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Reception of Sparta
in North America
Eighteenth to Twenty‐First Centuries
Sean R. Jensen
The history of the reception of Sparta in North America covers a wide array of social and
cultural contexts, from the discussions of the Framers of the American Constitution to
the popular appreciations of twenty‐first-century moviegoers. Conceptions of Sparta in
the United States and Canada have generally followed broader North American social
and political trends. Although it is difficult to gauge the exact degree of impact that
Spartan history has played on American thought such as in the debates surrounding the
drafting of the American constitution in 1787 or justifications for social and political
institutions like slavery in the antebellum South, its presence as a reference, inspiration,
and topic of intellectual and popular interest is undeniable.
Even though classical learning dominated the curriculum in American colleges and
universities until the end of the nineteenth century, scholarship on Sparta in North
America historically lagged behind that of Europe, a situation prevailing in many other
fields of classical studies. Only at the turn of the twentieth century did North American
scholars of Sparta generally embark on lines of research after their European counterparts had broken ground. Still, North American scholars are to be counted as some of
the most important historians of Sparta in the twentieth and twenty‐first centuries.
In other respects ancient Sparta has achieved significant public visibility in the latter half
of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty‐first, especially with the success
of classically‐themed novels and films. With the popularity of Frank Miller’s graphic
novel, 300, and its film adaptation, the battle of Thermopylai hit the mainstream of ordinary consciousness and certain lines from the film have even become part of the modern
American idiom.1 Beginning in the early twentieth century throughout the United States
A Companion to Sparta, Volume II, First Edition. Edited by Anton Powell.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2018 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
The Reception of Sparta in North America
and Canada, university and high‐school sports teams have adopted the “Spartans” as their
name, often using a presumed personification or iconic image of a Spartan as their mascot.
The contemporary interest in, or even popularity of, ancient Sparta has generated other
media applications and popular histories of the ancient city.
28.1 Reception of Sparta in the Eighteenth Century
In the eighteenth century, Americans generally learned their ancient history through the
ancient authors themselves, whether in the original languages or in translation, and from
popular British or European histories of Greece. Americans had yet to engage much in
classical scholarship. Thus, histories of Greece and Rome had to come to the English
colonies from Great Britain and the Continent. Some examples of such popular works of
Greek history are Temple Stanyan’s Grecian History (1739), Oliver Goldsmith’s Grecian
History (1774), and Charles Rollin’s Histoire Ancienne des Egyptiens, des Carthaginois,
des Assyriens, des Babyloniens, des Mèdes, et des Perses, des Macédoniens, et des Grecs (1730–38)
(Winterer (2002) 20). Important European intellectuals such as Montesquieu were
also influential in shaping colonial views of the ancient world (Reinhold (1984) 97).
In general, educated Americans were introduced to the classical languages at an early
age, and the curriculum in early colonial colleges like Harvard and Yale was heavily
centered on the instruction in Greek and Latin as a part of the traditional study of
the liberal arts (Reinhold (1984) 25–8 and Ziobro (2006) 18–28). According to Carl
Richard, in the colonial period students usually began learning ancient languages at age
eight either from grammar school instruction or from private tutors (Richard (1994) 1).
By the time students were ready to enter college, they had already become acquainted
with many of the authors that were part of the standard humanistic curriculum. However,
the quality of such instruction was often poor (Richard (1994) 21). Emphasis was placed
primarily on translation and broad knowledge of basic grammatical principles (Reinhold
(1984) 26). Although ancient history was not a major part of the curriculum of the
colonial college, many of the leaders of the Revolution and founders of the new American
government in the 1780s were well acquainted with Greek and Roman history through
explication of school texts and imported histories, and it was in the political sphere that
ancient Sparta had its most discernible and lasting impact in North America in the
eighteenth century.
Sparta, Athens, and especially Rome were viewed as early experiments in republican
government by many of the most important Founders of the United States who sought
historical parallels for the young American nation. Great importance was attached to
examining the history of these early republics in order to understand the basis of their
success, as Gordon Wood has observed: “The Americans’ compulsive interest in the
ancient republics was in fact crucial to their attempt to understand the moral and social
basis of politics” (Wood (1969) 50).Views of Sparta among the Founders were mixed.
Spartan austerity and discipline, as exemplified in the ancient sources, most of all
Plutarch, were appealing to some of the most prominent early Americans. For example,
John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, delegate both of the Continental Congress and of the
Constitutional Convention, the so‐called “Penman of the Revolution”, praised Spartan
courage in battle:
Sean R. Jensen
To such a wonderful degree were the ancient Spartans, as brave and free a people as ever
existed, inspired by this happy temperature of soul that rejecting even in their battles the use
of trumpets and other instruments for exciting heat and rage, they marched up to the scenes
of havoc and horror, with the sound of flutes, to the tunes of which their steps kept
pace – “exhibiting,” as Plutarch says, “at once a terrible and delighted sight, and proceeding
with a deliberate valor, full of hope and good assurance, as if some divinity had sensibly
assisted them”. 2
The prominent Boston Son of Liberty, Samuel Adams, cousin of John Adams, hoped
that Boston would become a “Christian Sparta,” implying that pre‐Christian Sparta
represented admirable forms of virtue and piety (Rahe (1992) 58). Even the famous critic
of the classical education, Benjamin Rush, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence,
praised the plain “black broth” of the Spartan diet (Richard (2008) 31).
At the same time, colonial Americans criticized the militaristic and collective nature of
the Spartan social system. Thomas Jefferson referred to the Spartan system as “the rule
of military monks over the laboring class of the people, reduced to abject slavery” and
Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of the Treasury, 1789–95) in Federalist No. 6 stated
“Sparta was little better than a well‐regulated camp.”3 Along with the militarism associated with the ancient Spartan state, the Spartan rejection of commercial activity was
also criticized. For example, John Adams (second President, 1797–1801) argued for
American pursuit of commerce by asserting that emulation of the “Spartans in their
Contempt of Wealth” should be avoided (Rahe (1992) 325). Although Adams in his
Defence of the Constitutions of the United States (1787–88) mixed praise with criticism of
the Spartan system (see later), he particularly found fault with the strict control over the
citizenry that Lykourgos supposedly instituted, even faulting the motivation of the
legendary lawgiver after a description of the various prohibitions such as the laws against
travel and use of coined money: “he shackled the Spartans to the ambitious views of
his family for fourteen successions of Herculean kings, at the expence of the continual
disturbance of all Greece, and the constant misery of his own people.”4 In the Adams
family, criticism of Sparta was not limited to John. In a 1786 debate at Harvard, his son,
the young John Quincy Adams (sixth President, 1825–29) claimed:
The fine feelings of the Heart which render human Nature amiable, were entirely excluded
from the system of Lycurgus. Many of his Laws display a barbarous Cruelty, and beauteous
Science, whose persuasive Voice, calms the impetuous Passions of Youth, sooths the cares,
and asswages the infirmities of age, was discarded from within the walls of Sparta by this
savage Legislator.5
In general, the most influential source on Sparta for colonial Americans was Plutarch’s
biography of Lykourgos, the mythical early lawgiver and architect of the Spartan
constitution (Reinhold (1984) 250, 253). Plutarch’s biographies, read both in the
original Greek and in translation, were greatly responsible for forming these sometimes
contradictory views of ancient Sparta (Reinhold (1984) 253). At times, the heavy
moralistic tone of Plutarch’s biography of Lykourgos and particular conception of the
Spartan state were especially appealing to colonial Americans seeking appropriate models
of behavior for citizens of the young Republic, while they also engendered criticism both
from the Republican Jefferson and the Federalists, Adams and Hamilton.
The Reception of Sparta in North America
Together with Republican Rome, Sparta played an important role as a direct source
for the political structure of the United States. The theory of the separation of powers
was a dominant issue in the midst of the debates before and during the Constitutional
Convention. Ancient theory of the “mixed constitution” developed by Plato, Aristotle,
and Polybius had greatly influenced Western thinkers from the Middle Ages through
colonial America.6 The Framers drew many of their notions of Sparta’s stability, strong
agrarian culture (as opposed to commercial Athens), and celebrated mixed constitution
from these ancient theorists. Sparta was a source for much of the current political
theory about the balance of institutional powers, and John Adams was a particularly
enthusiastic proponent of the idea of mixed government during the debates surrounding the Constitution. In his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United
States of America Adams praised the stability of the Spartan constitution attributed to
Six kinds of government must be allowed: kingly government and monarchy, aristocracy
and oligarchy, democracy, and the government of the multitude. Lycurgus concluded, that
every form of government that is simple, by soon degenerating into that vice that is allied
to it, must be unstable. … Lycurgus to avoid these incoveniencies [sic] formed his
government not of one sort, but united in one all of the advantages and properties of the
best governments; to the end that no branch, by swelling beyond its due bounds, might
degenerate into the vice which is congenial to it …7
The Spartan model was also referenced to support the establishment of an American
senate. In Federalist No. 63, James Madison (“Father of the Constitution”; later fourth
President, 1809–17) cited ancient Sparta along with Rome and Carthage as examples
of successful republics with a strong senate, writing, “It adds no small weight to these
considerations, to recollect that history informs us of no long‐lived republic which had
not a senate. Sparta, Rome, and Carthage are in fact, the only states to whom that
character can be applied.”8 Although Adams and Madison were drawn to the longevity
and stability of the Spartan constitution, Polybius’ version of the Roman Republic as
the ideal example of a mixed constitution seems to have had a greater influence on the
Framers (Richard (2008) 97). Adams considered the Roman Republic to be the ideal
mixture of the aristocratic, executive, and democratic branches stating:
All three principal orders of government were found in the Roman commonwealth; everything was constituted and administered with that equality and propriety by these three, that
it was not possible, even for a Roman citizen, to assert positively, whether the government,
in the whole, was aristocratical, democratical, or monarchical.9
As debates surrounded the drafting of the constitution of the United States arose, so
did discussions concerning the proper role of women in the new republic. In this debate,
the women of Sparta made famous in the pages of Plutarch were natural reference points
for a culture well‐versed in classical literature. In particular, the brave Spartan woman
selflessly sending her son to battle and preaching an unbending patriotism to the state or
as a soldier herself were the models that appealed in this period (Winterer (2007) 71–9).
For example, the notable early feminist Judith Sargent Murray (1751–1820) in the last
decades of the eighteenth century advocated the equality of women. In The Gleaner (1798)
Sean R. Jensen
she referenced the women of Sparta as an example of feminine strength and patriotism
who even suppressed their natural duties as mothers for the greater good of the state:
The character of the Spartan women is marked with uncommon firmness. At the shrine of
patriotism they immolated nature. Undaunted bravery and unimpeached honour, was, in their
estimation, far beyond affection. The name of Citizen possessed, for them, greater charms
than that of Mother; and so highly did they prize the warrior’s meed, that they are said to
have shed tears of joy over the bleeding bodies of their wounded sons! (Skemp (1998) 186)
Murray was particularly notable in her call for gender equality during the birth of a
new country. The theme of the powerful and independent Spartan woman has been
popular throughout American history and evolved with the times, even appearing in
the culture of the modern US military and among modern historians, as will be discussed
later below.
In the end, the unique nature of the Spartan social system was perceived as too brutal
and too unlike the world of eighteenth century America, thus limiting Sparta’s influence
on the Constitution (Richard (2008) 32, 97). Hamilton’s statement that Sparta was
a “well‐regulated camp” coupled with Jefferson’s view that Spartans were “military
monks” helped to ensure that Rome would have greater lasting impact on the early
United States. At the same time, other examples of cooperative government drawn from
ancient Greece were also studied by the Founders, such as the federal leagues and the
Amphictyonic League.10 Though admired for her great cultural achievements, Athens
was generally rejected as a political model because she was historically perceived as having been too unstable and feckless.11 In Federalist No. 55 which emphasized the capricious nature of popular assemblies, Madison wrote of Athens: “Had every Athenian
citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”
Yet, it was not universally agreed that ancient republics were natural sources for
constructing a modern one. Hamilton, as early as 1782, denied the utility of employing
ancient Greece and Rome as models for the “modern” world (Reinhold (1984) 255–6).
Charles Pinckney of South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 declared,
“Can we copy Greece and Rome? … We surely differ from the whole. Our situation is
unexampled” (Reinhold (1984) 215). In the early nineteenth century, John Taylor, a
constitutional theorist and politician of Jeffersonian affinity, leveled criticism at John
Adams for employing ancient Sparta as an example of a politically balanced republic, and
observed that, in general, lessons from antiquity had no real value for the modern world
(Reinhold (1984) 107). Some of Taylor’s most strident criticism was targeted at the
Lykourgan constitution:
Lycurgus, by the influence of a bought and lying oracle, placed the government in the
hands of a minority, excused this minority from labour and taxes, and supported it by
the labour of the majority. The Helots, who were the slaves of the government but not of
individuals, filled the place of every majority, however denominated, subjected to the will
of an aristocracy … This emblem of Mr. Adams’s system, commenced in fraud; flourished,
a tyrant; and died, a traitor.12
For Taylor, the Spartan system was not a model of balance but of oppression and
The Reception of Sparta in North America
Overall, the Founding Fathers identified both strengths and weaknesses in the ancient
accounts of Sparta. Dickinson’s praise of Spartan courage and discipline was typical of
the Founding Fathers’ admiration of the Plutarchan version of Sparta, while others
viewed the unique nature of the ancient city as an inappropriate source of inspiration for
the new nation, both politically and culturally. These often contradictory views of ancient
Sparta render it difficult to gauge the extent of its influence on colonial America.
However, it is fair to say that the collective nature of Spartan society and the perceived
rigidity of the Lykourgan system were ultimately deemed unsuitable for a growing
liberty‐minded young republic or perhaps even for a democracy.
28.2 Reception of Sparta in the Nineteenth Century
In the first decades of the nineteenth century, Hellenism grew increasingly popular in the
United States. For instance, Greek architecture largely replaced the Roman‐influenced
style and the study of Greek language and literature grew in importance in college
curricula.13 The War of Greek Independence (1821–29) played an important role in
popularizing Hellenism in the United States, and Americans traveled in increasing
numbers to Greece throughout this period (Winterer (2002) 63). Much of American
interest in the War of Greek Independence lay with sympathy to the Greek struggle for
liberty under the Ottomans (Winterer (2002) 63).
In the American South, classical learning especially thrived in the antebellum period
(Miles (1971) 262). Knowledge of the classical languages and ancient history were seen
as characteristics that defined a refined and learned gentleman in a culture of elite leisure
based on slave labor.14 As cultural divisions between the North and South intensified in
the antebellum period, the heightened popularity of classical tradition in the South was
seen by many prominent Southerners as a mark of distinction from the more commercially‐
oriented northern half of the country (Miles (1971) 258, 262–3). The city‐states of
Classical Greece and the period of the Roman Republic became the favorite models for
Southerners seeking ancient parallels for their cultural and political outlook.15 Pro‐
slavery theorist George Fitzhugh even asserted that Southerners were descended from
the Romans through the Jacobites and Huguenots (Miles (1971) 264). Athens was
especially appealing to Southerners drawn to Athenian‐style democracy and cultural
achievements (Winterer (2002) 66). Athens was generally considered the closest and
most desirable parallel for the South. One writer in the Southern Quarterly Review in
1847 praised Athens in these terms: “In the whole course of history, ancient and
modern, there is no period to which we revert with fresher interest or more underlying
enthusiasm, than to the short era of Athenian ascendency in Greece” (Miles (1971) 27).
Less often, Southerners referenced Sparta as a particularly successful state.16
One of the most notable comparisons Southerners made with Greek and Roman
antiquity concerned the existence of slavery. As the issue of slavery gradually became
divisive in the United States, the examples of slavery systems in the ancient world were
often used as a defense for the South’s “peculiar institution.” In seeking these justifications in the historical tradition for the practice of human bondage, appeal was
most frequently made to the Bible (Faust (1981) 10–11). Nevertheless, the examples
of Greece and Rome were also popular with apologists of slavery (Faust (1981) 12).
Sean R. Jensen
In particular, Greece and Rome were often cited to argue that slavery was integral to
the success of these civilizations (Faust (1981) 12). Naturally, Sparta was included
among the Greek states, cited by defenders of slavery along with Athens. Examples of
this type of historical justification referencing Sparta can be found in the writings of
notable apologists of slavery including Thomas Roderick Dew, William Harper, and
James Henry Hammond. Born in 1802 in Virginia, Dew was educated at the College
of William and Mary (Faust (1981) 21). There he became a prominent professor of
political law, eventually rising to the presidency of the college in 1836 (Faust (1981) 21).
Dew was inspired to respond to the climate of support for emancipation that ­followed
Nat Turner’s 1831–32 slave uprising in Virginia (Faust (1981) 21). His Review of the
Debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1831–2 was highly influential throughout the
South (Faust (1981) 21). The following quotation comes from a piece published in
the American Quarterly Review entitled “Abolition of Negro Slavery” (September
1832). In the essay, Dew looked to Sparta for evidence of the compatibility of slavery
with a free society:
3dly. It has been contended that slavery is unfavorable to a republican spirit: but the whole
history of the world proves that this is far from being the case. In the ancient republics of
Greece and Rome, where the spirit of liberty glowed with the most intensity, the slaves were
more numerous than the freeman. Aristotle, and the great men of antiquity, believed slavery
necessary to keep alive the spirit of freedom. In Sparta, the freeman was even forbidden to
perform the office of slaves, lest he might lose the spirit of independence. (Faust (1981) 66)
William Harper, born in Antigua in 1790, hailed from South Carolina. A lawyer by
trade, he eventually became an outspoken supporter of states’ rights and Nullification
(the doctrine that states had the right to negate federal legislation that violated their privileges) (Faust (1981) 78). Harper’s essay entitled Memoir of Slavery (1838) cited Sparta
to support the argument that slavery was beneficial for the instruction and upbringing of
the young: “It was not without a knowledge of nature, that the Spartans exhibited the
vices of slaves by way of negative example to their children” (Faust (1981) 116). Here,
Harper is presumably speaking of the humiliating treatment of the state‐owned slaves
(Helots), who were forced to become drunk and to dance absurdly by the Spartan ruling
class during the common meals called syssitia. For Harper, the case of Sparta demonstrated the educational benefits for a society owning slaves. Finally, James Henry
Hammond, born in South Carolina in 1807, was himself a lawyer, congressman, governor
of South Carolina, and senator, known as an ardent supporter of slavery (Faust (1981)
168). In his “Letter to an English Abolitionist” (1845), he argued that, contrary to
some judgments, slavery did “not weaken Rome, nor Athens, nor Sparta, though their
slaves were comparatively far more numerous than ours, of the same color for the
most part with themselves, and large numbers of them familiar with the use of
arms”(Faust (1981) 178).
For apologists of slavery, the examples of Greece and Rome provided evidence of the
compatibility of a bondage system with a “free” republic. As we have seen, the cult of
Greece as the home of small republics flourished in the South throughout the first half
of the nineteenth century where local communal identification was strong. The popularity of classical learning in the South during the antebellum period was certainly a
The Reception of Sparta in North America
factor in the use of Sparta and Athens as historical parallels, though the knowledge of
ancient Sparta was still rather superficial even among the educated southern elite. For
instance, there was no real effort to distinguish between the different types of human
bondage practiced in Greece, such as Helotage in Sparta, a system in which the slaves
were tied to the land in a serf‐like status, and chattel slavery at Athens. Nonetheless,
the wealth of references to Sparta reveals the continued importance of antiquity as a
paradigm in American political life.
At the same time, abolitionists drew on ancient Greece for their own understanding
of slavery in the nineteenth century. The well‐known abolitionist Lydia Marie Child
(1802–80) frequently drew upon Sparta in her own writings against slavery.17 In her
An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans called Africans (1833), Child referred to
the slave systems of antiquity including Sparta to support her argument that the freer the
state, the harsher the treatment of slaves:
it is worthy of remark that the conditions of slaves has always been worse just in proportion
to the freedom enjoyed by their masters. In Greece, none were so proud of liberty as the
Spartans; and they were a proverb among the neighboring states for their severity to slaves.18
Here again Sparta is regarded as a paradigm of a free republic, yet for Child the lesson
drawn from Spartan history is the exact opposite of the one drawn by pro‐slavery advocates of the period. Child’s historical novel Philothea (1836) is set in classical Greece
where Athens and Sparta represent the North and South of the antebellum period.
Sparta is portrayed as a particularly cruel slave society and is contrasted with an enlightened version of Athens (Winterer (2007) 173–4). Child, like the apologists of slavery
with whom she battled, regarded ancient Sparta as a society very much defined by slavery.
In 1861, the outbreak of Civil War in the United States offered another opportunity
for nineteenth century America to refer to antiquity as a model for the present day.
Parallels were made between the American conflict and the Peloponnesian War fought
by Athens and Sparta in the late 5th century bc. During the American Civil War, the
South was generally perceived as resembling the Spartans, particularly by Southerners.
For example, the great nineteenth‐century classicist Basil Gildersleeve wrote on the
current popularity of making comparisons between the two wars in an essay entitled
“A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War” and in other writings from the period. In 1863,
Gildersleeve observed: “First we had the Peloponnesian war, in which Athens was
made to represent the North, and Sparta the South, in which Pericles was degraded
into similitude with Seward; Nicias with McClellan” (Briggs (1998) 119). Gildersleeve
also identified similarities with his own time in the geographical position of the two antagonists of the Peloponnesian War:
We must acknowledge that the general outlines of the two wars actually present some
striking and instructive points of comparison: such a point is the geographical position of
the combatants, the one in the North, the other in the South – although Canada is not
arrayed against New York as Boeotia was against Athens … (Briggs (1998) 119)
Not only was Athens’ progressive democracy seen as a parallel to the North’s, while
Sparta’s conservative agrarian‐based economy seemed to have similarities with plantation
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culture of the South, but Gildersleeve compared the course of the Civil War to that of
the Peloponnesian War:
The revolt of Lesbos from the Athenians presents a wonderful analogy to the uprising of the
Marylanders – if they had only risen up – the capture of the “full‐blooded” Spartans on
Sphacteria, is an exact parallel to the taking of Roanoke Island and the Richmond Blues – only
the Spartans held out longer. (Briggs (1998) 120)
Finally, in Gildersleeve’s article “A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War”, he made the
comparisons between the two wars explicit:
The Peloponnesian war, like our war, was a war between two leagues, a Northern Union
and a Southern Confederacy. The Northern Union, represented by Athens, was a naval
power. The Southern Confederacy, under the leadership of Sparta, was a land power. The
Athenians represented the progressive element, the Spartans the conservative. The Athenians
believed in a strong centralized government. The Lacedaemonians professed greater regard
for autonomy. (Briggs (1998) 398)
Strikingly perhaps, Gildersleeve failed to note any parallel for the most obvious and
significant feature of the war, namely its origin in a secession or rebellion. Still, the
American Civil War offered the opportunity to Americans to see their own conflict as a
modern Peloponnesian War, with the South taking on the role of Sparta in place of
Athens, which had been the preferred choice for many Southerners in the antebellum
The cultural impact of Sparta throughout the nineteenth century is also evident in
other ways. As settlements were founded in the new United States and Canada, many
communities chose such names as “Sparta” or “Spartanburg” or “Laconia”. Cities called
Sparta are spread from the eastern United States to the Pacific Ocean. Examples of these
communities include: Sparta Township in New Jersey; Sparta, North Carolina; and
Sparta, Oregon. The county and city of Spartanburg were founded in South Carolina,
while a Laconia was established in New Hampshire. In Canada, the community of Sparta
was founded in the province of Ontario in the early nineteenth century. The profusion
of cities named Sparta should not seem unusual considering the popularity of naming
communities after famous European and Near‐Eastern cities, including other prominent
Greek and Roman cities as well as places named in the Bible. The classical education of
the eighteenth and early nineteenth century here played a clear role.19
28.3 Popular Reception in the Twentieth
and Twenty‐First Centuries
Beginning in the early twentieth century, Sparta has become a popular source for the
eponyms or mascots of high school, college, and university sports teams. Notable examples
include Michigan State University founded in 1855 and San Jose State University
founded in 1857. Michigan State adopted the nickname “Spartans” in 1926 while San
Jose State students selected the “Spartans” as their mascot in 1942.20 Numerous other
The Reception of Sparta in North America
colleges and universities have adopted the Spartan mascot including Case Western
Reserve University, Norfolk State University in Virginia, and the University of North
Carolina‐Greensboro. Countless high schools across North America have also adopted
this nomenclature for their athletic teams. The courage and sense of duty attributed to
the Spartan hoplite soldier have traditionally been valued by athletic teams seeking
inspiration and models for competition and teamwork.
Like other popular mascots for sports programs and franchises named after other
warrior groups (e.g., the Vikings or the Trojans), the imagery generally employs popular
markers to convey the fearsome aspects of the Spartan hoplite. For example, Michigan
State, San Jose State, and Case Western Reserve University employ as a logo variations
of the Corinthian style hoplite helmet topped with a distinctive crest. Their mascots are
often caricatures of a Spartan hoplite given an affectionate name such as Michigan State’s
“Sparty” and San Jose State’s “Sammy.” Sparty is characterized as an absurdly muscular
soldier in hoplite armor, and Sammy is likewise a cartoonish representation of a Spartan
warrior. Thus, these mascots combine the characteristics of fearsome hoplite warrior with
those of a jovial puppet. The widespread popularity of the ancient Spartans as a source of
sports mascots reflects common notions of Sparta in the United States and Canada. It is
notable that this popular appreciation does not extend to other notable ancient Greek
states such as Athens. In particular, Sparta is associated with a militaristic ethos shared
with other groups such as the Vikings or Native American warriors who provide totemic
names for sports teams in North America. One might be tempted to trace this
phenomenon to the depiction of the Spartan upbringing and of its ethos of testing and
acculturation through athletic competition, so prominent in the accounts of Plutarch.
There may be a tendency to lump the Spartans with Vikings, Trojans, and various Native
American “avatars”, unfortunate since these warrior groups are distinct in many ways.
Nonetheless, the particular view of the Spartans as embodying the characteristics of
strength, bravery, and competitive élan is also evident in other areas of American popular
culture in the twentieth and twenty‐first centuries.
The most popular aspect of ancient Spartan history in the United States and Canada
in the latter half of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty‐first has probably
been the depiction of the last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylai in 480 bc against an
invading Persian army. The events surrounding the defeat of the Greek force led by King
Leonidas have been celebrated since the colonial period. In general, the popular legend
of the battle of Thermopylai has had an impact on American notions of liberty and self‐
identity as a free, self‐governing people. As early as the late eighteenth century, Thomas
Jefferson and the other founders praised Leonidas and the 300 just as they had other
aspects of Sparta (Richard (1994) 73). In the twentieth century, the legend of the “300”
hit the mainstream of public consciousness. Books, Hollywood films, and video games
have all frequently captured the theme of the last stand of the 300 Spartans. Go Tell the
Spartans, a 1978 film, recounted the experiences of American soldiers in Vietnam. The
title of the film is a rendering of the opening line of the poet Simonides’ famous epitaph
for the Spartans who died fighting Xerxes’ army: ῏Ω ξει̃ν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις.
Popular novels based on the battle of Thermopylai include Steven Pressfield’s Gates of
Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae (1998) and Frank Miller’s 300 (1998).
Although Nicholas Nicastro’s Isle of Stone: A Novel of Ancient Sparta (2005) does not
have Thermopylai as its theme, instead favoring the Peloponnesian War, it certainly
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reflects a popular interest in Spartan military history and shares many of the same ideas.
Pressfield’s novel is a fictional account of the lone survivor of the battle. Pressfield
has written other novels that have popularized ancient Greek military strategies and
conquests such as Tides of War (2001) and The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the
Great (2005). Frank Miller’s work has also achieved a great deal of success while generating much controversy. As a stylized account of the battle in comic book form, there is
little attempt to portray the battle of Thermopylai accurately. Yet, the graphic novel has
achieved widespread success even spawning a wildly successful film. Miller was inspired
by an earlier film The 300 Spartans (1962), an international production with some
American leads that was presented by Twentieth Century Fox.
These popular works about Sparta reflect an enduring interest in ancient Greek
­warfare in the context of a heroic final stand. In both Europe and North America, the
moral success of the small Greek force against vast odds has been interpreted as
symbolic of a larger struggle of liberty against tyranny. Sparta is often portrayed as a
republic fighting for the preservation of the freedom of all of Greece. Two major
American films have been based on the battle of Thermopylai, The 300 Spartans
(Twentieth Century Fox, 1962) directed by Rudolphe Maté and 300 (Warner Bros.,
2007) directed by Zach Snyder. The 1962 film shot on location in Greece starred
Richard Egan and boasted an international cast.21 Although the film’s setting was the
Persian invasion of 480 bc, it reflects in some ways the contemporary Cold War ­between
the United States and the Soviet Union (Clough (2004) 375). The Spartan sacrifice is
portrayed as part of a larger struggle for the freedom of the West against the tyrannical
East. 300, based on Miller’s novel and starring Gerard Butler, led to a good deal of
controversy around the world. The struggle in the film between the Greeks and the
Persians has been seen as representative of the modern‐day conflict between the West
and Iran (possibly representing Islam), while also incurring some criticism for its lack
of historical accuracy, in particular in the portrayal of ancient Persians. In general, the
representations of the Persians and Greek hoplites are more impressionistic than historical with the character Xerxes, played by Rodrigo Santoro, especially fanciful. The
Great King is depicted as a half‐naked hairless giant, who at one point in the film
attempts to seduce Leonidas in an erotic fashion in an attempt to convince him to
surrender. Throughout the film the effeminate, almost androgynous, Xerxes is contrasted with the masculine Spartan king. Moreover, great effort is made to contrast the
combatants by emphasizing the courage and prowess of the Spartans at the expense of
the Persians. The Spartans fight with bare torsos instead of donning breastplates,
which has the effect of revealing the muscular chests of the hoplites. The blockbuster
success of 300 even inspired a popular parody entitled Meet The Spartans (Twentieth
Century Fox), released in 2008.
The popularity of the novels and films surrounding Thermopylai has also led to
numerous television documentaries on Spartan history and Leonidas’ last stand. The
general resurgence of classical antiquity in the popular sphere in the early twenty‐first
century, witnessed by the film Gladiator (2000) and the HBO series Rome, is connected
with a thriving market for classically‐themed films. At the same time, military strategy‐
themed video games form a new market for ancient Sparta. Notable Spartan‐themed
games include Ancient Wars: Sparta (2007, Playlogic), Great War Nations: The Spartans
(2008, Dreamcatcher), and Spartan (2004, Graphsim Entertainment).
The Reception of Sparta in North America
As during the American Civil War, the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta
was viewed by many in the twentieth century as a parallel for major conflicts of the era.22
Some prominent American politicians, journalists, and political scientists looked to the
origins and course of the Peloponnesian War as a helpful guide to understanding and
predicting the long Cold War between the Soviet Union and United States. Thucydides
was an important source for these comparisons and was mined for relevant theory.23
At the same time, Thucydides’ characterization of Athens and Sparta in large part determined the modern identifications of the United States and Soviet Union with their
ancient Greek counterparts. Each side of this conflict was portrayed as either the modern
Athens or Sparta, sometimes even by the statesmen shaping the events. For example,
Henry Kissinger once compared the United States to Athens and the Soviets to Sparta.24
However, it should be noted that analogizing Sparta as the Soviet Union was mainly a
later development and did not immediately commence when the Cold War began in the
late 1940s.25 On the surface, the Cold War and Peloponnesian War did share some similarities. The two sides in the Cold War were very much ideological rivals, as were Athens
and Sparta. Athens was a progressive democracy that favored democrats throughout the
Greek world, while Sparta represented, at least in the pages of Thucydides, a conservative oligarchic state, backward intellectually and economically. Furthermore, the Western
allies, including the United States, were market‐based economies, which were integrated
in material terms by an ever‐intensifying commerce (whose later manifestations we now
recognize as globalism). In this sense, the United States as the exemplar of western
democracy was seen as a modern‐day Athens, while the authoritarian Soviets seemed to
resemble Thucydidean Sparta. The secretiveness of the Spartan state compared to the
openness of Athens was another point of similarity with the Soviet Union. Moreover, the
belief that the Peloponnesian War was a bipolar conflict defined by two camps dominated by Athens and Sparta was also influential.26 An example of this type of analysis can
be seen in the work of the prominent American political scientist Robert Gilpin. Gilpin
explicitly links Athens with the United States and the Soviet Union with Sparta, although
admittedly exercising some caution:
The similarities between fifth‐century b.c. Greece and the closing decades of the twentieth
century are indeed striking. Two former allies, having defeated the common enemy, turn on
one another. On one side, the protagonist (the United States, like Athens) is democratic,
commercial, and a sea power. The other side (the Soviet Union, like Sparta) is authoritarian,
autarchic, and a land power.27
Scholars of ancient Greece have also contributed to such comparisons. Notable
American historians such as Donald Kagan and Alvin Bernstein have made connections between the antagonists of the Cold War and the Peloponnesian War. Reflecting
some common conceptions of the similarities between the two conflicts, Kagan wrote
in 1995:
In fundamental ways the new situation resembled the structure of international relations
in the Hellenic world after the Peloponnesian War, a similarity often remarked upon during the Cold War. The world was “bipolar”, divided into discrete blocs led by powers of
very different kinds, rivals for the leading position, fearful and suspicious of one another.
It was common in the West to identify the open, individualistic, democratic society of
Sean R. Jensen
Athens with the similar one of the United States and the closed, communal, statist society
of Sparta with Russia but, as we have seen, although the analogy between the internal
character of the societies is reasonable, it breaks down when applied to external affairs.
In ancient Greece, Sparta led a coalition of states, many of whom were quite independent,
that resembled NATO more than the Warsaw Pact, and its policy was essentially static,
intended to maintain the status quo that preserved its primacy and security. It was
democratic Athens that was the dynamic, disruptive state, whose expansion and power
the Spartans found threatening. The Delian League, which really had become an Athenian
Empire, more closely resembled the Warsaw Pact, which badly disguised a Soviet Empire.
In the twentieth century it was the Soviet Union, like Athens after the Persian Wars, that
had used its victory swiftly to expand its territory and power, which challenged and alarmed
the United States, a state, like Sparta, generally satisfied with the status quo and eager to
preserve its advantages. (Kagan (1995) 444)
Bernstein has commented on the similarities between the Soviet and Spartan economies,
The Soviet economy, unlike ours but like the Spartan, thoroughly entwined its defense sector
in the economy at large so that defense spending could not stand out as an identifiable,
discrete subsector. In effect, both Sparta’s and the Soviet Union’s economies responded to
the dictates of those in control rather than to the market, were not subject to the laws of
supply and demand, and were designed to endure the priority of security.28
Although all of these historians have cautioned those analogizing the Peloponnesian and
Cold Wars, nonetheless, they have noted parallels between the two conflicts and even
between the actors themselves.
The influence of Sparta can also be traced in the contemporary culture of the US
military. The National Infantry Association awards the Shield of Sparta‐Heroine of the
Infantry to spouses of members of the US Infantry. According to the National Infantry
Association website, the award is presented to:
a spouse who has contributed significantly to the Infantry. The NIA’s goal is to recognize
spouses of Infantrymen and other esteemed ladies, in support roles, whose contributions
deserve special recognition by the National Infantry Association and the Infantry community.
The award is a token of appreciation for the sacrifice and commitment demanded of the
wives and supporters of Infantrymen. It further symbolizes these women as true patriots
with selfless ideals and the courage to send their Infantrymen into harms [sic] way.29
This award recognizing the importance of women “in the support roles” seems to reflect
the strong position of women in Spartan society recorded in ancient historiography. In
particular, Plutarch provides many of the famous portraits and quotations of anonymous
Spartan women who, dutifully following the strict Spartan ethos, demanded from their
sons and husbands the same level of commitment to duty and sacrifice. For instance, one
anonymous Spartan mother is said to have told her son when handing to him a shield for
battle “child, this or on it”, τέκνον, ε῎φη, η῍ τὰν η῍ ἐπὶ τα̃ς, implying that he is to return
victorious with his shield or carried back on it as a fatality of war (Plut. Mor. 241F16).
The Reception of Sparta in North America
The American service academies have also historically drawn on certain conceptions
of ancient Sparta as part of their institutional identity. The academies have attempted
to balance what are generally referred to as “Athenian and Spartan” cultures. The
struggle between a culture that promotes military discipline and training associated
with Sparta and one that also emphasizes intellectual growth is a natural result of
inherent tensions within institutions devoted to military education. Sparta and Athens
seem to be natural reference points. Both historians of the service academies and
academy officials themselves have characterized the evolution of these institutions in
these terms.30 For example, John P. Lovell, political scientist and graduate of West
Point, has described the tension between these cultures as a struggle between Athenian
and Spartan ideals:
The terms Spartan and Athenian are used here metaphorically rather than literally. The
Spartan ideals are those of the noble warrior: austerity, discipline, the comradeship of arms,
devotion to the state, and, above all, a commitment to heroic deeds and a love of glory.
Athenian ideals, in contrast, are especially those of culture and learning. It is not necessary
to argue that service academy officials consciously sought to emulate their classical forebears in
Sparta to recognize these ideals have been important elements of the academy subcultures.
(Lovell (1979) 16)
Lovell makes explicit the comparison with the supposed Athenian and Spartan cultures
in the development of the curriculum of the academies:
From the nineteenth century until the eve of World War II, the trade school orientation of
the academies, the emphasis on “building character” and instilling discipline as the primary
mission, insured that a commitment to Athens would remain comfortably subordinated to
a commitment to Sparta. However, the combination of accreditation requirements generated by authorization to award the baccalaureate degree, beginning in the 1930s, and the
widespread recognition at the end of World War II of the complexity of professional
demands in the postwar environment, led to an increase in emphasis upon the academic
component of the academy mission. (Lovell (1979) 253)
Thus, after the Second World War, this issue became increasingly important and the
institutional trend of the service academies was toward a more “Athenian” academic
culture, but not with the total exclusion of the “Spartan” emphasis on traditional military
instruction. The historical view of Sparta as the exemplar of a uniquely military society
and Athens as the source of western humanism has even informed the development of
military education in the United States.
28.4 North‐American Scholarship
The literature on Sparta is vast, but historically has been dominated by European
scholars, and it is difficult to trace the study of Sparta among North American historians before the twentieth century. Nevertheless, by the first half of the century,
Sean R. Jensen
North American scholars had begun to contribute significantly to the subject. One
of the earliest and most important American historians of Sparta was J.A.O. Larsen,
who published a series of articles on the Spartan‐led Peloponnesian League and
political structure of the state in the 1930s.31 Larsen is probably best known as an
authoritative scholar of Greek federalism. Though active at Cambridge University in
England for most of his career, another important American historian who studied
Sparta was M.I. Finley, generally regarded as one of the most important historians of
Greece of the twentieth century. Like Larsen, Finley is mainly known for his work on
other areas of Greek history, particularly social and economic history, but still contributed some signal scholarship on Sparta.32 His article entitled “Sparta” published
in 1968 examined the major social and political features of the so‐called “Spartan
Revolution” of the archaic period. Donald Kagan, successively professor of Greek
history at Cornell and Yale, has been an influential historian of the causes and course
of the Peloponnesian War, and of numerous other important aspects of fifth‐century
Spartan history.33 His work entitled “The Outbreak of The Peloponnesian War”
(1969) has been instrumental in setting much of the scholarly debate concerning the
controversial issues of the war and, in particular like Larsen, the structure of the
Spartan‐led Peloponnesian League. Since the 1970s, American and Canadian scholars
have become increasingly interested in Spartan history, which now challenges that of
Athens in its received importance. Important examples include contributions of
Thomas Figueira, Charles Hamilton, and Nigel Kennell. Figueira has tackled a variety
of issues ranging from the size of the Spartan economy to the complicated issue of
Messenian identity.34
The supposed uniqueness of the ancient Spartan state, and especially the role of
women, continue to interest students of Sparta today just as it did in antiquity. North
American scholars Sarah Pomeroy and Ellen Millender have been some of the leading
international figures in the study of Spartan women. Pomeroy’s Spartan Women
(2002) is the first book‐length study devoted to the subject and she has been a pioneer in the field of women in antiquity since the 1970s.35 Her book on the women of
Sparta is heavily influenced by contemporary feminist theory in the United States and
argues that Spartan women had a place in society unusual for its time in the Greek
world. Millender is noteworthy for challenging ancient and modern notions of a
Spartan “difference.”36 Popular scholarly works touching on Sparta have become
more available in the first decade of the twenty‐first century. Certainly, the success of
classically‐themed movies and novels is partly responsible for the popularity of this
tendency in scholarship. Victor Davis Hanson’s works on Greek warfare including
A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
(2005) have had broad appeal both to historians and the wider public. Hanson’s
expertise in Greek military history is well‐established. Though he does not hail from
North America, Cambridge University’s Paul Cartledge has recently authored
popular books on Sparta such as The Spartans: The World of the Warrior‐Heroes of
Ancient Greece (2003) and Thermopylai: The Battle That Changed the World (2006),
which have found a ready audience in the United States and Canada. It is clear that
ancient Sparta continues to be an intriguing subject to North Americans. Whether it
is the battle of Thermopylai or the Peloponnesian War, the modern North American
continues to be fascinated by the Spartans as much as by their ancient Athenian
The Reception of Sparta in North America
28.5 Conclusion
The influence of Sparta in North America has been visible in many areas of life ranging
from politics and education to popular entertainment. The concentration on the classics
in education in the colonial period created an educated class of political leaders who
employed ancient Sparta as a model for the new American republic. The courage and discipline attributed to Sparta were appealing to men such as John Dickinson and Samuel
Adams, while the harshness of the Lykourgan system was criticized by other leaders such
as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. In the first half of the nineteenth century,
classical learning continued to thrive in the United States, conspicuously in the South
where knowledge of the classics was seen as characteristic of a southern gentleman. The
Old South also looked to ancient Greece and Rome for parallels to its own political
culture with its emphasis on the defense of slavery. However, Sparta’s influence was
limited as Athens was generally preferred by Southerners drawn to Athenian democracy
and cultural achievements. Apologists of slavery throughout the antebellum period held
up Sparta as an example of a successful slave‐owning republic, while the famous abolitionist Lydia Marie Child referred to Sparta for the opposite conclusion. During the Civil
War, Americans saw similarities between their terrible conflict and the Peloponnesian War.
In this case, Sparta was equated with the South while the North was seen as a modern day
Athens. Later, Americans would compare twentieth century conflicts with the
Peloponnesian War. Political scientists and ancient historians saw many parallels between
the antagonists of the Cold War and the Peloponnesian War. In most analyses, the Soviet
Union was viewed as a modern‐day Sparta since both societies were secretive and closed
off from the wider world while also enjoying conservative, highly controlled economies.
In the twentieth‐ and twenty‐first centuries, Sparta began to penetrate popular culture
in new ways. Many college and high‐school athletic teams both in the United States and
Canada have adopted the Spartan hoplite as a spirited mascot. The last stand of Spartans at
Thermopylai has been particularly influential in the American conception of self‐sacrifice
for liberty as far back as the colonial period. Finally, North Americans have emerged as
some of the most important scholars of ancient Sparta, making notable contributions on
the history of Spartan women and Spartan economy. Although Rome historically has had
a greater influence on North America, ancient Sparta has left a major imprint that has been
to a large extent interpreted depending on the concerns of the moment.
It is worth noting that throughout the course of American history Sparta has had
particular appeal in times of social and political crisis. As discussed above, the influence
of Sparta is noticeably visible in the early days of the formation of the United States,
during the slavery debate, and the Cold War of the twentieth century. The revered
stability and longevity of the Spartan social and political institutions seem to have offered
comfort and hope for Americans in such times of drastic change and uncertainty. It did
not matter whether the Sparta of John Adams, Thomas Roderick Dew, or the American
Cold War warriors conformed to reality, but that the ancient city offered some insight
to the course of human events. No matter one’s view of Sparta, whether as a mixed
constitution, slavery‐practicing republic, or early totalitarian state, the city not only
survived but thrived for centuries as a leading state in Greece. Sparta’s resilience, in overcoming military crises such as the great Persian invasion, and also in withstanding the
pressure for revolution so widespread in ancient Greece, has given hope to those of the
modern era confronting similar challenges.
Sean R. Jensen
1 One only has to do a search on Google to see the enormously varied ways in which these
lines from the film have been parodied; notable lines include “This is Sparta!” and “Spartans,
tonight we dine in Hell!”
2 McDonald (1999) Letter 3; Richard (1994) 73.
3 See Reinhold (1984) 255–6) for a negative assessment of Sparta by Hamilton as early as
1782; Rahe (1992) 747; Richard (2008) 31.
4 See Adams (1787/1979) vol. 1. 257.
5 See Taylor R. et al. eds (1981) 102–3; Rahe (1992) 256.
6 See Richard (1994) 123–68 for a discussion of the history of mixed government theory and
influence on the Founders.
7 Adams (1787/1979) vol. 1. 170.
8 Shapiro (2009) 321.
9 Adams (1787/1979) vol. 1. 171.
10See Federalist 18 in Shapiro (2009) 88–93.
11 Reinhold (1984) 214; Richard (2008) 79–84.
12 Taylor (1814/1969) 22–3.
13 Reinhold (1984) 184– 5, 217–19; Winterer (2002) 62–5.
14 Miles (1971) 258–9; Winterer (2002) 21–2.
15 Miles (1971) 271; Rawson (1969) 369; Winterer (2002) 66.
16 Rawson (1969) 370; Miles (1971) 271.
17 See Winterer (2007) 169–77 for a summary of Child’s life and works.
18 Child (1836) 38; See Winterer (2007) 171.
19 Other communities named Sparta include: Sparta, Georgia; Sparta, Illinois; Sparta, Kentucky;
Sparta, Michigan; Sparta, Missouri; and Sparta Township, Pennsylvania.
20 “Traditions.” Michigan State: Official Website of Spartan Athletics,
2010. Web. 28 February 2010; “About SJSU.”, San Jose State., 2010. Web
28 February 2010.
21 See Clough (2004) 374–5 for a synopsis of the film.
22 Tritle in Meckler (2006) 128.
23 Tritle in Mickler (2006) 127–40; See Hodkinson (2012) for an excellent discussion on the
influence of Thucydides on American political scientists and policy makers.
24 Tritle in Meckler (2006) 128; See Kagan (1969) 112–13.
25 See Hodkinson in Hodkinson and Morris (2012).
26 Tritle in Meckler (2006) 130.
27 Gilpin in Lebow and Strauss (1991) 31.
28 Bernstein in Hamilton and Krentz (1997) 275–6.
29 “National Infantry Association.” Infantry Association. Web. 14
March 2010.
30 See Huntington (1957) 465 for the comparison of West Point to Sparta.
31 J.A.O. Larsen (1932) “Sparta and the Ionian revolt, A Study of Spartan Foreign Policy and
the Genesis of the Peloponnesian League”, CPh 2: 136–50; J.A.O. Larsen (1933) “The
Constitution of the Peloponnesian League”, CPh 4: 257–76.
32 See M.I. Finley (1968) “Sparta”, in J.‐P Vernant ed., 143–60.
33 See D. Kagan (1969) The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Ithaca.
34 See T.J. Figueira (1986) “Population Patterns in Late Archaic and Classical Sparta”, TAPA
CXVI: 165–213 and T.J. Figueira (1999) “The Evolution of Messenian Identity”, in S.
Hodkinson and A. Powell eds, 211–44; C. Hamilton (1991) Agesilaus and the Failure of
Spartan Hegemony. Ithaca; N. Kennell (1995) Gymnasium of Virtue. Chapel Hill and London.
The Reception of Sparta in North America
35 See Pomeroy (1975) Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New
36 See Millender (1999) “Athenian Ideology and the Empowered Spartan Woman”, in S.
Hodkinson and A. Powell eds, 355–91.
Adams, J. (1787/1979), A Defence of the Constitutions of the Government of the United States of
America3. Darmstadt.
Bernstein, A. (1997), “Imperialism, Ethnicity and Strategy: The Collapse of Spartan (Soviet)
Hegemony” in Hamilton and Krentz, eds, 275–301.
Briggs, W.W. Jr. (1998), Soldier and Scholar: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the Civil War.
Charlottesville and London.
Child, L.M. (1836), An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans. New York.
Clough, E. (2004), “Loyalty and Liberty: Thermopylai in the Western Imagination”, in Figueira,
ed., 363–84.
Faust, D.G. (1981), The Ideology of Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Antebellum South, 1830–1860.
Baton Rouge and London.
Gilpin, R. (1991), “Peloponnesian War and Cold War”, in Lebow and Lebow, eds, 31–50.
Hodkinson, S. (2012), “Sparta and the Soviet Union in U.S. Foreign Policy and Intelligence
Analysis”, in S. Hodkinson and I.M. Morris eds, Sparta in Modern Thought, 343–92.
Huntington, S. (1957), The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil‐Military
Relations. New York.
Kagan. D. (1969), The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Ithaca, NY.
Kagan, D. (1995), On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. New York.
Kennell, N.M. (1995), The Gymnasium of Virtue: Education and Culture in Ancient Sparta.
Chapel Hill.
Lovell, J.P. (1979), Neither Athens Nor Sparta? The American Service Academies in Transition.
Bloomington and London.
Malamud, M. (2009), Ancient Rome and Modern America. Malden and Oxford.
McDonald, F., ed. (1999), Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (John
Dickinson). Letters from the Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee). Indianapolis.
Miles, E.A. (1971) “The Old South and the Classical World”, North Carolina Historical Review
47: 258–75.
Pomeroy, S.B. (2002), Spartan Women. New York.
Rahe, P. (1992), Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American
Revolution. Chapel Hill and London.
Rawson, E. (1969), The Spartan Tradition in European Thought. Oxford.
Reinhold, M. (1984), Classica Americana: The Greek and Roman Heritage in the United States.
Richard, C.J. (1994), The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment.
Cambridge and London.
Richard, C.J. (2008), Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding
Fathers. Lanham.
Shapiro, I., ed. (2009), The Federalist Papers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay.
New Haven and London.
Skemp, S.L. (1998), Judith Sargent Murray: A Brief Biography with Documents. Boston.
Taylor, John. (1814/1969), An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the
United States. Indianapolis and New York.
Sean R. Jensen
Taylor R. et al. eds (1981), The Diary of John Quincy Adams, Cambridge
Tritle, L.A. (2006), “Thucydides and the Cold War” in Meckler, ed., 127–40.
Winterer, C. (2002), The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual
Life, 1780–1910. Baltimore and London.
Winterer, C. (2006), “Classical Oratory and Fears of Demagoguery in the Antebellum Era”; in
Meckler, ed., 41–53.
Winterer, C. (2007), The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750–1900.
Ithaca and London.
Wood, G.S. (1969), The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787. Chapel Hill.
Ziobro, W.J. (2006), “Classical Education in Colonial America”, in Meckler, ed., 13–28.
There is a growing bibliography of works on the reception of the classical world in the United
States. Reinhold 1984 and Richard 1994 and 2008 provide excellent accounts of the history of
classical learning and influence on early America. Winterer 2002 also provides important
­evidence for late colonial and nineteenth century American reception of the classical world.
The evolution of Spartan reception in the Antebellum South is a particularly rich field. Miles 1971
and Faust 1981 are fundamental for Southern views of the classical Greeks. Tritle 2006 and
Hodkinson 2012 offer treatments of modern American views and influence of the Spartans
­particularly in a Cold War context. American scholarship on Sparta has been steadily advancing for
the past few decades. Kagan 1969 still remains fundamental for many questions concerning the
political and military history of classical Sparta while Kennell 1995 provides an important study of
the social history of the ancient city. Finally, Pomeroy 2002 and Millender 1999 should be consulted for the important role of women in Spartan society.
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