Madingley Lecture - Life in Ancient Sparta: how Spartan? How strange? | Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) skip to content

Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


As we ponder the chaos surrounding leadership and uncertainty in today’s world, it is worth taking time to reflect on those cultures, attitudes and approaches that either bind us together or force us apart. Learning from alternative worlds and realities allows us to reflect on the rights and wrongs of our own beliefs and attitudes.

Madingley Lectures, arranged by the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education present a series of snapshots of other cultures, other worlds, distanced from our own by time and place.

Life in Ancient Sparta: how Spartan? How strange?, Professor Paul Cartledge

Of the 1000 or so ancient states and communities of Classical Greece the two best known are Athens - and Sparta. But whereas Athens is comparatively well documented, not least by native Athenians (Thucydides, Plato...), Classical Sparta failed to produce a single native historian or philosopher, so that for our knowledge of it we depend on mainly non-Spartan (including Athenian!) written sources complemented or corrected by archaeology. A persistent image of Sparta is that it was 'different', even strange: this illustrated talk will attempt to assess how - to what extent, in what ways - different it really was.

Professor Paul Cartledge is A G Leventis Senior Research Fellow of Clare College Cambridge. He first came to Cambridge in 1979, having held lecturing positions at the New University of Ulster, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Warwick. He was the A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge from 2008 to 2014, having previously held a personal chair in Greek History at Cambridge.

Paul's field of study is ancient Greece and especially Athens and Sparta in the Archaic and Classical Ages. He was chief historical consultant for the BBC TV series The Greeks and the Channel 4 series The Spartans. His many publications include The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others, The Spartans: An Epic History, Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice, Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities and most recently Democracy: A Life. Paul Cartledge sits on the European Advisory Board of Princeton University Press. He holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honour of Greece and is an Honorary Citizen of (modern) Sparta.

Complimentary tea and coffee available on arrival. Cash bar open after the lecture.

Event date

Tuesday, 29 October, 2019 - 18:30


University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education
Madingley Hall
CB23 8AQ