I have an article coming out in this month’s Ancient Warfare Magazine, click here for the introductory paragraph, in which I talk about why I think religion stopped Sparta from fighting in the Persian invasions in the 5th Century B.C.E.
In it I briefly mention a very famous expression to anyone interested in Sparta, the ‘Spartan Mirage’ (first coined by Francois Ollier as ‘le mirage spartiate’). For a good brief explanation of what the Mirage is then have a look at the e-seminar by the eminent Spartan historian Paul Cartledge here. The Spartan Mirage has been the bane of Spartan Historians work for the good part of the 20th and 21st Century; however, scholarship headed by the two powerhouses of Spartan History, Prof. Paul Cartledge and Prof. Stephen Hodkinson, has worked wonders in exposing the real Sparta on which this mirage has been covering up.
Of these two, Cartledge is the most common name you will find in a bookshop under the Sparta section due to his numerous introductory books, which are second to none! Hodkinson’s work is not aimed at the popular market, but undoubtedly is held in the highest esteem academically; I have even heard one professor proclaim one of his books was the best historical work to be produced in the past 40 years. What these two scholars have achieved, along with many others, is to begin to break through the overlaying myth of Sparta and expose the real lives that were once there.
As the new generation of Spartan historian, I consider my role/our role is to not only continue this trend but to expand it even further. The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is through committed comparative study. So if anyone who reads this has any ideas for a comparative study to elucidate or confuse our understanding of Sparta, get in touch, as I would love to hear from you.