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The artisitc side of Sparta The artisitc side of Sparta
Spartan Diplomacy Spartan Diplomacy
Sparta's Economy Sparta's Economy
Sparta's Educational System Sparta's Educational System
Sparta's Ethos Sparta's Ethos
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Sparta's Revolution Sparta's Revolution
Article on Spartan Sexuality
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Sparta Slave, Spartan Queen
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Sparta Reconsidered title
        Sparta is most commonly known today as the militaristic rival of "enlightened" Athens in ancient Greece.  It is remembered for its military accomplishments—particularly the heroic defence under King Leonidas of the Pass at Thermopylae against the Persian Invasion in 480 BC and for its crushing defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War.  Images of harsh discipline, a merciless emphasis on courage and a society lacking art, literature and culture predominate in popular literature and non-specialist education.


        In fact, ancient Sparta—or Lakedaemon as it was known in ancient Greece—was far more complex and multifaceted.  In fact, Plutarch goes so far as to claim that "devotion to the intellect is more characteristic of Sparta than love of physical exercise."  A quick look at the broader picture:

bullet Sparta was the first democracy in recorded history, possibly predating Athenian democracy by more than 200 years.  (Most historians, however, date it 50 to 100 years before Solon in Athens.)

bullet Sparta was the only Greek city-state to introduce a land reform aimed at equalising wealth among its citizens.

bullet Sparta was the first and only Greek city-state to develop a complex system of mutual defence treaties, and it repeatedly intervened to defend democracy against tyranny.

bullet Sparta was the only Greek city-state in which women enjoyed elementary rights such as the right to inheritance, property ownership and public education.

bullet The Spartan public educational system, the agoge, was admired almost universally by contemporaries, from historians such as Herodotus and Xenophon to philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.

bullet Although Spartans were proud to say that they built their monuments "in flesh"—meaning that the virtue and courage of Sparta's citizens were the greatest monuments a city-state could possess—they were not lacking in architectural and artistic achievements, as was well catalogued by the Ancient Greek tour-guide, Pausanias.

bullet Spartan music and dance were famous throughout the ancient world, and the oldest recorded heterosexual love poem was the work of a Spartan poet praising Spartan maidens.

bullet Spartan wit and mastery of rhetoric were so widely admired that ancient Greek scholars collected "Spartan sayings" and the "Laconic" style of speech was studied and imitated in intellectual circles.
        In short, in the ancient world Sparta was admired as much for its constitution, its system of education and its music/dance as it was for its famous hoplites.  Not her kings, but her citizens—the lawgiver Lycurgus, the statesman and philosopher Chilon and the poet Tyrtaios—were the most widely admired Spartans in ancient times.

        But Sparta was eclipsed by the rise of Athens, a city with roughly five times the number of citizens and, by the early 5th century, an Empire. Sparta's once revolutionary and innovative institutions became calcified while democracy continued to develop in other cities. Its artistic achievements stagnated as the population declined and the demands of power following Sparta's victory in the Peloponnesian War grew.  But the decline of Sparta starting in the 5th century BC should not entirely obscure its early accomplishments.

        This site is dedicated to throwing some light on those forgotten achievements—and hopefully awakening more curiosity and understanding for a complex and fascinating ancient culture.

        In addition, based on the research that went into this site, I have written a series of novels which—adding imagination and an understanding of human nature to historical research—attempt to bring Archaic Sparta back to life.  Three are now available for purchase.  Are They Singing in Sparta? describes the Revolution which led to the introduction of Sparta's unique constitution (the first democracy in recorded history) and the Second Messenian War (critical to the understanding of all subsequent Spartan foreign policy).  The Olympic Charioteer is the story of a slave and Olympic competitor in the age of Chilon the wise, and focuses on the start of the Peloponnesian League, the first recorded non-aggression pact in recorded history.

“…an extremely entertaining novel....Anyone interested in exploring the years prior to the Persian invasion – the alliances and intrigues, especially between Sparta and her future ally Tegea – will enjoy this novel.” 
Jon Martin, author of The Headlong God of War and In Kithairon’s Shadow

“…this is another gem to polish and keep in my bookcase when I want a look back to Greece!” 


Be sure also to read, Spartan Slave, Spartan Queen: A Tale of Four Women. This book is a continuation of the saga that started with Are They Singing in Sparta?

The first in a trilogy of biographical novels about Leonidas, A Boy of the Agoge,  is scheduled for release later this year.  Watch this site for more details.

Under "Further Readings" you will find additional recommendations for both fiction and non-fiction books, including selected ancient and modern sources.

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