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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

CLAS3650 The Image of Sparta

20 creditsClass Size: 25

Module manager: Professor Emma Stafford

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Pre-requisite qualifications

There are no formal prerequisites for this module, but a basic level of knowledge of the ancient Greek world will be assumed. This might have been acquired via an A-level in Classical Civilisation or Ancient History, via a Classics Level 1 or 2 module at Leeds (e.g. CLAS1300 Greek World, CLAS1100 Ancient Lives, CLAS2900 Ancient Empires), or via private study. Students unsure about the suitability of their prior experience should consult the module leader before enrolling.

This module is mutually exclusive with

CLAS2650The Image of Sparta

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is suitable for Level 3 students with at least a basic knowledge of the Greek world. Rather than attempting to provide a straightforward history of Sparta, it looks at ways in which ancient writers presented Sparta: as the ideal egalitarian state, its harsh education system and austere life producing an army of unsurpassed bravery, and women who sent their sons to battle with instructions to return either with their shield or on it.


This module aims to introduce the student to Sparta history and to the particular factors which led to the formation of Sparta’s reputation as the ideal military state. Lectures provide a chronological survey of Spartan history from the early archaic period to the city’s fall to Roman power in 192 BC; they also introduce the texts which are a major source for our understanding both of Sparta itself and of its place in the wider Greek imagination. Seminars provide an opportunity for more in-depth discussion of particular themes.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
- demonstrate a coherent and detailed understanding of Spartan history;
- appreciate and employ a variety of methods of enquiry into Spartan history, and critically evaluate the appropriateness of different methods;
- describe and comment on particular aspects of current research, appreciating the uncertainty, ambiguity and limitations of knowledge in the sub-discipline;
- highly effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis relating to Spartan history in a variety of forms;
- show an advanced knowledge of Spartan history, including an appreciation of the place of Sparta in the wider Greek world, and the particular issue of the ‘Spartan mirage’.

Skills outcomes
In addition to broader/transferable skills, students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following subject-specific skills:

- ability to situate Sparta in the broader context of Greek history from the archaic to the hellenistic periods;
- ability to read ancient texts on Sparta critically;
- ability to analyse the full range of available evidence for Spartan history, and to evaluate its reliability.


This module looks at the enduring myth of Spartan austerity and military prowess, as developed by a variety of non-Spartan writers from the fifth century BC to the second century AD. Works to be studied closely are Xenophon's Spartan Society, Plutarch's lives of the great Spartan leaders Lycurgus, Agesilaos, Agis and Cleomenes, and the Spartan Sayings (all included in the volume Plutarch on Sparta tr. R. Talbert and I. Scott-Kilvert, revised ed. Penguin 2005); reference will also be made to the place of Sparta in the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, and in Plato's and Aristotle's discussions concerning the ideal state. Students will be encouraged to criticise the texts from both a literary and a historical point of view, to which end factors will be considered which tend to undermine the image of Spartan austerity and egalitarianism, including material evidence from Sparta itself and its territory.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours175.00
Total Contact hours25.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Lectures and tutorials provide a total of 25 hours contact time. In addition, students are expected to do 175 hours of private study as follows:
- 2 hours of follow-up study per lecture (= 34): this time would typically be divided between consolidation of notes and pursuance of recommended reading.
- 6 hours preparation for each tutorial (= 48 hours): this time would typically be divided between guided reading of books, articles and online resources, and writing of informal tutorial contributions.
- 48 hours planning, research and writing for the coursework essay.
- 45 hours revision for the end-of-semester exam.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be informally monitored via participation in the seminar discussions. Opportunities will also be provided for one-to-one consultation via the lecturer’s advertised Drop-In times. Formal feedback will be provided on the coursework essay, which will be returned in good time to inform the student’s exam preparation.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayBetween 2500-3000 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 04/08/2023


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