- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (3 Oct. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330413252
- ISBN-13: 978-0330413251
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 530,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Spartans: An Epic History Paperback – 3 Oct 2003
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
" Cartledge displays a marvelous ability to make the readers care about the Laconic warriors . . . and the society that shaped them." -- "USA Today
"" Cartledge brings [the Spartans] to life again with verve [and] style." -- "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
" The history and atmosphere of Sparta are well conveyed by Cartledge." -- "The New York Review of Books
"" A fine overview of the rise and fall of a singular culture, spiced with anecdotes, quotations, brisk summary, and real insight." -- "Seattle Times
"" The Spartans presented in this book could change the popular image of ancient history, making it more compelling and accessible." -- "The" "Times Literary Supplement
"Cartledge displays a marvelous ability to make the readers care about the Laconic warriors . . . and the society that shaped them." --"USA Today
""Cartledge brings [the Spartans] to life again with verve [and] style." --"Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"The history and atmosphere of Sparta are well conveyed by Cartledge." --"The New York Review of Books
""A fine overview of the rise and fall of a singular culture, spiced with anecdotes, quotations, brisk summary, and real insight." --"Seattle Times
""The Spartans presented in this book could change the popular image of ancient history, making it more compelling and accessible." --"The""Times Literary Supplement
Cartledge displays a marvelous ability to make the readers care about the Laconic warriors . . . and the society that shaped them. "USA Today
" Cartledge brings [the Spartans] to life again with verve [and] style. "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
The history and atmosphere of Sparta are well conveyed by Cartledge. "The New York Review of Books
" A fine overview of the rise and fall of a singular culture, spiced with anecdotes, quotations, brisk summary, and real insight. "Seattle Times
" The Spartans presented in this book could change the popular image of ancient history, making it more compelling and accessible. "The" "Times Literary Supplement
"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Much of the book is made up of biographies of leading Spartans inserted into gaps in the main body of the text. Although it's good to have a couple of pages to summarise the lives and careers of the main figures in Spartan history, these asides tend to repeat the information in the main text, and in some cases can damage the sense of chronological flow. I think these would have been far better placed in an appendix.
Also, the author wanders off into a study of the parallels between ancient greek hunting and modern fox hunting at the end of the book, debunking the myths that link present day hunting with that of the ancient past. For those of us that aren't passionate about this issue (as the author clearly is), this is a rather anticlimactic ending to a good book. It doesn't teach us anything more about the Spartans than has already been covered, and is really a debate for another place.
However, these two points aside, this is a thoroughly engaging book for anyone with an interest in ancient history. It's well written, accessible and gives a real insight into the way that Spartan society functioned. Perhaps the social relationaships between the Spartans and the Helots could have been explored more than it was, but the main interest for most readers is undoubtedly the military contribution to history made by Sparta, which is very well covered.
I would counter the previous reviewers comment on the book as a `thesis draft': Cartledge has taught a Cambridge since the 70's and has honorary Spartan Citizenship for his contribution for telling it's history. So although not going to great lengths to give a highly detailed day to day chronological account of the minutiae of Spartan life for 400 years, it has indeed avoided dates upon dates, and used other sources in it's narrative - it is a scholarly work clearly intended primarily for the general reader with an interest in this era.
Read also Cartledge's `Thermopylae' for THE story of Spartan battle, or the fantastic `Persian Fire' by the brilliant Tom Holland.
Any sensible editor would have cut the rant in the epilogue. The author has a lengthy sophistic (in the modern sense) rebuttal of an obscure pamphlet on fox hunting. Apart from now sounding very dated it is ironically a great illustration of exactly what he spent a large part of the preceding book warning us about; namely that the contemporary prejudices of the teller must be taken into account when reading accounts of the past.
Straight from the very long and rambling introduction I was a bit worried. I don't know what Paul Cartledge thinks an introduction is actually for but in my experience it's not to give a sort of précis of the entire book you're about to read, going through pretty much every major event, often with levels of detail that leave you wondering what the point of the actual chapters will be. Of course, this leads to a tremendous amount of repetition of facts in the main bulk of the book that you've already read in the introduction, but this is as of nothing compared to the repetition delivered by his "box out" biographies.
Again, I'm really not sure what Cartledge's grasp of what a book should be actually is. If he was putting together an illustrated coffee table style book on the Spartans (and many such tomes exist on periods of classical history) then he would be quite entitled to have the main flow of the text, and the main thrust of the history it contained, taking up most of each page while boxes could appear down the sides giving more information on various people being mentioned. However, what he does in this book, which is a standard text-driven publication, is to interrupt the narrative every time a new person is mentioned to give a biography of them. Seeing as it's impossible to have a box down the side in a normal text based book he instead has to just clump this right in the middle of what you're reading so that for three, four, maybe six, seven or eight pages you have to take a sidestep and read this biography.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a history enthusiast, I was hoping for a popular narrative that would serve as a reminder and update of what I once studied. Read morePublished 1 month ago by rob crawford
A superb, soundly-researched text. A wonderful source for my students doing ancient warfare.Published 7 months ago by KC Gustafson
This is a robust plain spoken, one might say laconic, account of the history of Sparta seen through the lives of prominent Spartans. Read morePublished on 22 July 2014 by Charles Vasey
Paul Cartledge is an amazing historian.
A well researched, well written history of the ancient Sparta for those interested in understanding the politics of such a unique... Read more
I really enjoyed this book. Its full of interesting facts about the Spartans. It covers the battles and key Spartans but also how they lived, the politics involved and the strong... Read morePublished on 28 Feb. 2014 by Ian Robert Petts
My god-daughter asked for this for her Christmas present; I saved quite a lot by getting it from Amazon, and she was delioghted at the read.Published on 2 Jan. 2014 by Mr. N.H.
The book was for my son. He was so happy to have a book that went into great detail, unlike so many others, which seem to have a lot of pictures with caption underneath.Published on 25 Dec. 2013 by Miles Alura