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Leonidas of Sparta: A Boy of the Agoge [Kindle Edition]

Helena P. Schrader
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The smaller of twins, born long after two elder brothers, Leonidas was considered an afterthought from birth -- even by his mother. Lucky not to be killed for being undersized, he was not raised as a prince like his eldest brother, Cleomenes, who was heir to the throne, but instead had to endure the harsh upbringing of ordinary Spartan youth. Barefoot, always a little hungry, and subject to harsh discipline, Leonidas had to prove himself worthy of Spartan citizenship. Struggling to survive without disgrace, he never expected that one day he would be king or chosen to command the combined Greek forces fighting a Persian invasion. But these were formative years that would one day make him the most famous Spartan of them all: the hero of Thermopylae.

This is the first book in a trilogy of biographical novels about Leonidas of Sparta. This first book describes his childhood in the infamous Spartan agoge. The second will focus on his years as an ordinary citizen, and the third will describe his reign and death.

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 976 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Wheatmark (8 Nov. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004BA5FX2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #174,986 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Helena P. Schrader
Historian, Novelist, Diplomat

Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg, which she earned with a ground-breaking biography of the German Resistance leader General Friedrich Olbricht. She has published four non-fiction works on modern European history, and twelve novels. She has also published essays in the leading academic journal on Ancient Sparta: "Sparta: Journal of ancient Spartan and Greek History." Three of her novels received literary awards.

Schrader is a career diplomat. In June 2010, she was awarded the "Dr. Bernard LaFayette Lifetime Achievement Award for Promoting the Institutionalization of Nonviolence Ideals in Nigeria." She has lived on five continents, speaks four languages and owns property in what was once Lacedaemon, which she visits regularly.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leonidas of Sparta a boy of the Agoge 17 Aug. 2011
By David
I have just finished this excellent book, that for the first time (for me) brings the life of ancient Sparta into vivid human reality.
I have travelled many times to modern day Sparta, sat on the hill called The palace of Menelaion and stared across the Eurotas river, trying to imagine what it was like back then. Thanks to Helena it has become clearer.
I cannot wait for the next two books in the series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it! 19 Aug. 2013
By DixieAl
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This first of the trilogy took me a while to get into, but since I was in Sparta at the time, I thought it worth sticking to. I am glad I did. Not only did I come to admire the young lad Leonidas as he grew from childhood into young manood, but I also gleaned a wealth of information about life in this part of the ancient world. Yes, I will read the other two, but it is taking me some time to get into them. I need a literary kick up the backside! The writing is not always inspired . . . but the story is wonderful.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read! 20 Aug. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
if you already have enthusiasm for ancient Greece or at least the ancient world ,then this book is well worth the read. it puts a realistic face on a society only glimpsed in part through movies and non fiction. Great read! would definitely read again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparta as she was, not as some have made her 11 Nov. 2010
By Paul M Bardunias - Published on
Helena P. Schrader has, in "Leonidas of Sparta: A Boy of the Agoge", prescribed a welcome antidote to the skewed visions of ancient Sparta put forth in works such as "Gates of Fire" and "300". If you have an interest in the real Sparta, without supermen in capes and Speedos, then this is a book for you. The book is wholly appropriate for teen readers, and would be a great holiday gift that sneaks an education in with the entertainment. While obviously a book for boys, girls would find in Sparta characters who have a confidence and power in their own right that does not derive simply from being coveted for marriage by competing men. This is a rare thing in novels set in the ancient world. If at times you feel you are reading "Ender's game" or Harry Potter with shields, this is only because those analogies are far more accurate than the "Full Metal Jacket" or 1940s war movie that you are used to.

All authors of historical fiction must draw from modern analogy to breathe life into long dead Spartan education system or Agoge. Other books have looked to the unlikely parallel of the barracks life of conscript marines, but she rightly sees the more accurate connections to an elite boarding school system. You realize in reading her novel, just as Leonidas does as the pages unfold, that the Agoge is not designed simply to make soldiers, but form Spartan citizens. The system produced men who would be hailed as a nation of philosophers as well as unmatched warriors. Just as importantly the system also produced women who scandalized the misogynists of other ancient societies with their unmatched freedom.

Schrader weaves a considerable amount of teaching into her novel in a remarkably readable fashion. I run a fairly successful blog on ancient Sparta and I found myself often trying to determine what sources she drew from for particular bits of information and where she inserted her own imagination. Much of this is accomplished through allowing us to see the lives of other characters through the lens of young Leonidas. While the young King is the focus of the novel, events often happen around him rather than to him, and I can understand why some would find this confusing if they were expecting a biography. But this book is as much about Spartan society as it is the life of one man.

Helena is a skilled writer, but the sheer density of information about characters and Spartan society conspire to slow the pacing of the early pages of the novel. She soon hits her stride though and does not look back. Chapter three alone is worth the price of the novel, providing insight into the complexity of Spartan social structures that are often glossed over. At once we can see why the system that made Sparta great also contained the seeds of her own destruction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lose yourself in this book! 24 April 2011
By C. Munguia - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I made the mistake of watching the movie "300" before reading Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire", one of the most inspiring books I have ever read (so good, in fact, that I got 35 copies of the book for my platoon to read and keep). One of the best draws of the Spartan legacy is the incredible value they placed on small-unit team-building and self-reliance. In Gates, Pressfield takes a good look at the upbringing of young Spartan youths within the agoge, and how the training led to incredible acts of heroism and sacrifice in the Battle of Thermopylae...

Which brings me to this book.

Helena Schrader looks even deeper into the agoge system, and personalizes it even further by showing us though the eyes not of a freeborn helot youth (as in Pressfield's case), but through the eyes of Leonidas himself. This book has everything: political intrigue, inter-family jealousy, and teen angst. But most importantly, it's well-researched and more detailed than anything else I have read on Sparta. (And I've read Herotodus!) Schrader takes research by historians who have "reverse-engineered" (sorry, but it's the closest word I can think of to what I mean) the Spartan agoge by studying the Roman version, which was based on the Spartan system. Taking into account the different terrain (Sparta vs. Rome), different government and beliefs (though not incredibly dissimilar), different time periods, and clues in writings by the Greek historians themselves, my guess is that this is probably more accurate than most.

Finally, sprinkled throughout the book are important themes of self-reliance and self-determination, respect for laws and traditions, and the importance of camaraderie.

I whole-heartedly suggest this book for anyone looking for inspiration in team-building, a curiosity of Spartan life, or just a great book to lose yourself in.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New and provocative look at Sparta 9 Oct. 2010
By Brenda Miller - Published on
Helena Schrader has in this book fulfilled her introductory promise to look at Spartan life from a completely different position. She clearly has done her research on a relatively little-known but frequently maligned aspect of ancient Sparta; its education system, or "agoge". Instead of the to-be-expected detailed examination of brutality and pedophilia, Ms Schrader describes, through the character of young King Leonidas, what to my mind is a far more likely youth training system. Certainly it was tough and certainly the objective of producing hard and disciplined soldiers for Sparta was never lost sight of (think of a life-long Marine boot camp). But we know that Spartans were in reality far from being a mob of unthinking automatons capable of functioning only under orders and in fear of draconian punishment. There was music, poetry, art, and actual thought in archaic and classic Sparta and Ms Schrader brings all this out beautifully. Desite the difference of some 2500 years, as a former career Army officer I could readily relate to Leonidas' struggles and to the overall training effort as well. Ms Shrader has succeeded with this book and I hope that we will have the opportunity soon to read her works on the rest of Leonidas' life.
I should also add that this work is perfectly suitable for older teen-age readers as well as for adults.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! 23 Oct. 2010
By Kythera Ann - Published on
I have been a long time fan of Helena Schrader's historical novels. Her newest novel, Leonidas of Sparta: A Boy of the Agoge, was not disappointing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it when I was on holiday. Besides being a marvelously palatable way of learning about history and the cultures that those events grew in, Helena always creates memorable and believable characters, whether they are historical, fictional, or a blend of both. Because of that, I was very pleased to see a character form the first novel of her Sparta series (The Olympic Charioteer) reappear in this novel. Lysandridas of Sparta, The Olympic Charioteer in the novel by the same name, is now in Leonidas of Sparta: A Boy of the Agoge as an old man. Not only is it nice to see how this character prospered and evolved over time, I found his unofficial mentoring of Leonidas brilliant as a way to work him into the story and create continuity between the novels. Certainly one does not need to read The Olympic Charioteer to appreciate the rich character development and well researched historical information. But for those who have read The Olympic Charioteer or plan too, you can appreciate even more how really good an author Helena Schrader is.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Do You Raise A Man? 29 Oct. 2012
By Thomas E. - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Helena P. Schrader has the kind of academic credentials that make you wonder what you did with your life. Growing up in Japan, Brazil, England, and the United States she has degrees from the University of Michigan, Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Hamburg. After writing several non-fiction books focusing on WWII, she turned her attention to fiction. This academic zeal for research shows up in her books, and is very prevalent in the "Leonidas" series. She also owns a home in what was once called Lacedeamon, or more commonly, Sparta.

This book is the first in a trilogy that walk through the life of Leonidas, the legendary king of Sparta. Unlike other such texts, this one makes liberal use of citations to the historical record, and where no such record is available the author explains why she choose to go the way she did. She is also very open about what is conjecture or writers license on her part. Obviously everybody knows how the book will end, so there is considerable pressure to make the parts in between worthwhile, logical, consistent, and reflective of what the historical and archaeological would have us believe occured. This is where Schrader shines.

As the title implies, this book focuses heavily on the Agoge, that almost mythical Spartan insitutation of education and training. The book actually opens with Leonidas receiving the oracle that damns him to his fate, and then jumps back to the future kings childhood. We are treated to life in the palace, and an indepth examination of life in the five villages that make up Sparta. The view presented here and throughout the series conflicts with more idyllic apperances in other tales, such as Gates of fire by Pressfield. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae However, her examples all make sense, are explained, and ring true to how a society such as Sparta would develop.

The messenian helots are touched upon, and the rituals of growing up are expounded upon. How would a child orphaned early develop, and in an almost Harry Potter like fashion, how would such a child wield wealth? How do you grow up to be the man that offers himself up as sacrifice? This book lays the foundation. It is a great read, and yet it is the weakest of the trilogy. It is where one must start, and nobody will be disappointed by it. Just know that what follows is even better.
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