Only the hard, only the strong

Unlike other great cities of ancient fame such as Rome, Athens or Jerusalem, Sparta seems to have disappeared off the map. What remains of the legendary town? A name? An archaeological site? A historical memory?

That memory, if it exists at all, is often of a city-state with a mania for martial valour and athleticism, a distrust of foreigners, and extreme austerity. It’s popularly captured today in the phrase ‘This – is – Sparta!’ as shouted by Gerard Butler, playing King Leonidas in the film 300 (2006) when he kicks the Persian messenger into a well. Today, Sparta is now in Laconia, Greece.

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