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Spartan History Podcast

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Presenting a chronological history of the ancient Spartan peoples. Beginning with their earliest mentions in the epics of Homer, the Iliad and Odyssey, right through to the collapse of Spartan dominance in the 4th century BCE.




Presenting a chronological history of the ancient Spartan peoples. Beginning with their earliest mentions in the epics of Homer, the Iliad and Odyssey, right through to the collapse of Spartan dominance in the 4th century BCE.



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039. Salamis with Professor Barry Strauss

The battle of Salamis was the defining naval conflict of the ancient Greek world. Occurring in the wake of the Greek defeat at Thermopylae, the allied Hellenic fleet lined up in the narrow strait between mainland Attica and the nearby island of Salamis. Opposing them was the might of Persia's seabound forces. Although whittled down somewhat via storms, attrition and conflict, the Mede still outnumbered their opponents by a ratio of around 4 to 1. Joining me to discuss the conflict is Cornell University Professor and esteemed author, Professor Barry Strauss. Released in 2006, his work titled the Battle of Salamis was in the Professor's own words his 'love letter to Athens.' And it is to the Athenians that the lion's share of glory belongs to in this episode. Although nominally under Spartan command, the backbone of the fleet was made up by Athenian citizens who, under the guidance of the visionary Themistocles, built a navy capable of withstanding the will of an eastern potentate. I hope you enjoy our discussion and, take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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038. Thermopylae with Professor Paul Cartledge

Thermopylae. The title is synonymous with a bygone age of glory, bravery and defiance. It is an event entirely pivotal to the Spartan story and indeed, of this podcast as well. The events at the hot gates were one of the few natural places a chronological history of the Spartans would assuredly cover. It would be fair to say I dragged it out for as long as possible, well we are here now. I'm joined by Professor Paul Cartledge who is without a doubt the greatest living expert on Sparta, there could be no one more fitting to discuss this topic with. With his customary eloquence, breathtaking knowledge and passion for Laconia he takes us through those 3 fateful days that saw Leonidas and his brave 300 write their Polis' legend into the annals of history. There were of course others who stood with the Spartans at the pass, but although mentioned, this isn't the podcast for their story. With the Professors help we zero in on the facts and the myth making that has made Thermopylae one of the most recognizable events of all those that have come down to us. I hope you all enjoy, and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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037. The Interbellum

In the third installment of my Greco-Persian war series we take a look at the Interbellum. The years between Marathon and Thermopylae. A pivotal decade for both Greek and Persian alike. Alliances were an incredibly shaky proposition in ancient Greece but they would need something rock solid if they were to resist the coming enemy. We look at the Athenian naval build up during the period, the result of the visionary called Themistocles. Fortunately for the allies, Sparta had at her command the Peloponnesian League but the city of Lycurgus had two very new kings, with unstable thrones, in power at the time. They missed Marathon, Greece could not afford for them to miss what came next. Lastly, we'll head east and go into the detail around the build up of Xerxes' forces in Persia. He assembled a mighty army and navy, and the steps he took to get them to Greece were nothing short of astounding. I hope you all enjoy, and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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036. Marathon with Dr Owen Rees

Second up for my Greco-Persian war series is the Battle of Marathon, fought in 490 BCE. The first time in living and recorded memory that a foreign invader attempted such a thing in Greece. Joining me to discuss the events is author and historian, Dr Owen Rees. Owen specialises in warfare in the ancient world and has a penchant for dissecting the psychological effects it had on the ancient psyche. I bring that specialisation to bear in concerning the aftermath of the battle, moreover Owen walks us through the build up to the conflict, the peculiarities of Athenian general Miltiades and gives a gripping retelling of the battle itself. For anyone interested in getting in touch with Owen, his links will be below. Aside from that, I hope you all enjoy and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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035. Greco-Persian wars: A Tale of Two Tyrants

EPISODE 35 A TALE OF TWO TYRANTS The Greco-Persian wars were a series of truly tectonic engagements fought during the first half of the 5th century BCE. On one side was a lose coalition of free Greek cities versus the autocratic behemoth that was the Persian empire. A real David and Goliath style conflict, with this episode I'll be kicking off a series on the conflicts to describe the period in as much detail as possible. First up I take a look at the genesis behind the wars themselves, that is the Ionian revolt. Aristagoras of Miletus is often credited with stirring up a sense of nationalism amongst the cities of the Ionian coast, in western Turkey. From there his actions set the Greek world down a path to the serious engagements that would follow, Marathon, Thermopylae, Plataea and Salamis. However, Aristagoras' position as tyrant was underpinned by his father-in-law, Histiaeus, the real tyrant of Miletus. The story of the Ionian revolt is just as much about the former man as it is about the latter. We'll look deeper into both these tyrants stories and drill into the events surrounding the Ionian revolt. Hope you all enjoy and take care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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034. The History of Persia with Trevor Culley

EPISODE 34 THE HISTORY OF PERSIA WITH TREVOR CULLEY The Persian empire constituted the greatest threat to Greek independence the individual city-states had yet faced. Indeed, it was a threat of such dire concern that its degree wasn't equalled until the Roman conquest of Greece in the 2nd century BCE. As we are now embarking upon a series of episodes to tell the story of the Greco-Persian wars, it is only fitting that we take the time to introduce this eastern antagonist into our narrative. The History of Persia Podcast is hosted by podcaster, Trevor Culley. In common with my own show, Trevor is a real detail orientated individual who knows how to sweat the small stuff to add the richness necessary to any broad retelling of history. We are lucky enough to have his services in this interview episode to bring the Persian story up to the dawn of the 5th century, and the out break of hostilities between the Greeks and Persians. I hope you all enjoy the chat and take care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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033. Cleomenean Sparta

EPISODE 33 CLEOMENEAN SPARTA Cleomenes the first sat upon the Agiad throne of Sparta from around 520 to 490 BCE. Although his downfall just preceded the advent of the Greco-Persian wars, his reign was nonetheless pivotal to ultimate Greek victory in those conflicts. Despite the various levels of government in Sparta designed to curtail individual regel authority, Cleomenes practically dictated Spartan policy for the entirety of his rule. Through sheer dynamism, ruthlessness and often varying degrees of impiety his story is more or less the story of Sparta at the end of 6th and beginning of the 5th centuries. He had his enemies within the city, namely his co-king Demaratus who headed up the anti-Cleomenean party. He also had his enemies without. Regardless of these, and also his many unsuccessful endeavours, Cleomenes ruled with an iron fist and brooked little to no dissent. His life is a compelling tale that had everything from claims of illegitimacy, episodes of betrayal, sacrilegious intentions, and all the while the spectre of the Achaemenid Persian empire and possible Hellenic subservience loomed in the background. His end was sticky, and fittingly rife with controversy. However, he left Sparta and more broadly Greece, in a position to not only take on the most deadly threat Hellenic civilisation had yet seen, but also to win glory in the face of it. I hope you all enjoy and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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032. Sparta : Embassies and Enemies

EPISODE 32 EMBASSIES AND ENEMIES By the middle of the 6th century, Sparta was, through her alliances, the most powerful military force Hellas had yet seen. There was just one thorn in their side, one pressing issue that hadn't been sufficiently resolved, Argos. This time around I'll take an expansive look at the Argive history and break down the enmity between the two cities. Predictably, and it should come as no surprise, it will take war to settle the disputes. Such power and prestige as they could now muster, the Spartans were being noticed on the world stage. King Croesus of Lydia to the west is desperate for aid against the encroaching Persians. He turns to Sparta, as the most powerful of the Greeks. We'll pick apart the story of Croesus and how it relates to Sparta. Lastly the focus will be turned to the little known Spartan invasion of Samos in 525 BCE to oust the tyrant Polycrates. Using modern historical analysis, and the ancient source material, I hope to portray the implications of such an undertaking and the possibility of long standing Xenia relationships between Spartan and Samian families. I hope you all enjoy and take care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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031. A League of their own

EPISODE 31 A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN Likely by around 550 BCE, Sparta had the most powerful military in ancient Greece. They used that to their favour and created a coalition of Peloponnesian cities all bound to Sparta through unequal treaties of relative, mutual alliance. Called the, Lakedaimonians and their allies by ancient authors we know this union as the, Peloponnesian League. In the episode I get right into the nuts and bolts of how the early league formed and introduce a little of the background information for the individual polis as we go along. Sparta used the 6th century to, whether by plan or providence, develop the Peloponnese into a fortress. It was also a prison. One of the primary reason's for the league's creation was to ensure the Helot population was surrounded by states completely antithetical to their cause. The end result saw Sparta Hegemon over the largest army Greece had seen since the mythical Trojan war. Leaving them prepared for an even bigger army, that of Xerxes at Plataea in 479 BCE. The land-based victory of the Greeks was a direct result of Spartan activities during the 6th century with the league being pivotal. Hope you all enjoy, welcome back and take care. If you're looking for other great history podcast's, checkout Feedspot's top 25 below. There's some awesome shows on the list. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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030. A Summary of Lycurgan Sparta with Professor Paul Cartledge

EPISODE 30 A SUMMARY OF LYCURGAN SPARTA WITH PROFESSOR PAUL CARTLEDGE Over the past half a century no one has done more to forward the field of ancient Spartan research than Professor Paul Cartledge. His gravitas and authority on the topic are second to none and his eloquence in describing these ancient warriors is more akin to poetry than prose. His presence on the Spartan History Podcast is most fitting, in that without his extensive body of work, the show would in all likelihood not exist. This is the final episode on the topic of archaic, or more specifically Lycurgan, Sparta . Having previously described the different facets of Spartan societal, political and religious reforms I invited the Professor on to bring's his considerable knowledge to bear in a succinct summary of the time frame. The conversation at certain points got extremely academic and specific in it's approach to the task of summary, just the way I like it. It added immense value to my understanding of this confusing era and I trust it adds value to your own. Enjoy, and as always, take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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029. Castes of Sparta

EPISODE 29 CASTES OF SPARTA This time around I take a look at the various castes and sub-castes within Spartan society. What we see in popular culture is but the tip of the iceberg, those mighty red cloaked warriors bestriding battlefields like giants from myth. Banned from any art other than that of war, the Spartiate ruler class was supported in their endeavours by a silent multitude of people, divided into several different classes and all denied the full rights of equal political enfranchisement. The Helot's, or slave class, were a massive chunk of the population within Sparta's empire of whom we here scant about. Stories of their poor treatment and the horror of their particular servitude circulate but as we'll see do not necessarily tell the full story. The Perioikoi, or dwellers around, also form an extremely important element of society. They were the Spartans blacksmiths, artisans but when the drums of war sounded lined up as Hoplites as well. We'll take a look at the dynamics between the different strata and finish with a look at some of the other, less well known sub-castes. Hope you all enjoy and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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028. The Bronze Lie with Myke Cole

EPISODE 28 THE BRONZE LIE WITH MYKE COLE I had the honour, pride and privilege of sitting down with author Myke Cole for this instalment of the Spartan History Podcast. His recently released book, the Bronze Lie: Shattering the myth of Spartan warrior supremacy, tackles the often ill conceived appropriation of the Lacedaemonian story in it's most mythical and fantastical form. Often being used to promote ultra nationalist movements, fallacies surrounding the Spartan legend can be particularly pernicious in the current polarised political climate. Myke crystallises the Spartan mirage into an easy to understand concept and then proceeds to dismantle it piece by piece, leaving his readers with a fair and unbiased representation of the real Spartan story. We discuss his premise in detail and go through the work in relatively broad strokes to outline his propositions. It was an invigorating and vibrant discussion that I thoroughly enjoyed and I trust you all do to. Links for Myke and his work are all listed below and I can't recommend the Bronze Lie enough for anyone looking to peer behind the glare of Sparta's mystique. The below handles and links are where you can find Myke and his work. Website - Book - Twitter - Facebook - Below is the link for Prof. Livingstone who was mentioned during the show and assisted Myke with his work in the role of friend and mentor. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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027. Heavy Metal Spartans with Dr Jeremy Swist

EPISODE 27 HEAVY METAL SPARTANS WITH DR JEREMY SWIST We're shifting gears a little with this episode as I'm joined by Dr Jeremy Swist, lecturer and classicist at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Dr Swist is an expert in the field of classical reception within the genre of Heavy Metal Music. This style exhibits a very particular type of Laconophilia or, affection for Sparta. In our discussion we go back to the beginnings of Laconophilia and trace its transcendence through time to the current era. Classical reception itself is a fascinating field and we take a look at its traditions and various facets along with the burgeoning study of it within fields a little more eclectic. The concepts of duty, defiance and dedication are ones easily associated with Sparta and in turn, lend themselves to Heavy Metal which was born out of governmental tyrannies, real and perceived of the early 1970s. This episode was the most fun I've ever had on the show since its inception and I wholeheartedly thank Dr Swist for his time and expertise. So, put your index and pinky finger up proudly and enjoy the latest from Spartan History Podcast. The below link is for Dr Swists playlist of Spartan inspired Metal, aptly named the Spartan Metal Mirage. Dr Swist can be found on twitter @metalclassicist and his blog link is the following Anyone interested in the 2021 Symposium being hosted by Classical Wisdom can find tickets here, The event runs on August the 21st and the 22nd with an amazing line up of speakers including, Paul Cartledge, Edith Hall and many, many more. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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026. The Spartan Regime with Professor Paul Rahe

EPISODE 26: THE SPARTAN REGIME WITH PROFESSOR PAUL RAHE Author, classicist and historian Professor Paul Rahe was kind enough to sit down with your host for this instalment of Spartan History Podcast. Paul has authored several books on the Lacedaemonians and his work, the Spartan Regime, is incredibly poignant to our current narrative. Focusing on the archaic formation of the Spartan institutions and character, it has been a great help to me as I've tried to reconstruct the various elements of what would constitute the classical Sparta so heavily romanticised. The Professor takes us back to the bronze age briefly, and we work through the consequent dark age and into the early period of the Dorian migration into Laconia. It is, I hope, a great summarisation of our journey so far and hope you all enjoy the conversation as much as I did. I'm very grateful for Paul's time and if anyone is interested in his work links will be listed below for the E titles of his books. Take good care. The Spartan Regime CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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025. Spartiates

EPISODE 25: SPARTIATES Welcome back folks to the Spartan History Podcast. Stepping back into the solo format to once again put another facet of pre-classical Sparta under the microscope. This time it is the ruling class, the Homoioi or Spartiates as they referred to themselves. This section of society, dedicated entirely to the pursuit of warfare, were propped up by the helot class who managed their vast land holdings. There was a complex system of land tenure within Sparta which was designed to provide for each the cost of his citizenship, that is the monthly contribution of produce to the dining halls every Spartiate was obliged to dine at. We'll break down the system of land ownership and how it relates to the mess halls. Along with this I'll describe in brief the marital practices within the upper echelons of the Spartan world. Famed for their equality, we'll finish this episode by looking at the massive differences between the individual Homoioi and see why that word is better translated as 'similars,' rather than 'equals.' I hope you all enjoy and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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024. Collaboration episode: featuring Casting Through Ancient Greece, Part 2.

EPISODE 24: PART 2 OF A COLABRORATION WITH CASTING THROUGH ANCIENT GREECE PODCAST. For something a little different this month's release is part 2 of a collaboration podcast I was fortunate enough to record with Mark from Casting Through Ancient Greece. For those who haven't listened to part 1, you can find it at the following link, or at any of the various hosting services out there. Mark's show is an exceedingly well researched program, taking a broad overview of ancient Greek history coupled with high resolution looks at all of the popular and pivotal moments therein. For part 1 of our collaboration we discuss our entries and influences into the ancient world in a conversational format. Mark rounds out that section with a discussion about the Athenian democracy's formation. In this, part 2, I start off discussing the possible veracity of the Lycurgus myth and we finish with an analysis of Spartan and Athenian contributions to the Greeks ultimate victory in the Persian wars. I hope you all enjoy, and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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023. Hoplites and the Spartan War Machine

EPISODE 23 : HOPLITES AND THE SPARTAN WAR MACHINE This time around folks it is my great honour to have Professor Paul Bardunias as my guest on the show. Paul is a co-author of the book 'Hoplites at War: A comprehensive analysis of heavy infantry combat in the Greek world - 750 to 100 BCE. Fittingly we discuss just that, developing the concept of Hoplite warfare in Greece from its advent in the mid-8th century through to the eve of the Persian wars. Paul takes us through his 3 fundamentals of war during this time period: the men, the tools and the group. Painting a detailed picture of hoplite traditions, arms, armour and tactics for both the non-Spartan and Spartan warriors during the period. We finish with a mock battle between Spartans and Argive troops to get a feel for two armies at war on the plains of the Peloponnese. I hope you all enjoy, and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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022. Raising Spartans

Hello again dear listeners, this month we're back with episode 22, Raising Spartans. The treatment of Spartan children by their society has often been sensationalised by modern depiction, but these conceptions started in the ancient world where the Sparta of peoples imaginations, the mirage, was the predominant view point. This episode takes an in depth look at how children of both sexes were raised in Sparta's state sponsored and compulsory education system. From the cradle these children were set apart from those of other city-states, raised to become the most fierce warriors and the most capable mother's of warriors the ancient Greek world knew. I'll set their upbringing not only against that of their Athenian rivals but also take a look at the prevailing external views of the time to see what other Greeks made of this unique civilisation that took root along the banks of the Eurotas river. A warning of sorts, this episode deals with topics that may be unsavoury to people, pederasty, misogyny and child abuse are all covered with little regard for sensibilities. History must be viewed warts and all lest we commit the same mistakes as the ancients. I hope you all enjoy what is one of my favourite episodes to date. Take good care. *No article this week but I have updated some photos on the website. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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021. Governing Spartans

EPISODE 21 GOVERNING SPARTANS Welcome back folks and to the first of what will be a series of episodes designed to explain the different facets of the Spartan world in the lead up to the Greco-Persian wars. This time its the governmental structures of Sparta that we'll be focusing on to see the various bodies responsible for Spartan law-making in action. It's popularly believed that Sparta was an oligarchic state, and to be fair by the time Xenophon and Aristotle penned their constitutions of the Lacedaemonians the city had indeed become one. However, the secret to its stability and success in the 6th and 7th centuries was the result of a stable government that embraced elements of Monarchic, Aristocratic and Democratic rule. They had their kings, descended from Heracles whom were bound by Apollo's word to a council of elders. This council forwarded proposals to a sovereign citizen assembly for ratification. Fulfilling the executive function of government was an annually elected board of 5 Ephors whose members came from the Demos. This system was designed to give everyone their fair share of rule, to check any one element from growing to preponderant. I'll break down the cities god given constitution and various organs of state to hopefully build a picture how they operated together, and sometimes against one another. I hope you all enjoy, and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE


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020. The Spartan Yoke

EPISODE 20 THE SPARTAN YOKE Happy new year folks, welcome back to the Spartan History Podcast, the only podcast called the Spartan History Podcast. We're turning 20 with the release of this episode and I couldn't be more pleased to be back behind the microphone. I hope you all had a safe holiday season. This time we're taking the Spartan story into the 7th century as the city consolidates her hold on the recently acquired Messenian territories. First though, we look at the post war settlement within city and see if the aggressive land grab, that was the first Messenian war, satisfied the citizenries desire for land and enfranchisement. Successful wars brought great wealth to the victors, the Spartan's tithed some of that wealth in honour of the gods with the construction of two important temples. These sacred places were to be a fixture within the city for centuries to come. The freshly indentured Messenian Helot's, of proud and mighty stock in their own right, weren't sitting idle beneath the yoke of their masters. Quietly biding their time for insurrection, a crushing defeat of the Spartans by the men of Argives provides just enough impetus for the push to freedom. The subsequent uprising, known as the 2nd Messenian war, would be a fight to the death with the winner taking all. The famous archaic Spartan poet, Tyrtaeus was contemporary with the conflict and his works are largely believed to have helped turn the tide in Sparta's favour. We finish with a look at what remains of his corpus. I hope you all enjoy, and take good care. CONTRIBUTE HERE FIND ME HERE