Watched a cool PBS show last night on "The Spartans"


September 29, 2003, 12:20 PM

no "Molon Labe" mention though...

The Spartans
THE SPARTANS charts the rise and fall of one of the most intriguing and extreme civilizations of the ancient world. Classical historian Bettany Hughes reveals this secretive, surprising society of battle-hardened warriors, weak babies left exposed on hillsides to die and powerful, liberated women. The story unfolds against the spectacular mountain scenery of Sparta in the Peloponnese and the stunning landscape and archaeology of classical Greece. Unlike its more famous rival, Athens, Sparta can’t boast of philosophers, playwrights or politicians. It’s famous for its frugality and its fighters — reputed to be the best in the whole of ancient Greece. The three-hour THE SPARTANS airs on PBS Wednesday, August 6, 2003, (check local listings).
• Episode 1 — The first program explores the birth of the unique Spartan social system. Militaristic, communal and disciplined, the state enforces eugenics and euthanasia. Priests decide which babies should live and which should be left to die. Seven-year-old boys are forced to fend for themselves on the harsh mountainside. Policed by secret spies, the society is supported by a nation of slaves. Sparta can be seen as a premonition of modern-day totalitarianism, but Sparta is the first Greek city to define the rights of its citizens. And in the pass of Thermopylae, its warriors fight bravely to their deaths, living up to the boast of their city in a heroic last stand against the Persian invader.
• Episode 2 — The second episode explores the bitter rivalry between Sparta and Athens and their startlingly different views of women. They are two cities with opposite views of the “good life.” For Athens, Sparta is a frightening place that turns its children into fighting machines. Worse still are Sparta’s women: liberated, independent, opinionated, they take an active part in sport, race horses and chariots, celebrate nudity and wield power in the absence of their men. They are unique in the ancient world — and an affront to Athenian notions of femininity. When war between Sparta and Athens finally comes, it rages for decades and splits the Greek world — until on the island of Sphacteria, the reputation for fearlessness of Sparta’s famed warriors is shockingly undermined.
• Episode 3 — The war between Sparta and Athens reaches a brutal and bloody climax in Sicily. Sparta finally emerges as victorious. Now the most powerful city-state in Greece, Sparta is an imperial power. But under the fascinating, flawed King Agesilaus, the dreams of the Spartan utopia come crashing down. By setting out to create a perfect society protected by perfect warriors, Sparta makes an enemy of change. A collapsing birth rate, too few warriors, rebellious slaves and outdated attitudes to weaponry and warfare combine to sow the seeds of Sparta’s destruction, until eventually the once-great warrior state is reduced to a stop for Roman tourists who came to view bizarre sadomasochistic rituals. Yet even today, centuries later, the Spartan ideal continues to inspire, fascinate and influence.
A specialist in classical and ancient history, Bettany Hughes won a scholarship to read Ancient History at Oxford. She has written on a wide range of subjects, including Minoan Crete and the hidden history of London.
PLEDGE NOW to support exceptional series like "The Spartans"

If you enjoyed reading about "Watched a cool PBS show last night on "The Spartans"" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
September 29, 2003, 12:37 PM
I caught about 45 minutes of it last night (up to the part about the Thermopylae battle). I too stood there waiting for a "molon labe" reference, but got none. I turned the toob off and ate dinner.


September 29, 2003, 12:49 PM
Saw it. I found it very interesting.

How about the part about the most promising, up and coming teenage warrior candidates being armed with a knife and sent out to randomly murder the Mycenaean helots (slaves). Good way to terrorize your slaves and harden perspective warrors.

I once read someplace that a Spartan warrior was obliged to serve from the age of 16 to 60. At 60 most Americans are lucky they can bend over and tie their shows, which is much less than fighting for hours with a 20 lb. shield and eight foot spear, and other weapons and armor.

September 29, 2003, 12:58 PM
in "The Gates Of Fire" there is a fair amount about the hit squads

in the Discovery Channel show on the Spartans they noted
that the Night squads specifically targeted Helots that voiced dissent

4v50 Gary
September 29, 2003, 07:29 PM
Did the show mention what Sparta did to the helots? Sparta was in trouble and needed more men. The told the helots that if they would fight for Sparta, they would free them. They then took the helots who stepped forward and killed them. The internal threat always frightened them and it wasn't until the Thebans freed them that Sparta really lost her vitality (that and the Battle of Leutra).

Vasilia Zhietzev
September 29, 2003, 07:55 PM
The Spartans were one of my favorite subjects in history. PBS puts out an interesting show - if you like to read, try an older author from the 1950's, Mary Renault. She wrote some historic fiction which brought Sparta to life for me. One title that is a worthy read is "The Last of the Wine".
(grin) 'Molon Labe'...


p.s. For those of you who like armor, look here:

pricey, but nice quality. Hope to produce my own next year.

September 30, 2003, 12:13 AM
I watched that series and found it fascinating.

History documentaries should have more hosts who look like Bettany Hughes.:)

If you enjoyed reading about "Watched a cool PBS show last night on "The Spartans"" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!