Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A World Long Ago and Far Away

Book Review: The End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson

I recently observed to a friend that the further we range in time from the present the more fantastic it becomes. Both the distant past and the distant future become speculative and mythologized through the lens of time; voyages into unknown and unseen lands.

The End of Sparta is Victor Davis Hanson's effort to throw back the veil that hides our past, and show us the people that lived behind it. Through his effort we are able to see that not much has changed in human character. In the battle for Sparta we find the same motivations and strivings that we do today: power, money, fame, love, faith, and justice.

Yet at the same time, Hanson shows us that the world was very different as well. It is a land of unfamiliar names, ancient weapons, and mythical creatures. At times I felt as if I was in a fantasy world, journeying not to Sparta but to Mordor, preparing to battle the Dark Lord. I won't belabor a comparison that many would contest; only noting many of the same themes and intricacies of the greater work The Lord of the Rings

Personally, I enjoyed the End of Sparta as a story in the classic vein. Such are the characters that myths are made of; the simple farmer who slays a king, the freed slave who liberates a people, the opposing general whom none can kill. To be honest, it is of a different caliber than most "historical fiction", which are histories written by novelists. This is a novel written by an historian, at once scholarly and inspiring.