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4.0 out of 5 stars As comprehensive as it could be...
I am interested in history, but the only 'solid' information on the Spartans is from reading a semi-fictional account of Thermopilae as a boy. Now as an adult, I bought this book to get some more facts and background. This, the book does well for me. I do get the impression that the book is 'padded' and repeats its self. Saying that, there aren't many original sources to...
Published 7 months ago by A. J. Springett

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The material is often good, the "story-telling" much less so...
This rather thicker than usual Pen & Sword volume displays a significant effort from Nic Fields to come up with a comprehensive book on Sparta. Although it does contain a lot of good material, although none of it is really original. In addition, the book becomes quite problematic, at times annoying and often lacks focus.

My first problem with this book is that...
Published 16 months ago by JPS


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The material is often good, the "story-telling" much less so..., 12 May 2013
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This review is from: The Spartan Way (Hardcover)
This rather thicker than usual Pen & Sword volume displays a significant effort from Nic Fields to come up with a comprehensive book on Sparta. Although it does contain a lot of good material, although none of it is really original. In addition, the book becomes quite problematic, at times annoying and often lacks focus.

My first problem with this book is that the author has quite consciously drawn upon the works of some of his predecessors. His prologue on Thermopylae is, for instance, very heavily "inspired" by the corresponding piece on the same battle drawn from Lazenby's book to the extent that even the order of the paragraphs is similar. Other sources of inspiration seem to include pieces of Paul Cartledge's books on Sparta and others that seem to come from Van Wees, when discussing hoplite warfare. I do not mind at all when an author discusses, or even, as here, mostly presents interpretations made by others. However, I begin to have a problem when it looks like he has borrowed bits and bits from other books, paraphrasing or abridging them, and ending up with something that is neither original nor as clear as the original pieces from which it is inspired.

My second problem with this book is that it lacks focus, perhaps because the author tried to make it into some kind of "jack of all trades." Despite its title, this book reads at times like a history of the Persian Wars, of "Classical" 5th century Greece, of the Peloponnesian war and of the 4th century. It therefore includes, in addition to bits and pieces directly relevant to Sparta, pieces on Athens, its armed forces and its navy, on sieges and even on the Athenian democracy.

A third problem is with the author's style and the ways in which he attempts to tell the story. In addition to the author's pseudo-moralizing tones and a relatively high number of truisms and repetitions in almost every chapter, Nic Field is also prone to digressions, some of which has little or even nothing to do with the topic that it purports to cover. One example (but there are others) is several pages about some modern mercenary leaders during events in Congo in the 1960s (chapter 10). These anachronisms also creep into the author's notes (chapter 10, but also chapters 14 and 15, for instance) so you get "treated" to "Islamic janissaries" (the elite soldiers of the Ottoman Empire over 16 centuries later) and to another digression, this time about the battle of Navarin in 1827. None of these (and other similar) digressions have anything to do with the topic that the author is supposed and expected to cover.

Another problem is that, at times, you get the impression that the author contradicts himself within a couple of pages, sometimes because he overstates the points he makes. His narratives of various battles, which are mostly the same ones that can be found in Lazenby's book, are often less clear. One case in point is his account of the battle of Leuktra which ended Sparta's reputation of invincibility. He first presents this as a crushing Spartan defeat, which it was in several ways. However, when he starts "re-using" materials "borrowed" mainly from Lazenby, he also shows that the Theban victory was hard won. Tactically, the Thebans managed to break the Spartans' centre and kill King Kleombrotos before their own line was rolled up by their enemy. The Spartiates and the 300 around the Spartan battle-King in particular, seem to have died fighting almost to a man. In doing so, they did apparently succeed in rescuing their dead King's body and they did bring quite a few of the Theban Sacred Band down to Hades with them.

As a result, I was really disappointed with this book and would not recommend it...
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4.0 out of 5 stars As comprehensive as it could be..., 29 Jan 2014
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A. J. Springett (Lymington, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spartan Way (Hardcover)
I am interested in history, but the only 'solid' information on the Spartans is from reading a semi-fictional account of Thermopilae as a boy. Now as an adult, I bought this book to get some more facts and background. This, the book does well for me. I do get the impression that the book is 'padded' and repeats its self. Saying that, there aren't many original sources to work from.There again, I repeat myself, to make a point! The proof reader ought to be shot, there were a few howlers that I did not expect from a scholarly tome.
I purposely didn't read the previous criticism, before writting this, so as not to be infuenced.
I most appreciated the background, including the politics, of various battles and the narrative of the Spartans rise and fall. Overall I enjoyed the book.
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The Spartan Way
The Spartan Way by Nic Fields (Hardcover - 11 Dec 2012)
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