- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 10, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400078857
- ISBN-13: 978-1400078851
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 70 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Legendary for their ferocious combat skills, the Spartans built a warrior culture in ancient Greece unsurpassed for its 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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
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Let me talk to the author:
As a rank amateur historian I have three needs that go unmet in this book:
1. MAPS! There are three maps but they are poor at best. They don't always relate to the text -- an area mentioned will not be mapped. The topography of Greece is obviously important but there is no topographical map. The book covers centuries but the maps offer no help with time lines. My 7th Grade teacher would give just a C- to these maps.
2. TIMELINE. Always helpful and often included on the inside of the covers. Simply not here. I get confused about events, people, etc. and I've had to build my own (poor) timeline. I'd rather you built an accurate one.
3. Organization: I am often confused about the book's organization. It lacks timeline order. It requires a basic knowledge of the Greek kings. There is an underlying assumption that I already know a lot about Greek history and this is refinement. I need better orientation because I am often at a loss as to when/where/why I am in this history. See 'Timeline' above.
I have dipped into four books on Spartan history and this is by far the best of the lot.
I gave it two stars rather than one because it's written accessibly, it has no factual errors that I can see, and you'll learn something if you haven't read any general Greek histories.
The exception to that Greek pattern of sameness has always been Sparta. The ancient tradition, fostered by the Spartans themselves and promoted especially by the Athenians, was that Sparta was 'other', crucially different in basic ways from all other Greek cities and societies. Key to the myth of the Spartan warrior and his ideal of self-sacrifice was the compulsive education system called Agoge that turned boys into fighting men whose reputation for discipline, courage and military skill was unsurpassed. The main expression of citizenship for adult men was the participation in communal dining along with mess companions, whereas women benefited from a surprising degree of freedom.
Sparta lived under the constant menace of a revolt by the Helots, the class of serf-like peasants submitted around Sparta's home territory of Laconia and Messenia in ancient times, who vastly outnumbered the Spartans and provided them with the economic basis of their unique lifestyle. Spartans lived on a constant war footing against the threat of enemies from within as well as without. Other Greeks, who also depended on servile manpower by foreign slaves, were shocked by this enslavement of fellow Hellenes.
Paul Cartledge's book takes its reader through the different stages of Sparta's history, starting with the foundation of the city-state by the mythical Lycurgus and the rapture of Helen by the prince of Troy, and going through the successful resistance against the Persian Empire around 480, the epic confrontation between Sparta and Athens in the Peloponnesian War of 431-404, and Sparta's triumph that ended abruptly along the lines of a doom-laden prediction about a crippled kingship. Lively vignettes about Spartan heroes are inserted in the narrative: King Leonidas who led the resistance against the Persian army at the Thermopylae, his wife Gorgo who, asked about the power enjoyed by Spartan women, responded that it was "because we are the only women who give birth to (real) men," and many others.
Finally, beautiful illustrations are included in the book. Bronze figurines of proud hoplites clad in their red cloak or donning their crested helmet were popular ornaments that helped popularize the myth of the Spartan warrior throughout the Greek world and beyond. A very large bronze krater or mixing-bowl used to mix wine with water offers a testimony of the skill of Laconian craftsmens, most of whom belonged to the class of Perioeci or 'out-dwellers', as Spartans themselves were banned from engaging in any trade apart from war-making. A sprightly figurine of a young female in athletic pose illustrates the grace, freedom and social status that distinguished Spartan women from their relegated sisters in other Greek states. A reproduction of Jacques-Louis David's painting Leonidas at Thermopylae, his masterwork, displays strong homoerotic undertones that somehow escaped censorship in Napoleonic France. And the statues of Spartan warriors that modern Greece erected on its street crossings and monuments echo the lyric accents of Lord Byron who fanned philhellenic sentiments throughout Europe by appealing to the noble figure of Leonidas.