The Spartans:
The World of the Warrior Heroes of Ancient Greece


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The Spartans: The World of the Warrior Heroes of Ancient Greece
by Paul Cartledge

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Book Description

The Spartans is a compelling narrative that explores the culture and civilization of the most famous "warrior people": the Spartans of ancient Greece, by the world's leading expert in the field. Sparta has often been described as the original Utopia--a remarkably evolved society whose warrior heroes were forbidden any other trade, profession, or business. As a people, the Spartans were the living exemplars of such core values as duty, discipline, the nobility of arms in a cause worth dying for, sacrificing the individual for the greater good of the community (illustrated by their role in the battle of Thermopylae), and the triumph of will over seemingly insuperable obstacles--qualities that today are frequently believed to signify the ultimate heroism. Paul Cartledge is the distinguished scholar and historian who has long been seen as the leading international authority on ancient Sparta. He traces the evolution of Spartan society--the culture and the people, as well as the tremendous influence they had on their world and even ours. He details throughout the narrative the lives of such illustrious and myth-making figures as Lycurgus, King Leonidas, Helen of Troy (and Sparta), and Lysander, and explains how the Spartans, although they placed a high value on masculine ideals, nevertheless allowed women an unusually dominant and powerful role--unlike Athenian culture with which the Spartans are so often compared. In resurrecting the ancient culture and society of the Spartans, Cartledge delves deep into ancient texts and archeological sources and complements his text with illustrations that depict original Spartan artifacts and drawings, as well as examples of representational paintings from the Renaissance onwards--including J.L. David's famously brooding "Leonidas." This illuminating volume that ties in with the PBS television series of the same name, airing in the summer of 2003. Booklist called Cartledge's The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization, a companion to the PBS series, "superb," while The International History Review called Cartledge's The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece"an original and insightful work."

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From Publishers Weekly
Legendary for their ferocious combat skills, the Spartans built a warrior culture in ancient Greece unsurpassed for coverits courage and military prowess. Eminent historian Cartledge (Spartan Reflections) provides a remarkable chronicle of Sparta's rise and fall, from its likely origins around 1100 B.C. to the height of its fame and glory in the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. and its fall in the fourth century B.C. The Spartans built their society through conquest and subjugation, ruling over their subject peoples with an iron hand and putting down revolts with devastating might. Between 490 and 479, Sparta joined Athens in fighting the Persians in three key wars-Thermopylae, Plataea and Mycale-that contributed to the demise of Persian power and the rise of Hellenistic power on the Mediterranean. 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. 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. 27 b&w illus., 3 maps.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
To project civic-mindedness or combativeness, American towns and school teams have appropriated the name of Sparta--so who were the Spartans and why do we care? So asks Cartledge, a Cambridge University scholar whose engaging narrative tries to discern the authenticity of events and personalities known only through fragmentary written or archaeological evidence, which can be mythical, partisan, or propagandistic. Cartledge spans Sparta's entire existence but concentrates on the century from the Persian invasions to its collapse following its triumph over Athens in 404 B.C.E. Presenting Sparta's military and diplomatic policies, the author studs his account with lively sketches of Spartan leaders, above all Leonidas. As embodiments of Sparta's warrior caste at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.E.), Leonidas and his 300 hoplites have redounded down the millennia, most recently in the historical novel Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield (1998), which will soon be made into a movie. In his panorama of the real Sparta, Cartledge cloaks his erudition with an ease and enthusiasm that will excite readers from page one. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

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 and Chairman of the Classics Faculty at Cambridge University. Among the many articles and books he has written and edited are Spartan Reflections, Sparta and Lakonia, Hellenistic and Roman Sparta, and The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others. He is academic consultant to the BBC and PBS for the series The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization.

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