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The End of Sparta: A Novel Hardcover – October 11, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Hanson's considerable intellectual skills are on display throughout this work. … The complexities of politics and society are explored brilliantly here, without weighing down the narrative. The characters are by turns sympathetic and cruel, and entirely believable.” ―Deseret News

“Given [Hanson's] notable body of work, it's no wonder that his first fiction effort is rich in authentic detail and narrated with a confident authorial voice. His vigorous narrative not only offers insight into arms and armor, but also into the hearts of the men who bore them.” ―Publishers Weekly

“A worthy historical re-creation: Hanson has high-minded purposes in depicting the triumph of democracy over dictatorship, but there's plenty of exciting swordplay, too.” ―Kirkus

“Like Victor Davis Hanson, I have a fondness for the much-abused ancient Greek Thebans, and I entirely share his glowing admiration for Epaminondas of Thebes, Sparta's nemesis and the supreme philosopher-general of all antiquity. In The End of Sparta, his debut novel, the remarkable classical historian Victor Hanson does full and equal justice to both the arms and the man.” ―P.A. Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, University of Cambridge

About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. His many books include the acclaimed The Father of Us All, A War Like No Other, The Western Way of War, Carnage and Culture, and Ripples of Battle.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608191648
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608191642
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #885,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Greek and Director of the Classics Program at California State University, Fresno. He is the author or editor of many books, including Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (with John Heath, Free Press, 1998), and The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999). In 1992 he was named the most outstanding undergraduate teacher of classics in the nation.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
That we don't know of Epaminondas as well as we might from history, Hanson is left to wonder and fictionalize the story that we don't have from among the few references that we do. Hanson seems to recognize that Epaminondas, all things considered, deserves a high place and a good story to consider among the many stories of the ancient Greeks. The accomplishment of Epaminondas is so totally unexpected that it is fate-like that we don't know of him like an Alexander or Caesar. Epaminondas was surely the biggest news for generations of Hellenes. the Romans wrote of him. He may have been the greatest Hellene ... an elected general, leading a volunteer army of farmer hoplites against the undefeated, professional Spartan shield wall ... what a story that must have been!

Hanson forces the reader into the time and place. The reading is difficult. It drives the reader to understand the Theban. The reader is introduced into a confusing world at so many levels that the reader must dig out of a near incoherence much as the Thebans must have done. I think this is the author's purpose. Hanson is narrating the divergent and confusing ways among long generations of misplaced persons at a time when being misplaced by war was the cultural norm. Hanson's linguistic attention is necessary for this story to become successful. It is a novel of strange diversities and twists. Hanson takes a risk. The reader might give up too quickly in the novel's detailed early stage ... persevere. The humanity is revealed by the end and perhaps the reader might understand the mind of the Hellenes in this snapshot of time. Hanson delivers a fiction anchored in history, archaeology and philosophy. He succeeds in dropping the reader into the magnitude of evolving a new and unknown state.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I chose this book to read because of my love of historical novels. As a kid, I was entranced by Mary Renault's sagas. When I reread "The King Must Die" years later, I found it just as riveting as I remembered. Other wonderful novels set in the ancient world include "I Claudius" and others by Robert Graves and even the books of Gene Wolfe. More recently, Robert Harris has added a couple of successful entries to the genre.

The author of this book is a fellow of classics and military history at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. There is no doubting his scholarly expertise. It shines out of every page in this story of the virtually forgotten Theban General Epaminondas who crushed the mighty Spartans at the Battle of Leuktra in 369 BC and liberated 100,000 serfs.

Bringing this hero back to life is a worthy task and could make a great novel. Unfortunately -- and readers of this review need to believe me when I say that writing these words gives me no pleasure -- Hanson lacks the talent of a novelist. His prose is so turgid that it is virtually unreadable. Let's take this example from page 5 -- but almost any paragraph from almost any page might serve:

"As he scanned the plains and hills around Leuktra, Melon saw now how the farmer creates his own better world of trees and vines. He gets lost in it, and needs someone to bring him out of his refuge. His son had now done that for him and so brought him to the grand vision of Epaminondas, but then again, Lophis had never fought the Spartans. Any who did, as Melon had, might wish to never again, and so would remember why the world of the orchard and vineyard was far safer than the chaos of what men produce in town.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Victor Davis Hanson's "The End of Sparta" is an overview of a fascinating set of politics and military campaigns that led the Thebans to overthrow Sparta. Unfortunately, the story is told as a not-so-fascinating tale that bogs down with entirely uninteresting characters and narration that makes a great topic mush. 5 stars for the subject and 1 star for the telling average to 3 stars.

The focus of Hanson's book is his recreation of the campaigns by Epaminondas. As Hanson points out in the afterword, this masterful general/politician of Thebes really deserves a better lot than he's received by history. Unfortunately, since most of the ancient scholarship on him was destroyed and the remainder was written by enemies like the Athenians, there's very little to go on besides the battle record and Hanson's best guess.

For most writers, a best guess would go well beyond their capability. However, with his mastery of classical history, thought, and military strategy, Hanson is one of the few people on the planet capable of doing so - and to an extent, he does. For instance, putting words and ideas in Plato's mouth that are entirely consistent with his writings, let alone making sure he is properly referred to as Platon, garbed correctly, and in a situation that makes sense for his guest starring role is something only a handful of classic scholars on the planet could pull off. Hanson does this repeatedly, and the evolution of Theban thinking, government, economics and conquest probably happened somewhat close to the way he dictates it here.

Unfortunately, what he does not do is actually tell a story.
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