This cultural history of Ancient Sparta chronicles the rise of its legendary military power and offers revealing insight into the people behind the myths.
The Spartans of ancient Greece are typically portrayed as macho heroes: noble, laconic, totally fearless, and impervious to pain. And indeed, they often lived up to this image. But life was not as simple as this image suggests. In truth, ancient Sparta was a city of contrasts.
We might admire their physical toughness, but Spartans also systematically abused their children. They gave rights to female citizens that were unmatched in Europe until the modern era, meanwhile subjecting their conquered subject peoples to a murderous reign of terror. Though idealized by the Athenian contemporaries of Socrates, Sparta was almost devoid of intellectual achievement.
In this revealing history of Spartan society, Philip Matyszak chronicles the rise of the city from a Peloponnesian village to the military superpower of Greece. Above all, Matyszak investigates the role of the Spartan hoplite, the archetypal Greek warrior who was feared throughout Greece in his own day and has since become a legend. The reader is shown the man behind the myth; who he was, who he thought he was, and the environment which produced him.