Sparta

Front Cover
Michael Whitby
Routledge, 2002 - 275 pages
This volume introduces the reader to every important aspect of the society of Sparta, the dominant power in southern Greece from the seventh century B.C. and the great rival of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries. Michael Whitby presents essays on key aspects of Spartan history and society, by some of the leading classicists in the world, such as Paul Cartledge, Anton Powell, and Stephen Hodkinson.

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Sparta was compiled by Michael Whitby as a reader for college students. It follows the familiar academic pattern of a brief topic introduction followed by relevant essays.
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Who should NOT consider
reading this book?
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Readers of "popular" histories are likely to find this material dry. Indeed "Sparta" doesn't even have a cohesive narrative story.
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The book will also likely not satisfy readers looking for THE ANSWER to any particular question. The approach is academic, which means that frequently you'll be presented with contradictory evidence, various researchers' opinions, and then the current author's attempt to adjudicating the "facts". The reader can expect a lot of conversation about uncertainty, with discussions of why this or that authoritative source bears listening to. Arguments will be along the lines of: XXX says this about how Herodotus may have misunderstood or misrepresented the term YYY. With a discussion following of how this affects the interpretation of the inheritance laws, or some such similar topic.
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Who should consider reading this book?
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This book should appeal to people who have an interest in one of the selected topics (see Table of Contents). The reader who will be best served by the book will have a broad (but not necessarily in-depth) background in ancient Greek history, politics and literary sources. Which is not to say that you have to be an expert. I certainly am not a classicist and I enjoyed the articles.
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Considerations and Summary :::
If you are looking for an introduction to Sparta and things Grecian, continue on with your search. "Sparta" is not a book for novices. You don't need to know any ancient Greek, but you aren't going to get much from this volume unless you already have a basic grasp of Greek sources and history.
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In this book, the authors deal with problems of evidence. How to evaluate and weigh historical records. They adjudicate facts and address the problems inherent in historical evidence.
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A reader, once they engage the material, will certainly emerge not only better educated about Sparta, but in how a historian works and thinks. And overall, I would have no trouble recommending this book to others as long as they know that it's an academic tome.
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