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.The most highly recommended sources are marked with an *  By far the best book on ancient Sparta I have ever read is the last in this list, Das Andere Sparta by Conrad Stibbe.

  • Baltrusch, Ernst. Sparta: Geschichte, Gesellschaft, Kultur. C.H. Beck Verlag, 1998.
  • *Blundell, Sue. Women in Ancient Greece. British Museum Press, London, 1995.
  • Bradford, Alfred. Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom. Praeger, 2011.
  • Chrimes, K.M.T..  Ancient Sparta: A Re-Examination of the Evidence. Manchester University Press, 1949.
  • Cartledge, Paul.  Sparta and Lakonia.  Routledge and Kegan Paul, 2nd ed., 2002.
  • Dettenhofer, Maria, editor. Reine Männersache? Frauen in Männerdomänen der antiken Welt.  Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994
  • Fields, Nic. Thermopylae 480 BC: Last Stand of the 300. Osprey, 2007.
  • *Forrest, W.G.. A History of Sparta: 950-192 BC..  W.W. Norton & Co., 1968.
  • Hodkinson, Stephen. Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta. Duckworth and the Classical Press of Wales, 2000.
  • --- and Anton Powell, editors. Sparta: New Perspectives. The Classical Press of Wales, 2000.
  • Hughes, Bettany. Helen of Troy: The Story Behind the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.  Vintage Books, 2005.
  • .Jones, A.H.M.. Sparta. Barnes and Noble, 1993.
  • *Kennell, Nigel M.. The Gymnasium of Virtue: Education and Culture in Ancient Sparta. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1995.
  • ---. Spartans: A New History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • Krentz, Peter. The Battle of Marathon. Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Link, Stephan Der Kosmos Sparta, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1994.
  • Murray, Powyn. Early Greece. William Collins and Sons, 1980.
  • Pomeroy, Sarah B.. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Antiquity.  Schocken Books, 1975.
  • ---. Spartan Women. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  •  Powell, Anton. Athens and Sparta. Routledge, 1988.
  • *Sealey, Raphael. Women and Law in Classical Greece. University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  • **Stibbe, Conrad M.. Das Andere Sparta.  Philipp v. Zabern Verlag, 1996.

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. 

  • Pausanias. Guide to Greece, 2nd century AD.
  • Xenophon. Spartan Society, late 5th century BC.
  • Plutarch. On Sparta, 2nd century AD.
  • Herodotus. The Histories, mid 5th century BC.
  • Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, late 5th century BC.

All of the above historical sources are available from Penguin Books.

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.  

Recommended novels:

  • In Kithairon's Shadow: A Novel of Ancient Greece and the Persian War, Jon Martin, iUniverse, 2003.
  • Shades of Artemis: A Novel of Ancient Greece and the Spartan Brasidas, Jon Martin, Publish America, 2005.
  • The Headlong God of War: A Tale of Ancient Greece and the Battle of Marathon, Jon Martin, Publish America, 2007.
  • Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield, Doubleday, New York, 1998.
  • Tides of War, Steven Pressfield, Doubleday, New York, 2000.
  • Tod in Olympia, Robert Gordian, Rowohlt, Munich, 2000.
  • The Walled Orchard, Thomas Holt, Macmillan, London, 1990.
  • Die Söldner von Kyros, Otto Lendle, Primus Verlag, 1999.
  • The Olympian: A Tale of Ancient Hellas, E.S. Kraay (self published), Lexington, KY, 2008.

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

sparta reconsidered