Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom

Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom

Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom

Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom


This pivotal history of the kings of Sparta not only describes their critical leadership in war, but also documents the waxing and waning of their social, political, and religious powers in the Spartan state.

• Numerous translations by the author of original sources

• Chronology history from the Dorian Invasion (ca. 1000 BC) to the last king of Sparta (mid-2nd century BC)

• Illustrations of the kings of Sparta, gods, and heroes, as well as diagrams of battles and family trees

• Maps of Laconia, the Peloponnesus, and Greece

• A bibliography containing ancient and modern sources for Sparta


The little town of Sparta (population today some 25,000 people) was chosen as the location for the world premiere of the movie 300. In the movie, Leonidas, the king of Sparta, is the lone hero who inspires the Spartans—and other Greeks—to fight the Persian invaders. The movie was so popular that it influenced Greek public opinion about the American war in Iraq—“Once,” Greeks said, “we were the men who defended the West against the East. Once we had heroes like Leonidas.” In fact, in this regard, the movie had it right. Leonidas was, indeed, the driving force behind Greek resistance, he did lead his elite guard of three hundred to Thermopylae, and he did decide to stay there and die for the good of Sparta and Greece.

Leonidas (“Son of a Lion”) and his fellow king Leotychidas (“Luck of a Lion”)—Sparta had two kings and two royal families—were the commandersin-chief of all Greek forces fighting the Persians on land and sea. The Spartan kings were the only commanders acceptable to all the Greek allies, both because no other Greek state was as powerful as Sparta, but also because no other Greek leader had the prestige of a Spartan king.

They were the aristocrats of the aristocrats: members of Sparta’s two greatest families, the Agiads and the Eurypontids, who were believed to be the descendants of the most powerful, most famous, and most revered of all Greek heroes, Heracles, the son of Zeus. And, of course, they were descendants of Zeus, too, and thus they were related to his other sons, Castor and Pollux, the twins. The twins, one mortal, one divine, as the Spartans believed, watched over the kings and guided and protected them on the battlefield: the twins’ symbols—two caps and two stars—became the symbols of the two kings, and the kings were believed to be closer to the gods than were any other living mortals. To oppose the kings’ lawful commands was sacrilege.

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