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

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,595 Ratings  ·  79 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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Nelson
Oct 11, 2011 Nelson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Trisha
Sep 16, 2010 Trisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kiwi
Apr 14, 2016 Kiwi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the author’s background and credentials I was expecting a more rigorous and formal approach. The mostly unstructured format of this book (with frequent digressions from the topic) makes the narrative fluid, like a lecture. On the other hand, it makes it harder, later on, to find relevant information, to use the book as reference and causes the author to repeat himself often.
The cameos sections on the biographies of important Spartan figures and in particularly the one on Cynisca (the first
...more
Abigail
Jan 20, 2014 Abigail rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt
Apr 15, 2016 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everybody loves to talk about the Spartans, but what do we actually know about them? Cartledge aims to show precisely what we know, and he does so as probably THE world-renowned expert on ancient Sparta. This book covers military, political, and social history from the mythic origins of Sparta to the Roman period. There is also a short history of the reception of Sparta in later literature and a neat little appendix on Spartan hunting (which seems to be an interest of the author given the title ...more
Maitrey
Dec 08, 2013 Maitrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
...more
Michael
Sep 03, 2009 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: history, audio-books
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
...more
Lisa
Jun 19, 2009 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Uncle Dave
Shelves: 2009, non-fic, history
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,
...more
Preston, Johnson
Jun 05, 2016 Preston, Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition



The Spartans by Paul Cartledge is a great source of knowledge and information pertaining to: The Spartans, their lifestyle, their history, and their demise. This book is complete with detailed diagrams of Spartan lineage, tools, and artwork. The Spartans also features full page maps and cites many ancient and historical works. Paul Cartledge takes the reader through a chronological journey where he takes you step by step through the life and struggles of the Spartan people. The only downside I f
...more
Evan
Jul 28, 2014 Evan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
John
Mar 17, 2008 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alexa Williams
This book is... confusingly organized. The author jumps around in chronology so often that I regularly had to reread passages just to figure out a proper sequence of events. It's as though he can't decide if he's writing a straightforward history or a cultural study. He also uses some extremely strange turns of phrase, most of which I'm pretty sure are just... grammatically incorrect?

Overall there is a lot of good information here and it's probably more useful if you're skimming through for spe
...more
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
...more
Aurelien
May 18, 2015 Aurelien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-greece
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
Raza Syed
May 02, 2015 Raza Syed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"This is SPARTA !!!"
Well researched and well written book. Gives us a macro and micro look at the Spartans. Most of us have very limited and mostly Hollywoodized knowledge of them. That information is sometimes completely wrong but often incomplete, misleading and at times confusing.
This book helped fill a lot of gaps in my understanding of Sparta ; The enigma.

If you are looking for a full analysis of Battle of Thermopylae, you will be disappointed. It refers to that battle at various parts int
...more
David Campton
Apr 11, 2015 David Campton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
On the basis of what I learned from this book I should have given this a 5 star rating. Despite my long term fascination with all things ancient Greek and especially Greek military history, most of what I knew about the Spartans was restricted to that semi-legendary period around the Persian Wars and particularly the Battle of Thermopylae. That's because most Greek history is read through the lens of the Athenian academy and the later Macedonians, neither of whom were on the best of terms with t ...more
Ensiform
Feb 05, 2012 Ensiform rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
R.a.
Jan 18, 2015 R.a. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
...more
Ben
Mar 11, 2010 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
...more
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
Louis
Jul 07, 2013 Louis rated it liked it  ·  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
...more
Josh
Aug 15, 2013 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steve
Aug 14, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2013 Mary Catelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Renee
Dec 02, 2010 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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.
Sally
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
Nisha
Feb 11, 2016 Nisha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feb-16
This was a pretty good book. It wasn't boring like some history books. It told me all about the Spartans, where they lived, and had individual biographies of some important people in Spartan history. I liked it.
Hyrum
Oct 30, 2013 Hyrum rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt
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.
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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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