Deconstructing Sparta

Module code: AH2702

Sparta is one of the most recognizable yet least understood cities of the ancient world. As one of the two most significant Greek city-states, Sparta plays a significant role in our conception and definition of what Greek history is; and yet, in reality very little is known about the city of Sparta. In both ancient and modern texts, Sparta is renowned more for its reputation than any historical or material reality.

This module will provide an overview of Spartan history and archaeology, and will critically examine the mythological, literary, and archaeological reconstruction of the city-state from the Archaic through to the late Roman periods. It will examine the place of Sparta in both the ancient and modern imagination, and emphasise Sparta’s capacity to constantly re-invent itself, by deconstructing how Spartan society was organised. It will consider everything from the soldiers, to the Spartan women that enjoyed greater freedoms than that of other Greek women, to the Helots (fellow Greeks who were captured by the Spartans and enslaved) who handled all the daily tasks, which were essential for keeping Spartan society running.

This module is delivered through a series of pre-recorded lectures, optional live sessions, guided readings and self-assessment exercises, so you can track your own progress as you wrestle with the complexities of Spartan society. Assessment for this module includes a virtual exhibition, where you construct your own museum gallery of objects related to Sparta, and a research essay.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • Sources for Spartan history
  • The Spartan Mirage
  • Spartan kingship
  • Women and gender
  • Landscapes in Laconia and Messenia
  • Spartan religion
  • Sparta and its neighbours
  • The reception of Sparta
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