Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta
Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom
by Alfred S. Bradford
October 2011, 251pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38598-8
$53, £40, 45€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38599-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Why have the Spartans continued to exert such a hold on popular imagination? Nearly 2,500 years after King Leonidas led his Spartan warriors at the Battle of Thermopylae, their legend endures—as seen most recently in Frank Miller’s hugely successful graphic novel, 300, and the 2007 film incarnation of the same name, which grossed $70 million in its opening weekend.

This pivotal history of the kings of Sparta not only describes their critical leadership in war, but also documents the waxing and waning of their social, political, and religious powers in the Spartan state.

The Spartans have seemingly never gone out of interest, serving as mythic icons who exemplify fearlessness and an unwillingness to give in against impossible odds. Yet most are unaware of the true nature of the Spartan leaders—the fact that the kings maintained their position of power for 600 years by their willingness to compromise, even if it meant giving up some of their power, for example.

Organized in a logical and chronological order, Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom describes the legendary origins of the dual kingship in Sparta, documents the many reigning eras of the kings, and then concludes with the time when the kingship was abolished six centuries later. The book examines the kings’ roles in war and battle, in religion, in the social life of the city, and in formulating Spartan policy both at home and abroad. No other book on Sparta has concentrated on describing the role of the kings—and their absolutely essential contributions to Spartan society in general.


  • Numerous translations by the author of original sources
  • Chronology history from the Dorian Invasion (ca. 1000 BC) to the last king of Sparta (mid-2nd century BC)
  • Illustrations of the kings of Sparta, gods, and heroes, as well as diagrams of battles and family trees
  • Maps of Laconia, the Peloponnesus, and Greece
  • A bibliography containing ancient and modern sources for Sparta
Alfred S. Bradford, PhD, is the John Saxon Chair of Ancient History at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK. His published works include Philip II of Macedon: A Life From the Ancient Sources; Some Even Volunteered: The First Wolfhounds Pacify Vietnam; With Arrow Sword and Spear: A History of Warfare in the Ancient World; and Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy.


2012 Outstanding Academic Title—Choice, January 1, 2013


"Writing entertaining yet scholarly works on ancient history requires expertise, eloquence, and a dash of elegance. With this latest book, renowned scholar of ancient Sparta Bradford (Oklahoma) demonstrates all three. . . . It is a tale not to be missed."—Choice, May 1, 2012
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