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On Sparta (Penguin Classics) Rev Tra Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140449433
ISBN-10: 0140449434
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About the Author

Plutarch (c.50-c.120 AD) was a writer and thinker born into a wealthy, established family of Chaeronea in central Greece. He received the best possible education in rhetoric and philosophy, and traveled to Asia Minor and Egypt. Later, a series of visits to Rome and Italy contributed to his fame, which was given official recognition by the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Plutarch rendered conscientious service to his province and city (where he continued to live), as well as holding a priesthood at nearby Delphi. His voluminous surviving writings are broadly divided into the "moral"works and the Parallel Lives of outstanding Greek and Roman leaders. The former (Moralia) are a mixture of rhetorical and antiquarian pieces, together with technical and moral philosophy (sometimes in dialogue form). The Lives have been influential from the Renaissance onwards.

Richard Talbert was born in England in 1947. He was a scholar of The King’s School, Canterbury, and of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he gained a Double First Class Honors in Classics, followed by a doctorate which was the basis of his first book, Timoleon and the Revival of Greek Sicily. After his appointment in 1970 to teach ancient history at Queen’s University, Belfast, his research extended into Roman history and the production of his major work, The Senate of Imperial Rome, which won the Goodwin Award of Merit. He has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. After three years as Professor of History at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, in 1988 he moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor. He currently directs an international project to produce what will be the first major classical atlas since the last century.

Christopher Pelling  is professor of classics at Oxford University and a fellow of Christ Church.


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Rev Tra edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449433
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This collection contains Plutarch's Life of Lycurgus, Life of Agis and Cleomenes, and his collection of Spartan Sayings. It also has Xenophon's Spartan Society in an appendix, as well as other useful objects such as king lists, maps, and a glossary. This is on top of Richard Talbert's excellent notes. This volume is interesting enough to read for pleasure, and Talbert's notes and appendices aid in understanding Sparta and its people. It was very useful to me when writing a research paper, and I am sure it would be to anyone else. The index is thorough and accurate, and the translation understandable and consistant. I would recommend this to anyone interested in either Plutarch or Sparta.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on July 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Plutarch, of course, never wrote such a book: "On Sparta." Instead he wrote a bunch of lives of prominent Greeks and Romans. This Penguin edition is simply an anthology of four of those lives, four Spartans (Lycurgus, Agesilaus, Agis, and Cleomenes).

So be aware of what you're getting. There's more to the book, though. There's a massive introduction that might help you, and about 50 pages of Spartan "sayings" culled from Plutarch's other lives. There is also an excerpt from Xenophon on Spartan society.

As well as a bunch of maps and stuff.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Douglas R. on January 11, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book contains Plutarch's biographies of Agis, Cleomenes, and Lycurgus. It is not exactly a linear book about Spartan history, like W.G. Forrests, but it contains a great deal of information about the society within the biographies. Like any of Penguin's translations this one is good and faithful to Plutarch's words. The book is great for the newcomer to the study of ancient Greek history, but even an experienced classics student would appreciate it, especially the section on famous Spartan quotes. The lives of the Spartan nobles are interesting and Plutarch's writing is very readable. There are some concerns about the accuracy of the information since Plutarch was writing about these people long after they died. Some scholars even doubt if Lycurgus really existed. Regardless, Plutarch is one of the only available sources of information about Sparta, a civilization that kept few records. I would recomment this book to someone desiring an introduction to Spartan history. A more advanced reader would probably want to buy a complete copy of Plutarch's lives and get the biographies in this volume with those of two other Spartans, Lysander and Agesilaus and many other classical figures. However, the chapter in "Plutarch on Sparta" containing famous quotations alone makes the book a necessity for the serious Laconiphile.
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42 of 51 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on October 21, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
It is with a slight reservation that I recommend this book to classical history buffs & fans of the ancient Spartans. Those (like myself) who lick their chops @ the chance to read a book about the Spartans in their prime might be a bit disappointed.
The Lacedaemons were never the same after their defeat at the hands of the Thebans @ Leuctria in 371BC. A good chunk of this book (about 1/3, in fact) is spent on Agis & Cleomenes. These personages were post-Leuctria fellows who tried to resurrect the Lycurgan principles and traditions which the Spartans were so well known for. Both failed, but gave noble efforts to these ends. Basically, they represented the death-knell to the hardcore Laconian way of life.
Now, both figures are certainly important to classical history; that much is not in debate. However, confronting them in a book entitled "On Sparta" by a historian the calibre of Plutarch is a bit anti-climactic. Again, I was so looking forward to reading about this magnificent culture while it was in its prime - cover to cover.
On the upside, the best part of the book deals with Lycurgus. It was he who founded the famous "Spartan way of life" around the 8th century BC. It was he who contrived such innovations as the long hair on Spartan males, the Lacedamonian distaste for $$ and all things artistic (with the exception of music) as well as virtually all luxuries and comforts of life. It is because of Lycurgus that the Laconians who came after shunned all things effeminate and became such a brutal fighting force. It was also he who promoted egalitarian distribution of land - noted as his most significant reform. Here Plutarch furnishes one of the most detailed biographies of this great man that you will find.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harrison Koehli on February 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
Funny and action-packed? Well, yes. I wouldn't have guessed it before picking it up, but Plutarch is a page-turner. In this updated collection of Ian Scott-Kilvert's original translation of Spartan Lives for Penguin, Richard Talbert adds the Life of Agesilaus as well as revisions to the original translation. The result is a highly readable, not like the free translations you can find online that are often archaic and difficult to follow. (At least for this modern brain!) On Sparta includes the lives of Lycurgus, Sparta's lawgiver, Agesilaus, Agis and Cleomenes, as well as Spartan sayings and Xeonophon's "Spartan Society." The Lives themselves read like something out of George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire: political intrigue, assassinations, coups d'etat, manufactured wars, betrayals. But behind all the grittiness, Plutarch shows some examples of true honour. His approval of Spartan society is clear, and I have to admit, there's a lot to like (there's a lot not to like, as well, of course). Many of Lycurgus' laws strike me as many degrees more sane than our own, and it seems clear to me that whoever he was, he had a plan and knew what he was doing. This chapter alone provides much food for thought. The further Lives show the progressive downfall of Sparta, and this is where things get gritty.

The Sayings sections are a real treat as well. The Spartans were raised to express themselves in few words, so pithy witticisms abound. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny. Take the Spartan men's tendency to wear their hair long, bearing in mind Lycurgus' statement that "it renders handsome men better looking, and ugly ones more frightening.
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