This 3-part series charts the rise and fall of one of the most intriguing and extreme civilizations of the ancient world. Classical historian Bettany Hughes reveals this secretive, surprising society of battle-hardened warriors, weak babies left exposed on hillsides to die and powerful, liberated women. The story unfolds against the spectacular mountain scenery of Sparta in the Peloponnese and the stunning landscape and archaeology of classical Greece. Unlike its more famous rival, Athens, Sparta can't boast of philosophers, playwrights or politicians. It's famous for its frugality and its fighters - reputed to be the bestin the whole of ancient Greece.
The Spartans Previous Broadcasts
KQED Plus: Wed, Jul 20, 2011 -- 11:00 PM
The war between Sparta and Athens reaches a brutal and bloody climax in Sicily. Sparta finally emerges as victorious. Now the most powerful city-state in Greece, Sparta is an imperial power. But under the fascinating, flawed King Agesilaus, the dreams of the Spartan utopia come crashing down. By setting out to create a perfect society protected by perfect warriors, Sparta makes an enemy of change. A collapsing birth rate, too few warriors, rebellious slaves and outdated attitudes to weaponry and warfare combine to sow the seeds of Sparta's destruction, until eventually the once great warrior state is reduced to a stop for Roman tourists who came to view bizarre sadomasochistic rituals. Yet even today, centuries later, the Spartan ideal continues to inspire, fascinate and influence.
- KQED Plus: Thu, Jul 21, 2011 -- 5:00 AM
KQED Plus: Tue, Jul 19, 2011 -- 11:00 PM
The second hour explores the bitter rivalry between Sparta and Athens and their startlingly different views of women. They are two cities with opposite views of the "good life." For Athens, Sparta is a frightening place that turns its children into fighting machines. Worse still are Sparta's women: liberated, independent, opinionated, they take an active part in sport, race horses and chariots, celebrate nudity and wield power in the absence of their men. They are unique in the ancient world -- and an affront to Athenian notions of femininity. When war between Sparta and Athens finally comes, it rages for decades and splits the Greek world until on the island of Sphacteria, the reputation for fearlessness of Sparta's famed warriors is shockingly undermined.
- KQED Plus: Wed, Jul 20, 2011 -- 5:00 AM
KQED Plus: Mon, Jul 18, 2011 -- 11:00 PM
The first hour explores the birth of the unique Spartan social system. Militaristic, communal and disciplined, the state enforces eugenics and euthanasia. Priests decide which babies should live and which should be left to die. Seven-year-old boys are forced to fend for themselves on the harsh mountainside. Policed by secret spies, the society is supported by a nation of slaves. Sparta can be seen as a premonition of modern-day totalitarianism, but Sparta is the first Greek city to define the rights of its citizens. And in the pass of Thermopylae, its warriors fight bravely to their deaths, living up to the boast of their city in a heroic last stand against the Persian invader.
- KQED Plus: Tue, Jul 19, 2011 -- 5:00 AM