On 30 July 2020, Helen joined Professor Stephen Hodkinson and Dr Philip Davies of the University of Nottingham for a live discussion of Sparta’s legacy in modern politics, part of a series entitled ‘Sparta Live!’, which is being broadcast to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae.
Since the Renaissance, Sparta has meant different things to different political systems and ideologies. The classical republican tradition viewed Sparta as possessing an ideal balance of civic and military elements. Liberal democratic thought views of it as a militaristic and totalitarian state. Nowadays, Sparta’s martial aspects are commonly misappropriated by the Far Right, drawing on Nazi beliefs that the Spartans embodied the ancient Aryan racial spirit. Finally, throughout the ages, Spartan education has often been presented as the ideal model for educating an officer caste – whether in the cadet-corps of nineteenth-century Prussia, at training-schools for the Third Reich’s juvenile elite, or even at the British public schools.