The historian Herodotus, (c. 485-425 BC) in his narrative history which records the wars between the Greeks and the Persians, gives an account of a young man named Aristodemos. Caroline Dale Snedeker has taken this brief description, fleshed it out and brought this period of ancient history vibrantly to life.
The Spartan is scheduled in Year 12 of Ambleside Online and at first glance it might appear out of place at that level. Caroline Dale Snedeker wrote a number of historically accurate novels for children but this book is more than just a story set in Ancient Greece. The differences culturally and philosophically between the people of Athens and those of Sparta is skillfully shown; the splendour of the Persians and the hubris of Xerxes; the realities of Spartan training, their embracing of death and the fatalistic fear inspired by their gods are interwoven in the story.
…something in the brightness of the face, the joyous nod of the golden head, struck Leonidas with that shrewd ancient fear of the Greeks.
“Be not so openly glad, Aristodemos,” he said. “Remember the signet ring of Polycrates the fortunate one, which the gods returned to him from the sea before they came to destroy him. Some things the gods will not brook, and for the too-happy man there is no escape, turn he this way or that!”
One of the strongest pictures for me was the absolute rejection of Aristodemos by his mother after the Battle of Thermopylae. Following the natural progression of a philosophical outlook to its end – in this case a mother who would curse and spurn her son who returned from battle, without knowing the circumstances, and wish him dead – was a powerful way to portray and bring the Spartan philosophy to life.
Our philosophy of life is reflected in how we live and act, and bears fruit in keeping with itself.