The Shadow of Sparta

The Shadow of Sparta

The Shadow of Sparta

The Shadow of Sparta

Synopsis

In the past twenty years the study of Sparta has come of age. Images prevalent earlier in the 20th century, of Spartans as hearty good fellows or scarlet-cloaked automata, have been superseded by more complex scholarly reactions. As interest has grown in the self-images projected by this most secretive of Greek cities, increasing attention has focused on how individual Greek writers from other states reacted to information, or disinformation about Sparta.The studies in this volume provide new insights into the traditional historians' question, "What actually happened at Sparta?". But the implications of the work go far beyond Laconia. They concern preoccupations of some of the most studied of Greek writers, and help towards an understanding of how Athenians defined the achievment, or the failure, of their own city.

Excerpt

William Poole

While the Chorus of captive Trojan women are waiting to be allocated to their Greek masters, they speculate on where they might like to be sent. Athens, they think (Tr. 208 f.), is where they would most wish to go; failing that (214 f.), somewhere in Thessaly at the foot of Mount Olympus, where the Peneus flows, bringing prosperity and fruitfulness, as they have heard reported. They mention with approval two other places: Sicily, the land of Mount Aetna, opposite to Phoenicia; and the valley of the River Crathis, indicating Catania and Thurii as cities they might find it acceptable to go to. But not to Sparta, to the swirling streams of the Eurotas, the hated home of Helen, where as slaves they would come face to face with Menelaus, the sacker of Troy. Is this outburst against Sparta to be understood simply on a mythological plane, or is Euripides also making a hostile statement about the great contemporary adversary of Athens? Most people, I believe rightly, have taken the latter view. In this case the anachronistic references to cities in Magna Graecia seem to me to be decisive; but such questions are not always easy to answer convincingly.

The Troades was produced in March 415 BC, therefore written during a lull in hostilities between Athens and Sparta; but some ten years earlier a similar dilemma confronted the Chorus in the Hecuba (444 f.) This Chorus propose as possible destinations for themselves in the following order Doris (whose most important city is Sparta), Phthia, the islands (particularly Delos), and Athens; and they conclude with a general lament at the prospect of

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