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

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,352 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The Spartans of ancient Greece were a powerful and unique people, a society of warrior-heroes who exemplified the heroic virtues of self-sacrifice, community endeavor, and achievement against all odds. Paul Cartledge engagingly examines the rise and fall of this singular society.
Audio CD, 200 pages
Published July 15th 2007 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published November 8th 2002)
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This is a bad book. That doesn't change the fact that Cartledge is an eminent authority on Sparta and uniquely well-qualified from a research perspective to write this book. The demands of academic history, however, are not the same as those for a book produced for general consumption. This volume fails on at least three counts. First, tone. Were this a text for scholars, Cartledge would be well within his rights to write in the querulous, self-defensive tone he sometimes takes here. A general h ...more
I just finished 281 pages that detail the birth and death of Sparta. My mind is reeling. The book was dense with historical information, centered on war, but surprisingly offering quite a lot of cultural insight through the inclusion of anecdotes and sayings attributed to various Spartans. Now, I have to admit the details of war, dates and names and battlefields and allies and enemies and political hoopla and the such not seem to sort of flow through me (especially dates). These form only the fo ...more
Paul Cartledge describes this work as his first attempt to write a “properly general” history of Sparta. It would not be wholly inaccurate to describe his style as, on the one hand, too erudite to be considered truly popular, yet on the other hand, too informal to be truly academic. He lands, then, in the unfortunate territory of patronizing or condescending to the reader, sounding as though he’s aping an academic style when in fact the formal loquacity is likely more natural to him and his atte ...more
This book provides a simple account of Sparta right from it coming to power in the Peloponnese from the 8th Century BCE onwards to its decline around the 1st Century CE.

Paul Cartledge is one of the world's leading authorities on Sparta, and this is his first book on his special subject for the general reader. With references to 9/11, to famous movies and books based on ancient Sparta (although the most famous one of all, 300 wasn't yet released when this book was published), Cartledge has come o
Unlike Eric who tries to pass off books on tape as books he has read, I will provide total transparency. And unlike his godhead Obama, when I promise transparency, I will actually deliver it.

This is a book on tape. I did not read it, I listened to it, so it doesn't really count. It was interesting. I now find myself trying to pronounce Greek names in the same distinctive way the narrator does. "Leotychidas."

30 years after defeating mighty Athens in the Peloponnesian War (itself 30 years long), S
Jun 19, 2009 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Uncle Dave
Shelves: 2009, history, non-fic
Hugely informative book that laid to rest a few long held misconceptions I had regarding Sparta, and provided me with a wealth of other information regarding the political, religious and social climate. Of particular interest to me was the rather progressive (in comparison to other cultures of the time) attitude towards the role of women in Spartan society.

One minor quibble was the format - biographies of important figures in Spartan history are dropped into the middle of text on various events,
Such a disappointing book. Having recently read Tom Holland's excellent "Persian Fire" I was in the mood for some extra detail on a longer period of Spartan history but this book sadly wasn't able to provide it.
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,
It was ok but I picked this book up thinking I'd learn more about internal life in Sparta, day to day kind of stuff. But this book mostly examines Sparta in external terms, in its interactions with Athens, Persia, etc.
Olivier Goetgeluck
Compulsory educational cycle called the Agoge. This system of education, training and socialization turned boys into fighting men whose reputation for discipline, courage and skill was unsurpassed.

they defended not just their homeland but their way of life.

For his first 7 years, a spartan boy was brought up at home, like any other Greek boy, but after his 7th birthday he was removed from the home environment, for good, to embark on the compulsory and communal educational system known as the Agog
Here's a quick and very accessible read. The writing can be a bit dry but, the book is so well organised that it flows quite smoothly. In fact, Paul Cartledge takes us through the major events of Spartan history, starting with the Peloponnesian league against Persia, then an earthquake in the 460s and how it sparkled a revolt among their slaves, the Peloponnesian wars against Athens and, finally, its downfall, stemming mainly from socio-economical problems. Each event is not only described strai ...more
In this book (which seems to be some sort of companion piece to a TV series), which is aimed more toward the general reader than the academic, Cartledge sets out to cover the span of Spartan history, from the “time” of Helen through the time of Caesar Augustus. There are, indeed, a lot of dates and unfamiliar names in this brief survey, and, as if imitating a documentary’s style, Cartledge punctuates the narrative with brief biographies of Spartans who were central to their particular time. The ...more
A Classics scholar who has had a long facination with Sparta, Paul Cartledge has pulled from various sources to present in one text the strange yet facinating culture that was Sparta.

In addition to the information gleaned from Herodutus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, Cartledge has pulled from other sources providing an updated and fresh look at the culture and especially, the politics of Sparta.

The narrative is chronological and is supplemented by some extremely helpful photographs and diagrams. The
I found this book while researching the Spartan Diet.

I can't speak to the writing style or relevance of events and people discussed, but I enjoyed most of this book. It was written in a familiar tone, which I didn't appreciate beyond the intention. Ancient Spartan history is hard to read about now-a-days without fictionalizing or otherwise glorifying. That said, the most glorified event in Sparta's history is the Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae, aka, the Battle of 300.

Nothing really matt
Rick Davis
When you want to talk about the Spartans, there's probably no man in the world as knowledgeable as Paul Cartledge. As such, this was a great overview of the history of Sparta, jam-packed with information. The timeline at the front of the book is an excellent resource and will have me taking this book from the shelf again and again. There was an unevenness of tone created by what appeared to be Cartledge's attempt to write a book of interest to scholars and laymen alike. As such, it's not quite a ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Louis rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History fans
I was first introduced to the Spartans in Junior High during a Civilization class. I remember being fascinated by their military-based culture. Babies born were inspected, if a deformity was discovered or they seemed weak in any way they were tossed off a cliff. All male children at the age of 7 every male child was taken from their family to be raised with the other boys in barracks. Women would only be given a grave marker if they died giving birth to a male child. And so on…

This book’s focus
Cartledge is a thorough historian whose earlier work on Greek politics is both illuminating and relatively accessible to those already familiar with much of his subject. On one hand, this book is aimed at a more general audience and does not presuppose any prior background on Sparta or the Greek world from the 5-3rd centuries BCE. On the other hand, Cartledge's selective and detailed narrative risks losing the reader who is not already familiar with his main sources (e.g. Herodotus, Thucydides, ...more
Mid 3. The writer undoubtedly possesses great knowledge of their subject, but could have profited from more judicious editing of the material. Cartledge details how Sparta played a key role in defending Greece from foreign conquest, thereby preserving forms of culture which lie at the root of Western civilisation. The period covered by this work, 480BC to 360BC witnessed an intense rivalry with Athens, and the eventual fall of Sparta due to it overreaching itself after defeating its main rival f ...more
Mary Catelli
A survey of their history, with the details of their life.

It doesn't go into what archeology can show of their pre-history, but it starts with Lycurgus, who may, actually, be a god turned into a founder, rather than a man. And the legend of Helen of Troy, who was Helen of Sparta first, and how the legends of the beauty and looseness of Spartan women often pointed back to her.

It has biographies of interesting Spartans along the way. Like Cynisca, the Spartan princess who won an Olympic olive wrea
I'm admittedly a research junkie. I've also been fascinated w/warriors frm a young age given I'm both a Navy brat & cop's kid, so Sparta was something I always wanted to learn more about. I've got a couple of dry academic texts I bought on the subject.

This is NOT one of them! Paul Cartledge definitely has the credentials, but he has the audacity to *gasp* write the book in readable English vs. Advanced-Academic-Gibberish. The illustrations and maps are very beneficial, and he discusses all a
Eric Olson
This is an academic book. Very intelligent, but more for doing a college paper than an exciting story. I sucked it up though. Everything I write in Dance of the Berserkers is researched to see if there is some historical connection. In this instance, I was looking to see if the Spartans ever tried to colonize islands. In my book, there is a lost island of Spartans called Spartaland by the Vikings.
Cartledge has done a remarkable job of stringing together a narrative on a group of people we do not know much about. If seeing a movie makes you think you know the Spartans, this book will quickly show that you have barely even scraped the tippy-top of the iceberg. I found the first half of this book interesting and I got through it quickly - it covered the basis and basics of the Spartan society. After that, I am afraid I kept waiting to get to the end just so I could be done! There is so much ...more
It is a quick and superficial explanation of who the Spartans are and what they did over several hundred years. The individual mini-biographies of major Spartans are probably the best part of the book. They give the details and the touch of personality that the rest of the book lacked. The book tells you of the great deeds of the Spartans but never went into the details I would have liked about their training and social arraignments. At times I felt like the author was ignoring those details so ...more
I didn't care for the flow of the writing but his Spartan perspective of the Athens War is helpful after you've read Kagan's account of the Peloponnesian War. Read Kagan's first to understand the timeline and plot.
Mick Pletcher
I highly recommend this book. It gives you a very in-depth look into Spartan culture and how they interacted with their other Greek counterparts. It also a very good perspective on some of the first women's rights in society, which is described in a biased view from the Greek perspective. It covers from the Peloponesean war to Alexander the Great to the final conquering by the Roman Empire. I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 because it can be very hard to follow. The book is well written, but you ...more
Cartledge's style can be a tad dry in my opinion, but there's some really good stuff in here.
Mike Angelillo
Some interesting information but the layout of the book was just annoying.

The account varies between a chorological history of Sparta, individual biographies and social commentaries. This makes the book seem more as a haphazard collection of individual essays stuck in the pages of a chronological historical account.

For example, in the middle of the march to Thermopolis the book veers off into a biography of Gorgo and then commentary on the role of women in Sparta and the rest of the Greek world
The book was decent. A nice overview of the Spartans and their culture/history. The bios interspersed throughout were interesting and I liked the focus on a particular Spartan. However, the placement of these bios made the remainder of the material feel disjointed and came at the cost of loss of flow. And I really didn't like the "appendix" he added to use the Spartans to make an argument against a particular aspect of today with which he disagreed. I didn't enjoy feeling preached to. But overal ...more
Great read. Beyond the typically dry academic treatment for a smooth narrative similar to an entertaining documentary.
Cartledge openly concedes and works with what is NOT known about our cultural predecessors, and focuses on the rich well studied cache of events and characters that shaped history. A great change from all the fiction and speculation out there. He draws a nicely cut line between lore and historiography.
Even if you're not a history buff and just want to know the truth behind the
This was ok, definitely some points of interest, but I probably would have gotten more out of the actual book than I did the audio. As others have noted, there is not much "flow" but rather a bit of hopping around. That added to the rather large number of names, of both people and place, that I had a hard time visualizing, left me a bit confused at times and replaying quite a few chapters. It seems well-researched, and the author well-informed, I'd just probably go the printed route if I had it ...more
Good book, I found the chapter on women interesting.
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Paul Anthony Cartledge is the 1st A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University, having previously held a personal chair in Greek History at Cambridge. He was educated at St Paul's School & New College, Oxford where he took his 1st degree & completed his doctoral thesis in Spartan archaeology in 1975 under Prof. Sir John Boardman. After a period at the University of War ...more
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