Even Greeks – in later times – saw Athens as ‘the
Hellas of Hellas’, the moral standard-bearer of Greek civilisation.
But in the classical period many Athenians thought otherwise: Athens
might be a school of Hellas, but the school of Hellas was Sparta.
Spartan soldiers dominated the Greek mainland and beyond, and in
404 bc Sparta enforced the total military surrender of Athens. The
cause of this supremacy was seen as the uniquely harmonious subordination
of Sparta’s citizens to their city’s interest.
This book explores
Athenians’ thinking about Sparta’s military and moral ascendancy.
In nine new studies from a distinguished international cast, the
works of Athenian politicians, writers and artists are examined so
as to reveal mentalities in the wider city which, at the extreme,
might cause Athenians to revere Sparta even as they fought her. Such
respect culminated not only in Plato’s literary creation of fantasy
cities (in the Republic and Laws) which imitated Spartan methods,
but even in a short-lived claim by ruling Athenian politicians
that Athens, after its military surrender, was to be remodelled
a New Sparta.