Ancient Sparta Greece

 
 

               

   

Ancient Sparta in Greece

Ancient Sparta Greece

Ancient Sparta Greece

The courageous charge of 300 Spartan soldiers at Thermopylae was celebrated in the movie "300" -- but it has also been stirring people ever since it happened in 480 BC. King Leonidas ruled ancient Sparta at that time, and he was shown above with his soldiers in the early days of that battle.

Yet the story of Classical Greece was also the story of an ongoing struggle between Sparta and Athens over who would be the dominant force in Greece. Sparta was much in favor of military training and became an unrivaled land power. Athens was more inclined to the arts and became a dominant sea power.

Among the many twists and turns of the competition between these two cities was a revolt among the helots or serfs who chafed under Spartan rule. When Sparta called upon other Greek cities for support, several sent troops to give aid, including troops from Athens under their general Cimon. He was the leader of Athens in those days, and favored good relations with Sparta at a time when many other Athenians did not. But the Spartans were suspicious of the democracy-loving Athenians, and feared they might side with the rebels. So Cimon and his troops were rejected by Sparta and had to march home in disgrace. 

That was the final insult for the people of Athens, who then ostracized Cimon and banished him from their city. In his place a new leader was selected for Athens, and his name was Pericles.

Ancient Sparta Ruins

These are the ancient ruins of Sparta's theater district.

Sparta watched Pericles build a Golden Age at Athens, and itched for a chance to determine who was the true leader of all Greece. Their chance came in 431 BC when the Peloponnesian War broke out. Brilliantly chronicled by the historian Thucydides, the events of this war tell us much of what we know about Sparta and other Greek cities during the Classical Age.

For additional reading:

Plutarch On Sparta  (trans. Richard J.A. Talbert)  London: Penguin Books, 2005.

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This page updated on January 4, 2017.

Ancient Sparta Greece

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Ancient Sparta Greece

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