keep training rigorously. Those who could not fight due to disability were mocked by the Spartans. If he is strong and of sound body, they command that he be raised, and they assign him an allotment of land from the 9, plots. If he is ill born and misshapen, they throw him into the pit at the place called Apothetae, below Mt.

Taygetus, as it is better neither for him nor for the city to remain alive, as from the beginning he does not have a good start towards becoming healthy and strong" wrote Plutarch, a Greek writer who lived in the first century A. Girls, while not trained militarily, were expected to train physically. This included running, wrestling, discus and javelin throwing. Spartan woman even competed in the Olympic games , at least in the chariot racing competition, according to ancient writers. In the fifth century B. After Cynisca other women, especially women of Lacedaemon, have won Olympic victories, but none of them was more distinguished for their victories than she," wrote the ancient writer Pausanias who lived in the second century A.

Jones and H. Spartan women likely did not engage in any public nudity. Thucydides also wrote that the Spartans preferred to dress modestly and that "the richer citizens conducted themselves in a fashion that as much as possible put them into an equal position with the general populace. Spartan poetry also showed a desire for equality among the male Spartans.

This desire for some level of equality applies to something as simple as a bowl of soup. It has not been over a fire yet, but soon it will be full of soup, the kind that Alcman, who eats everything, loves hot after the solstice: he doesn't eat any confections, but seeks common, available food just like the people do," reads a poem by Alcman. Sparta in time developed a system of dual kingship two kings ruling at once. Their power was counter-balanced by the elected board of ephors who may only serve a single one-year term.

There was also a Council of Elders Gerousia , each member of which was over the age of 60 and could serve for life. The general assembly, which consisted of each citizen, also had the chance to vote on legislation. The legendary lawmaker Lycurgus is often credited in ancient sources with providing the groundwork for Spartan law.

Kennell notes, however, that he probably never existed and was in fact a mythical character.

Initially, Sparta was hesitant to engage with Persia. When the Persians threatened Greek cities in Ionia, on the west coast of what is now Turkey, the Greeks who lived in those areas sent an emissary to Sparta to ask for help. The Spartans refused but did threaten King Cyrus, telling him to leave Greek cities alone. The Persians did not listen. The first invasion by Darius I took place in B. The second invasion was launched by Xerxes in B.


Xerxes, the Great King of Persia invades Greece in B.C. at the head of a massive army. Three hundred Spartans and King Leonidas die heroically blocking. Ancient Greece. Good fiction written about or in ancient Greece. .. of Sparta ( Her The Princess of Sparta (Heroes of the Trojan War, #1) by.

Sparta and one of their kings, Leonidas, became head of an anti-Persian coalition that ultimately made an ill-fated stand at Thermopylae. Located beside the coast, Thermopylae contained a narrow passage, which the Greeks blocked and used to halt Xerxes' advance. Ancient sources indicate that Leonidas started the battle with a few thousand troops including Spartans at its core. He faced a Persian force many times its size. After spying on the Spartan-led force, and waiting to see if they would surrender, Xerxes ordered an attack. In this sweeping and deeply imagined historical novel, acclaimed classicist Victor Davis Hanson re-creates the battles of one of the greatest generals of ancient Greece, Epaminondas.

At the Battle of Leuktra, his Thebans crushed the fearsome army of Sparta that had enslaved its neighbors for two centuries. With a scholar's depth of knowledge and a novelist's vivid imagination, Hanson re-creates the ancient world down to its intimate details-from the weight of a spear in a soldier's hand to the peculiar camaraderie of a slave and master who go into battle side by side.

The End of Sparta is a stirring drama and a rich, absorbing reading experience. One closes this book wishing that its final verdict was as well known as more familiar tenets of Greek wisdom.