SPARTAN by Valerio Massimo Manfredi


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Two brothers in ancient Greece, separated at birth, come together to rescue their nation in the Persian Wars.

Italian architect Manfredi (Alexander, not reviewed, etc.) starts with twin brothers in Sparta. One of them, born with a crippled leg, will never be able to fight and so (in accordance with Spartan custom) is left in the woods to die. But he is found by the kindly Helot shepherd Kritolaos, who takes pity on the baby and brings him home to be raised as his own. Talos (as he is named) grows up among the Helots (who were enslaved by the Spartans) ignorant of his true ancestry. Brithos, the other twin, is raised to follow in the warrior traditions of his people. On his deathbed, Kritolaos entrusts Talos with his greatest possession: the armor and sword of Aristodemus, the defeated king of the Helots, which Kritolaos had secretly kept hidden away these many years. But Talos has no ambitions to glory. He tends to his flocks and falls in love with Antinea, the daughter of a local Helot tenant farmer. When Brithos, traveling through the region with some Spartan friends, comes upon Antinea and tries to rape her, however, Talos springs to her defense and discovers within himself a taste for battle he had never known before. Conscripted as an orderly to Brithos, he has his true identity revealed to him by an oracle. Meanwhile, Xerxes the Persian has raised the greatest army ever known and is on the verge of overrunning Greece. Brithos falls in battle, as does his father. Can Talos (now known as Kleidemos) save the day? He can certainly play his part.

Call it a Spaghetti Epic: Manfredi’s narration of ancient Greek history owes as much to John Ford and George Lucas as it does to Herodotus. But while this is a fairly accurate narration of ancient history, the private dramas involved are too outlandish and overdrawn to be read with a straight face.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2003
ISBN: 0-7434-7542-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2003