Sparta in Literature Criticism: The Spartan Myth - Essay

E. N. Tigerstedt (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Tigerstedt, E. N. “Lacedaemon: History, Myth, and Propaganda.” In Stockholm Studies in History of Literature 9: The Legend of Sparta in Classical Antiquity, Volume I, pp. 19-28. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1965.

[In the following essay, Tigerstedt considers why so much of Spartan history and culture is cloaked in myth and legend.]

The growth of a historical legend such as that of Sparta presupposes a nucleus around which it more or less gradually crystalized. Scholars, it is true, are often forced to resign themselves to the annoying fact that while they must assume the existence of such a nucleus they are unable to define it more precisely. Here we...

(The entire section is 9428 words.)

J. T. Hooker (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hooker, J. T. “The Idea of Sparta.” In The Ancient Spartans, pp. 230-40. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1980.

[In the following essay, Hooker focuses on the contributions of such antique writers as Thucydides, Plato, and Plutarch to the legend of classical, Lycurgan Sparta.]

… [The] idea or legend of ‘Lycurgan’ Sparta clearly emerged in Xenophon's Constitution of the Spartans. In that work, Xenophon distinguished the Lycurgan ideal (which had no shortcoming whatever) from the contemporary reality, caused by the intrusion of wealth and the habits and morals of barbarians. The contrast between real and ideal runs like a continuous thread...

(The entire section is 4869 words.)

Ephraim David (essay date 1982-83)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: David, Ephraim. “Aristotle and Sparta.” Ancient Society 13-14 (1982-83): 68-103.

[In the following excerpt, David endeavors to reconcile the inherent contradiction of Aristotle's combined critique and idealization of Sparta in his Politics.]


Aristotle's special interest in political research, inherited partly from his master, led him to analyse, compare and evaluate various forms of government, to locate their centres of power and the social forces behind them, and also to propose a model of an ideal State. However, his interest in the empirical research of politics and in constitutional...

(The entire section is 5441 words.)

Gerald Proietti (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Proietti, Gerald. Preface to Xenophon's Sparta: An Introduction, pp. ix-xxii. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1987.

[In the following excerpt from the preface to his study of Xenophon's Hellenica, Proietti explores the ancient writer's perceptions of Sparta.]

We have reason today to read Xenophon's writings on Sparta with care. The central concern of most international political discourse is the search for a stable condition of peace that will, above all, provide for the freedom of all nations. Both World Wars ended with all but unanimous declarations of this principle and the establishment of international organizations seeking to maintain it, but...

(The entire section is 3214 words.)