History | Sparta
H605 | 26670 | E. Robinson
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to graduates only
Above class meets with HIST-H705
The organization of this graduate course will combine the approaches
of a History Department “seminar” and “colloquium,” and thus
students will be able to register for it under either rubric.
Sparta stands as one of the two most famous, influential, and
written-about city-states in Greek history, and yet, as compared to
its “yoke-fellow” Athens, Sparta’s history is extremely poorly
documented. Scholars still find themselves arguing about the most
basic facts of Spartan history and society, thanks both to a paucity
of contemporary materials and the suspected invention of many of the
traditions about its Archaic and Classical past. In this course we
will come to grips with some of the fundamental questions about
Spartan history that scholars continue to ask, especially but not
exclusively in the Archaic and Classical periods (c. 800 – 323 BC).
Topics will include the content and chronology of the “Lycurgan”
revolution, helots and the legacy of Messenian national identity,
the nature of the Spartan constitution, Sparta at war in the
Classical period, Sparta’s empire after its victory in the
Peloponnesian War, and the image and reality of women in Spartan
For most of the semester classes will be run in a discussion-
oriented format with frequent, relatively brief, student reports as
we grapple with topics such as those listed above and seek a general
understanding of the major issues in Spartan history and
historiography. But this class also requires students to research
and write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choosing
relating to ancient Sparta.
Substantial time in the last third of the course will be given over
to discussion of techniques of ancient historical research, specific
problems students encounter as they conduct their research, and
individual attention to student projects.
A basic reading knowledge of ancient Greek will be very helpful but
is not required for this course.