The title suggests a contentious review of Sparta. The author shows how Sparta turned a commanding position, built through 200 years of warfare,in the space of only 40 years, into a second-rate power. The review and conclusions are well argued and very effectively supported by illustration in the form of maps, charts, and photographs. An interesting and informative read that will be enjoyed by many.
NAME: Sparta Unfit for Empire
AUTHOR: Godfrey Hutchinson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Sparta, city states, Ancient Greece, Peloponnesian War, Thebes, Korinth, Pelopidas, Epaminondas, Mediterranean, tactics, politics, topography
DESCRIPTION: The title suggests a contentious review of Sparta. The author shows how Sparta turned a commanding position, built through 200 years of warfare,in the space of only 40 years, into a second-rate power. The review and conclusions are well argued and very effectively supported by illustration in the form of maps, charts, and photographs. An interesting and informative read that will be enjoyed by many.
Our understanding of the ancient world is hampered by the lack of recorded history and an almost total lack of any written material that has not been produced by the victors of battles and wars. Some exciting new information emerges from time to time and there is also a steady expansion of our knowledge from archaeology.
Sparta is a particularly interesting subject because much has been written of the 200 years of military supremacy but significantly less about the period before the rise to prominence and the period of rapid decline afterwards. The author makes a compelling case for the proposition declared in the title and it is an entertaining book that presents a case in a flowing narrative. There will be those who will not accept the conclusions because they are firmly captive to the established wisdom of past work and there are always the opportunities to interpret source information differently.
One of our difficulties in understanding ancient history is in our perception of how far back it stretches and how many forms of civilization have occurred before. Until very recently, the general perception was that man went back little further than a few thousand years. We have now moved to a situation where each year brings new discovers that show species, identifiable as human, go back millions of years. We also now know that there were many large cities on the coast of India that were inundated 10,000 years ago. These cities would have been many hundreds of years in development and could have followed on from much earlier civilizations. The analysis of ruins in South and Central America shows advanced urban civilizations that managed to develop and achieve considerable success before they were lost, but never moved beyond stone tools, or never developed a written language. All of these discoveries require much additional research, will undoubtedly be followed by yet more provoking discoveries, and challenge our perceptions of what constitutes civilization and how that age has grown and prospered and failed.
Sparta was a city state that developed from agriculture in a somewhat barren terrain. It was one of many city states that had sprung up around the Mediterranean in that age and in earlier ages. It was remarkable because of the power of its armies and that military dominance has largely coloured our perceptions of Sparta. This new examination of how Sparta decayed produces a very refreshing and challenging set of propositions that add greatly to our appreciation and understanding.