Spartan [2004]

Maybe it was Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire or Frank Miller's 300 that got you interested in learning about Sparta, but the thought of delving into Herodotus, Thucydides, or Plutarch appeared a bit too daunting. Luckily you don't have to brave the classics in order to get a rich education of the ultimate warrior city-state of ancient Greece. PBS's The Spartans is a well-researched, well-paced three-hour documentary telling you everything an armchair Lambda-wearing Hoplite would ever want to know about Greece's legendary warriors. Classical historian Bettany Hughes does an amazing job of exploring all aspects of life and history in the utopian city-state, including their rise to power, battles, discipline and training, thrifty existence, ideals of equality, enforcement of social/sexual freedom for both genders, and, ultimately, their downfall. Couple The Spartans with Empires: The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization, and you are guaranteed to walk away knowing more than most about the roots of Western Civilization without having to crack open the classics (though that is recommended!). --Rob Bracco

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