100 books like The Spartans

By Paul Cartledge,

Here are 100 books that The Spartans fans have personally recommended if you like The Spartans. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

David Stuttard Author Of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

From my list on understanding classical Greece.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).

David's book list on understanding classical Greece

David Stuttard Why did David love this book?

For anyone wanting to find out not just what happened in the Graeco-Persian Wars (490–479 BC) but how their participants viewed the world, Herodotus’ Histories are a treasure trove. Writing a generation after the event, Herodotus travelled widely, interviewing as many people as he could from veterans to Egyptian priests. But readers must be wary: Herodotus wasn’t writing history as we understand it. Instead, he blended fact, anecdote, and moralizing to demonstrate why in his view the Greek way of life (especially Athenian democracy) was superior to Persian totalitarianism, and why Persian hubris merited divine punishment. While the Landmark edition’s translation of Herodotus’ seductive prose may not be the best (Tom Holland’s, for example, is better), the number and clarity of its maps make it invaluable.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Landmark Herodotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 5th century BC an adventurous Ionian Greek, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, journeyed extensively through the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, from Egypt to Asia Minor, collecting tales of the upheavals that had afflicted the region in the earlier part of the century. The fruits of his wanderings were The Histories, in which he used his narrative gifts not only to chronicle the rise of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and its war with the Greek city-states, but also to recount his experiences with the varied peoples and cultures he had encountered during his journey.
Herodotus earned the nickname 'the father…


Book cover of The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

Thucydides, along with Herodotus a generation earlier, created history as we know it. Herodotus added to narrative the analysis of cause: ‘why’ as well as ‘what’. Thucydides added different levels of causation: the immediate reasons for the war and the long-term causes. He studied how the dynamics of fear and power drive states into warfare. He took the gods out of history (it is hard to remember how radical that was). He studied the corruption of moral language and behaviour under the pressure of conflict. In Pericles’ Funeral Speech he set out the theory of Athenian democracy (Pericles would have denied that our own society was democratic—a challenging thought). Thucydides’ eye is not exactly cold, but it is unblinking: no historian seems so free of illusion.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Landmark Thucydides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thucydides called his account of two decades of war between Athens and Sparta "a possession for all time," and indeed it is the first and still the most famous work in the Western historical tradition.

Considered essential reading for generals, statesmen, and liberally educated citizens for more than 2,000 years, The Peloponnesian War is a mine of military, moral, political, and philosophical wisdom.

However, this classic book has long presented obstacles to the uninitiated reader. Written centuries before the rise of modern historiography, Thucydides' narrative is not continuous or linear. His authoritative chronicle of what he considered the greatest war…


Book cover of Aphrodite's Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece

David Stuttard Author Of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

From my list on understanding classical Greece.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).

David's book list on understanding classical Greece

David Stuttard Why did David love this book?

Fifth-century BC Athenian society was male-dominated, so most of our evidence comes from – and is about – men. Elegantly written, immaculately researched, and pleasingly illustrated, Aphrodite’s Tortoise goes a long way towards restoring the gender balance, uncovering the complex role that women played in Greek society, whether as wives, priestesses or slaves. At the heart of the book is the use of the veil, which not only protected women from the male gaze as they ventured outside (hence the title) but could convey a variety of visual signals depending on how it was worn. It’s a really stimulating book, the kind that makes you sit up and think about not just the ancient world but our own.

By Lloyd Llewellyn Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aphrodite's Tortoise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Greek women routinely wore the veil. That is the unexpected finding of this major study. The Greeks, rightly credited with the invention of civic openness, are revealed as also part of a more eastern tradition of seclusion. From the iconography as well as the literature of Greece, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones shows that fully veiling of face and head was commonplace. He analyses the elaborate Greek vocabulary for veiling, and explores what the veil was meant to achieve. He also uses Greek and more recent - mainly Islamic - evidence to show how women could exploit and subvert the veil to achieve…


Book cover of The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum

David Stuttard Author Of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

From my list on understanding classical Greece.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).

David's book list on understanding classical Greece

David Stuttard Why did David love this book?

Much of Classical Greece remains intangible, but some of its artworks have survived (albeit often in fragments) allowing us to gaze upon what ancient Greeks once saw. Among the greatest sculptures are those which adorned the Parthenon, created in Athens’ heyday under Pericles. Few knew more about them than the late and much-missed Ian Jenkins, whose sumptuously illustrated book not only discusses the artworks but reproduces many in such glorious detail that you feel you could almost touch them. You can certainly appreciate their energy. And in the end, for me, it’s this energy – preserved through time in art or literature – that makes the study of Classical Greece so exciting. As Sparta was for Athens, so Classical Greece can be for us a mirror in which to reevaluate ourselves. 

By Ian Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum are unrivalled examples of classical Greek art that have inspired sculptors, artists, poets and writers since their creation in the fifth century BC. This book serves as a superb visual introduction to these magnificent sculptures. The book showcases a series of specially taken photographs of the different sculptural elements: the pediments, metopes and Ionic frieze. It captures the vitality of the sculptures in a group, an individual sculpture or an exquisite eye-catching detail, such as the mane of a horse, a human foot, the swish of drapery or a youthful head bowed in…


Book cover of Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens

Andrew Chugg Author Of Alexander's Lovers

From my list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I voyaged into the ancient world in the readings of my youth, it led me to realize that the gay-straight divide in modern perceptions of sexuality and relationships is an artifice. It was constructed by the conceit of the ascetic religions that the only legitimate purpose of sex is the production of children within a sanctified marital relationship. In Antiquity, the divide followed a more natural course between the groups who were the sexually active partners (mainly adult men) and those who were sexually passive (mainly women, youths, and eunuchs). My hope is to disperse some of the confusion that the obscuration of this historical reality has caused.

Andrew's book list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity

Andrew Chugg Why did Andrew love this book?

Davidson demonstrates that sexual relationships with courtesans and youths in ancient Athens paralleled the markets in other luxuries such as fish and wine rather more than resembling the modern ideal of romantic love. In a society where marriages were mainly business arrangements made between families to ensure the production of legitimate heirs to their estates, such formal relationships were frequently loveless. This led the male partners and those as yet unmarried to resort to employing mistresses, courtesans, and youths as luxurious distractions from the mundane matter of marital maintenance of the bloodline.

By James Davidson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Courtesans and Fishcakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliantly entertaining and innovative history of the ancient Athenians' consuming passions for food, wine and sex.

Sex, shopping and fish-madness, Athenian style.

This fascinating book reveals that the ancient Athenians were supreme hedonists. Their society was driven by an insatiable lust for culinary delights - especially fish - fine wine and pleasures of the flesh. Indeed, great fortunes were squandered and politicians' careers ruined through ritual drinking at the symposium, or the wooing of highly-coveted, costly prostitutes.

James Davidson brings an incisive eye and an urbane wit to this refreshingly accessible and different history of the people who invented…


Book cover of The Nazi Olympics

Tony Perrottet Author Of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games

From my list on on the classical world to accompany the Olympics.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian, journalist, and travel writer, Tony Perrottet has made a career out of bringing the past to vivid life. Born in Australia, he started writing as a foreign correspondent in South America, where he covered guerrilla wars in Peru, drug running in Colombia, and military rebellions in Argentina. He continues to commute to Athens, Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, and Havana, while contributing to the Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, amongst others. He has written six books on subjects ranging from classical tourism to the Pope's "pornographic bathroom" in the Vatican, and most recently, ¡Cuba Libre!, an anecdotal account of the Cuban Revolution. His travel stories have been selected seven times for the Best American Travel Writing series, and he is a regular guest on the History Channel, where he has spoken about everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.

Tony's book list on on the classical world to accompany the Olympics

Tony Perrottet Why did Tony love this book?

A juicy account of the most dubious of the modern Olympics, held as a propaganda event in Hitler's Berlin in 1936. For classical history buffs, the most intriguing element is how the Nazis purloined certain "ancient Greek" legacies for their own purposes -- creating the pseudo-tradition of the Olympic torch being carried from Greece, for example, which remains popular to this day. (And of course, it was all captured and glorified by the director Leni Riefenstahl in her film Olympia).

By Richard D. Mandell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nazi Olympics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Nazi Olympics is the unsurpassed expose of one of the most bizarre festivals in sport history. Not only does it provide incisive portraits of such key figures as Adolf Hitler, Jesse Owens, Leni Riefenstahl, Helen Stephens, Kee Chung Sohn, and Avery Brundage, it also vividly conveys the entire dazzling charade that reinforced and mobilized the hysterical patriotism of the German masses.


Book cover of The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts

Tony Perrottet Author Of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games

From my list on on the classical world to accompany the Olympics.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian, journalist, and travel writer, Tony Perrottet has made a career out of bringing the past to vivid life. Born in Australia, he started writing as a foreign correspondent in South America, where he covered guerrilla wars in Peru, drug running in Colombia, and military rebellions in Argentina. He continues to commute to Athens, Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, and Havana, while contributing to the Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, amongst others. He has written six books on subjects ranging from classical tourism to the Pope's "pornographic bathroom" in the Vatican, and most recently, ¡Cuba Libre!, an anecdotal account of the Cuban Revolution. His travel stories have been selected seven times for the Best American Travel Writing series, and he is a regular guest on the History Channel, where he has spoken about everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.

Tony's book list on on the classical world to accompany the Olympics

Tony Perrottet Why did Tony love this book?

The Eastern tradition of "sports" is entirely different from the Western (indeed, many practitioners of martial arts in the East don't regard them as competitive sports at all, but disciplines where one competes, in a sense, with oneself). I wrote a piece on the history of karate for Smithsonian Magazine, since it is making its debut in Tokyo in August, and found this book (despite its dry and academic title) to be a fascinating introduction to the surprising growth of Japanese martial arts around the world.

By Raúl Sánchez García,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first long-term historical-sociological analysis of the development of Japanese martial arts.

Uses the theoretical framework of figurational sociology and draws on rich empirical data.

A new contribution to our understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics of state formation.

Considers the neglected role of women in martial arts.

Book cover of Iliad

Steven R. Perkins Author Of Latin for Dummies

From my list on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books to grab and hold my attention. That’s what I like about music, too, which is why I co-host a heavy metal podcast when I’m not teaching Latin or writing books and articles. Having taught Latin and Classics for over thirty years from middle school through undergrad, I know what people enjoy about the Greco-Roman world and what they often missed out on in school. I love reading this stuff, too, whether prepping for class, doing research for my next publication, or while listening to head-banging greats of the ‘70s and ‘80s, so dig in and get ready to rock with the Romans and groove with the Greeks!

Steven's book list on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school

Steven R. Perkins Why did Steven love this book?

I get it. People read Homer’s Odyssey because of the adventures and gods and monsters, but for me, his best was his first epic poem, The Iliad. The opening word of the story is “rage,” and the action never stops until the last line. From clashing swords to souls sent down to the house of death, this could have been a heavy metal opera if only Homer had played an electric guitar instead of a lyre. I chose the Lombardo translation because it captures best the action and heroism and pulse-pounding excitement that keeps me reading this one over and over.

By Homer, Stanley Lombardo (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Iliad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Gripping. . . . Lombardo's achievement is all the more striking when you consider the difficulties of his task. . . . [He] manages to be respectful of Homer's dire spirit while providing on nearly every page some wonderfully fresh refashioning of his Greek. The result is a vivid and disarmingly hardbitten reworking of a great classic." -Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review


Book cover of Myth and Society in Ancient Greece

Sue Blundell Author Of Women in Ancient Greece

From my list on women in classical Greece and how to think about them.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I retired from lecturing in Classical Studies I’ve been writing more pieces on women in the ancient world, and also some plays. One of them, 189 Pieces, is about the Portland Vase, a beautiful example of Roman glass whose label in the British Museum tells us that it was owned by the Duke of Portland. This is true—he’d inherited it—but it was bought at great expense by his grandmother, the wonderful Duchess of Portland. Giving women their place in history has been my aim in much of my work. Nowadays I’m obsessed with female footwear, and Cinderella, Goody Two-Shoes, and Carrie Bradshaw take up a lot of my time. 

Sue's book list on women in classical Greece and how to think about them

Sue Blundell Why did Sue love this book?

Vernant was an influential scholar when I began writing about women in ancient Greece in the 1990s. His discussions of the social, political and religious institutions of the time, and their relationship with popular mythology, were informed by French structuralist theory.  For me his analysis of the role of marriage in a society devoted to virgin goddesses was particularly stimulating.

By Jean-Pierre Vernant, Janet Lloyd (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Myth and Society in Ancient Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking study, Jean-Pierre Vernant delineates a compelling new vision of ancient Greece. Myth and Society in Ancient Greece takes us far from the calm and familiar images of Polykleitos and the Parthenon to reveal a fundamentally other culture ― one of slavery, of masks and death, of scapegoats, of ritual hunting, and of ecstasies.

Vernant’s provocative discussions of various institutions and practices (including war, marriage, and sacrifice) detail the complex intersection of the religious, social, and political structures of ancient Greece. The book concludes with Vernant’s authoritative genealogy of the study of myth from Antiquity to structuralism and…


Book cover of Interstate Relations in Classical Greece: Morality and Power

Robin Waterfield Author Of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece

From my list on ancient Greek history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a British scholar – a former university lecturer, many moons ago – now living in rural southern Greece. In fact, I have Greek as well as UK citizenship, which really pleases me because I’ve loved Greece and things Greek since boyhood. I started to learn ancient Greek at the age of ten! I’ve written over fifty books, mostly on ancient Greek history and philosophy, including many volumes of translations from ancient Greek. But I’ve also written children’s fiction in the form of gamebooks, a biography, a book on hypnosis, a retelling of the Greek myths (with my wife Kathryn) ... I’ll stop there!

Robin's book list on ancient Greek history

Robin Waterfield Why did Robin love this book?

Anyone with any degree of acquaintance with ancient history knows that the Greeks were often at war with one another. This book explores the rules that governed their interactions. Was there any kind of international law? If so, was any of it actually written down, or did it exist at the level of “unwritten law” – a live issue even today? How was it enforced, and by whom? There was no United Nations in those days. Did it succeed in reducing belligerence among the Greeks? Or was the only principle that might is right, so that stronger cities had the right to subdue their weaker neighbours? These are all critically important questions for understanding the Greeks and the course of their history. Overall, the book argues that the Greeks were more moral and restrained in their dealings with one another than one might have guessed.

By Polly Low,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Interstate Relations in Classical Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book Dr Low explores the assumptions and principles which determined the conduct and representation of interstate politics in Greece during the fifth and fourth centuries BC. She employs a wide range of ancient evidence, both epigraphic and literary, as well as some contemporary theoretical approaches from the field of International Relations. Taking a thematic rather than a chronological approach, she addresses topics such as the nature of interstate society in the Greek world; the sources, scope and enforcement of 'international law'; the nature of interstate ethics and morality; interventionism and imperialism; and the question of change and stability.…


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