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A History of Sparta, 950-192 B. C. Paperback – March 17, 1969

ISBN-13: 978-0393004816 ISBN-10: 0393004813 Edition: New edition

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A History of Sparta, 950-192 B. C. + The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece + On Sparta (Penguin Classics)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (March 17, 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393004813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393004816
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on November 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book for the person who has a passing interest in ancient Sparta, but is unwilling to spend a whole lot of time doing research on the subject. At just over 150 pages, W.G. Forrest offers a readable and informative text that gets you into Lacedamon, out of Lacedamon & on your way in almost no time at all.
What is surprising about this study is that the author does not hold the Spartans in particularly high regard. This is unusual in that normally, as a rule-of-thumb, historians either write extensively on people / social organizations that they are fervently in favor of, or utterly despise. It is evident that Forrest neither loves nor hates the Laconians; he merely writes about them.
Forrest covers the period of expansion, which is when Sparta exerted its hegemony (forcefully) over Messenia. It is little wonder that the Messenians despised the Spartans, but slaves throughout history have generally not been treated well. I am inclined to cringe at the tacit notion that the Spartans were the only culture in all of history that treated its slave workforce egregiously.
Forrest offers a nice summary of the influence of Lycurgus, but does not articulate very many of his revolutionary ideas. Forrest goes on to explain how the political machinery of Sparta worked, utilizing the Gerousia, ephors and 2 monarchs. For a people who craved simplicity, the political system of Sparta was quite cumbersome. Then again, it was likely that way by design, so that nothing would ever get done. At any rate, Forrest also discusses some different interpretations of the epoch of Lycurgus' life and the the dates of his reforms. Much of this, however, will be of only remote interest to the average reader.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Douglas E. Raineault on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
W.G. Forrest's short book is probably one of the best books on Spartan history available. Though the book is short it covers almost the entire history of Sparta including the Dorian history leading up to it and the decline as it became part of the Roman empire. The material is not covered in excessive depth, but there are extensive references to more detailed studies. The author often editorializes about Spartan society. In general he is very critical of the Spartan's lack of societal development. He overlooks some of the good qualities of Spartan society that are discussed in other books. This book is a great choice for anyone newly interested in Sparta. It is also a good review or guide to more experienced classics students.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Steven Bucuvalas on August 15, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a short history with more emphasis on commentary than the story (istoria). Without a background of the politics and historical processes of ancient greece, the reader will be confused by the myriad of allusions to events, trnds and characters. But if one has somewhat of a background with the material, it ties together these themes in the hisotrical development of sparta
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Unmoved Mover on November 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This small book, while certainly dry, still serves as a solid reference book for those hoping to understand the large swath of Sparta and its contribution to history. While not overly concerned with those issues that modern works on the subject (namely, pederasty and proto-fascism; strange how those two things always seem to go together), the book does give a terse sound account of Spartan actions from the period of 750BCE to 100BCE.

That said, the book is only a primer. It is weak on historic details, political/sociological motivations, and detailed exposition. In other words, it is a chronological narrative. Nothing more.

For a detailed view of the Spartans, take a look at Bradford's Battle For the West (which focuses on their actions during the Persian Wars) and Donald Kagan's four volume work on the Peloponnesian War (or his single volume, abridged version.) The former is one of few good reads on the subject, and the latter is a detailed classic. One might also consider reading Stephen Pressfield's fictional works on the subject, such as Gates of Fire. Extremely populr, these books are also well-researched.

Unfortunately, there are few works on the Spartans that focus on their society before the Persian Wars (little is, in fact, known) or after their defeat to the Thebans (whence they went on to lead rather ill-equipped rebellions against the Macedonians and, later, the Romans.)

Modern texts seem more interested in presenting the Spartans as bisexual gladiators and ubermen then as the infinitely more complex and interesting society they were.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Zac Hanscom on January 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
History of Sparta 950-182 B.C. is a quick but painless introduction to Spartan history. If you've been reading Plato or Xenophon and are wondering why so many ancient scholars revered Sparta, this will give you some of the answers. It also shows the limitations of studying Sparta. One of the greatest lines of the book (I'm paraphrasing here) is, "Trying to understand the first century of Sparta from what is available is like trying to understand the 20th century from part of John F. Kennedy's speech about going to the moon, a few lines of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and a few lines of "Honeysuckle Rose."

A few people might find it less than readable if they expect a dastardly vivid account of Spartan training and life. This book simply goes with the facts and doesn't speculate as much as Bertrand Russell does in History of Western Philosophy. If you're looking for stories of evil Spartans inciting helot revolts just to practice murdering people or of young soldiers-in-training being tortured, watch the History Channel. This book is a little more dignified.
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