GRC30350 Sparta

Academic Year 2023/2024

This is Sparta!, or… is it? Often depicted as an exceptional polis and a secretive, warrior-society famed as much for its laws and its wit as its soldiers, Sparta continues to captivate our collective imagination. In this module you will participate in an ongoing process that seeks to understand the legends that have helped to shape what we call the ‘Spartan Mirage’. Who were the Spartans? How was Spartan society organised? How did Sparta govern itself and why was this ‘way of life’ endorsed by non-Spartan authors? How did Sparta come to dominate the eastern Aegean and what factors led to its ‘decline’? What became of Sparta after the peak of its power in the Classical period? In this module we will seek to answer these questions and more by examining the ancient evidence that modern scholars use to reconstruct a society that chose not to record its own history. In the process we also will reflect on how outsiders’ perspectives continue to shape Sparta’s complex legacy and reception in the 21st century.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this module, students will:
• possess a deeper understanding of the political and social history of Sparta from its mythical origins to its incorporation into the Roman empire.
• be able to analyse a variety of forms of ancient evidence used to reconstruct Spartan history and culture, including: literary, numismatic, and epigraphic sources.
• be able to demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving by engaging with key debates in the study of ancient Sparta as well as the ongoing impact of invented traditions and the ‘Spartan mirage’.
• have honed their ability to communicate their ideas and arguments through oral and written presentations delivered in class or through writing and/or recording.
• have developed their ability to manage their time by working to deadlines, balance conflicting demands, recognising when support is required and asking for help.

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative Module Content
This module offers overviews of key episodes in Spartan history across the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman Periods and examines topics and case studies that cut across these eras. Lectures and seminars will engage closely with the sources and methods used to study Sparta from extant material culture to the literary works of ancient authors who wrote about the Spartans, predominantly from the perspective of an outsider. These include: Alcman, Aristotle, Diodorus Siculus, Herodotus, Pausanias, Plato, Plutarch, Polybius, Simonides, Thucydides, Tyrtaeus, and Xenophon.

Specific topics will vary from year to year, but lectures, tutorials, and coursework will invite you to examine topics such as:
• The ‘Spartan mirage’
• Sparta as a Greek polis
• Sparta, the Heraclids, and Myths Underpinning Dorian Identity
• The dyarchy: kings and queens of Sparta
• Lykourgos the lawgiver and the political and social structures of Sparta
• Education in Sparta: the 'upbringing' and later traditions of the 'agoge'
• Eating at Sparta: the common messes and Spartan food
• The homoioi and social identities and status in Spartan society
• Gender norms at Spartan
• Slavery in Sparta: the Helots
• Spartan Religion
• Sparta at war
• Sparta as hegemon and narratives of decline
• Spartan poetry and art
• Money and the Spartan economy
• Modern depictions of ancient Sparta and Spartan culture

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module will delivered through a combination of 10, two-hour sessions and 5, one-hour seminars. After the first, introductory session each week the two hour session will be divided into a formal 'lecture' portion during which the instructor will introduce key topics, themes, and sources related to the study of Sparta. Students are welcome to interject at any stage and ask questions throughout the lecture. After the first hour there will be a comfort break, and then students will re-convene to work in groups - related to your seminar group - and with the instructor. During the second hour of these interactive sessions we will engage more closely with ancient evidence and modern debates flagged during the first hour. Some sessions will be set aside to address questions relating to assessments and student research, some will engage with closer analysis of ancient evidence, and some will be set aside for role play in which we will work as a group to simulate key episodes from Spartan history and react to them together. You will also register for a tutorial group that will meet five times during the course of the semester either in weeks 21, 23, 25, 30, and 32 or in weeks 22, 24, 26, 29, and 31. Our preparation for and during those hours will tie into the interactive sessions. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: You have the choice to submit either a 1,500 word commentary or deliver a recorded presentation. Week 7 n/a Graded No


Essay: 3,500 word essay to be submitted at the end of the trimester. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 Tues 12:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 30, 31, 32, 33 Tues 12:00 - 13:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 21, 23, 25, 30, 32 Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 22, 24, 26, 31 Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 33 Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 21, 23, 25, 30, 32 Tues 15:00 - 15:50
Tutorial Offering 4 Week(s) - 22, 24, 26, 31, 33 Tues 15:00 - 15:50