Historians are by profession compelled to keep “strictly to the facts,” but when facts are few, imprecise, contradictory, and all come from outsiders, then the picture they deliver is incomplete at best and misleading at worst. Trying to understand Sparta based on the historical record only is like trying to understand Africa based on the colonial records. Furthermore, historians are often so focused on the fragments of evidence they do have, that they forget they are writing about human beings remarkably similar to ourselves. This is the reason a novel, based on solid research and a sound understanding of human nature, can often deliver better insight into strange or distant societies than a strict account of known but fragmentary facts. The following novels are well researched attempts to bring Sparta back to life and improve our understanding of a complex and distant society.
I too have written six novels about ancient Sparta. In each of these I have combined research with common sense and an appreciation for the essential humanity of the Spartans themselves. See NOVELS
Historical Fiction on Ancient Sparta
Modern Histories of Sparta and Ancient Greece
Modern understanding of Sparta has been altered and enriched by careful analysis of archaeological evidence and by trends, such as women's studies, that cast new light on this intriguing ancient society. Below are the sources I found most enlightening and helpful in understanding Spartan society in order of preference.
Ancient Historical Sources
A number of works by ancient historians are readily available to us today in translation. For anyone with a serious interest in ancient history, these works are a "must." However, keep in mind that all these works were written during or after the Peloponnesian War, and all by outside observers of Sparta. Not a single ancient account of Spartan society from the Spartan perspective survives.
All of the above historical sources are available from Penguin Books.