Sparta in Literature Criticism: Overviews - Essay

Elizabeth Rawson (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Rawson, Elizabeth. Introduction to The Spartan Tradition in European Thought, pp. 1-11. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1969.

[In the following essay, Rawson describes the political and social system of classical Sparta after surveying modern impressions of the ancient Greek city-state.]

Ancient Sparta: a militaristic and totalitarian state, holding down an enslaved population, the helots, by terror and violence, educating its young by a system incorporating all the worst features of the traditional English public school, and deliberately turning its back on the intellectual and artistic life of the rest of Greece. Such, at least, is the picture, if...

(The entire section is 4201 words.)

Michael Whitby (essay date 2002)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Whitby, Michael. Introduction to Sparta, edited by Michael Whitby, pp. 1-17. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2002.

[In the following excerpt, Whitby encapsulates the geographical and historical contexts of ancient Sparta and surveys the primary sources of ancient and contemporary scholarship on the subject.]


‘Mountains and sea’ is a traditional opening to discussions of Greek history and its geographical background,1 and can provide an introduction to the distinctiveness of Sparta. The four villages of Pitana, Mesoa, Limnae and Cynosoura, which, together with nearby...

(The entire section is 7827 words.)