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The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece, from Utopia to Crisis and Collapse - Hardcover

 
9781585674022: The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece, from Utopia to Crisis and Collapse
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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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Review:
Send the SAS to pick flowers and the Marines to knit mittens, because the Spartans could have 'em for breakfast. In The Spartans: An Epic History, the book of the Channel 4 series, Paul Cartledge paints a vivid picture of one of the most extreme civilisations ever known--one whose ethos married the highest levels of societal and philosophical advancement with the most repressive and warlike of regimes. These ancient Greeks lived, breathed and slept "hard". They also happened to influence much of subsequent Western civilisation.

The perfect warriors, they lived to fight, and when they weren't fighting, they were training to fight. Their male children were brutally raised, and weak or deformed infants were mercilessly cast from cliff tops. Yet they were unusually egalitarian in their treatment of women, and embraced an intensely partisan social ethic. They enslaved much of the rest of Greece, yet provided the spark for Athenian Democracy. It is this apparently contradictory duality that continues to fascinate and that has since engendered concepts as diverse as Hitler's system of negative eugenics and Thomas More's notion of Utopia.

The Spartans, though accessible, is an accomplished academic work--you'd hardly expect anything else, Cartledge having already written 20 books on the subject. But without the window dressing of the TV show's stunning Grecian locations and its thinking-man's eye-candy presenter Bettany Hughes, this can seem a little dry--anyone expecting the latest glossy picture-filled Time Team-style coffee-table book is likely to be disappointed. If you're partial to a bit of accessible erudition, however, then it would be foolish to look this gift horse in the mouth. --Paul Eisinger

Review:
"Paul Cartledge's interpretation of Spartan history has over the last 25 years established itself as the closest thing we have to an orthodoxy."

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  • PublisherOverlook Pr
  • Publication date2003
  • ISBN 10 1585674028
  • ISBN 13 9781585674022
  • BindingHardcover
  • Edition number1
  • Number of pages304
  • Rating

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