CLASSICAL scholars are aware of the long and remarkable tale of the idealization: of Sparta in antiquity, and a good deal of work has been done on the subject. But when I attempted to carry on the story, in outline, down to the present day--for a lecture, and also for my own interest--I was surprised to find that almost no part of it had been explicitly treated. Furthermore, such recognition of Sparta's attractiveness in certain periods and contexts as I have found tends to be either so vague as to be useless (it means precisely nothing to say that 'So-and-so admired Sparta') or else actually exaggerated. I was left, therefore, to my own resources: and the subject, though often of minor importance, is a vast one. I am very much aware of my incompetence adequately to deal with the twenty-seven or so centuries involved, as of the frequent superficialities and probable inaccuracies of my rash attempt. But it seems to me that what is so fascinating is the whole tale in all its length and variety, and therefore that a first sketch was worth making and might encourage others to amend it.
The following chapters cover, I believe, the most important shifts and reversals of attitude towards Sparta in Western thought. I have given a good deal of space to eighteenth-century France, since it is here that Sparta's rôle is of some importance, and seems to have been generally misunderstood. I should have liked to be able to explore recent developments in Russia (although it seems that socialists there as elsewhere now prefer Athens to Sparta), and I suspect that Spain, Holland, Switzerland and Poland have more to offer for certain earlier periods than here appears. But the book is more than long enough, especially since I hope that some of the subject's attraction may be felt by readers without expert knowledge in any of the fields concerned. For this reason I have tried to avoid scholarly controversy, particularly in the first part of the book: the more willingly since E. N. Tigerstedt's first volume of his as yet uncompleted work The Legend of Spartain Classical Antiquity