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We might want mythological Spartiates as soldiers, but I doubt we want mythological Spartiates as generals. And the mythological ones are all we are getting because no one is interested in historically accurate Spartiates. Thus, count me cautious about exposing the officer corps of a democracy's military to Spartan hero worship.

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Look, I unironically enjoy Heinlein's Starship Troopers (not just when I was a child; I re-read it the other year and it still gave me pleasure.) But the bold claims to prove moral axioms mathematically made me roll my eyes and obviously I don't think that the sort of timocracy portrayed by Heinlein is a good idea for anyone anywhere. I certainly wouldn't want it to be required reading in my military academy. So I don't see any contradiction between liking to read Gates of Fire and not wanting it as a book of instruction.

Elsewhere (in his series on Sparta), Devereaux has made it clear that he doesn't agree that there was radical equality among Spartiates; there was equality if you could stump up your mess dues, yes, but doing that required substantial landed property and there was large variation in the property with which Spartiates were endowed and their habit of marrying so as to concentrate property further is what led to an ever shrinking proportion of Spartiates in society. They were no more egalitarian than any other group of oligarchs; they had certain common interests, and that as all.

Other than that, where is the lie? The Spartans were not superior warriors. They did not have an ultra-militarized society, they had an ultra-policed society, which isn't the same thing at all. They did not train more than other Greeks and they did not particularly cultivate virtu. So why should we teach modern day soldiers that they did? Particularly when fantasies about Spartan masculinity are particularly attractive to misogynists and anti-democrats?

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In reading todays post I am reminded of David Weber's Honor Harrington novels. On one level I really liked them although it became clear he increasingly pushed a conservative agenda. I could live with that for a while because he created fascinating characters, society's and good description of war. But in the end I felt that he just stacked the deck way beyond plausibility to support his political agenda

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As I left the army, I applauded the end of the draft--no more forcing men to serve what they loathed. But 50 years later, I've changed my mind. No one who's had to salute a jackass made an officer & gentleman by act of Congress will have any patience with military adventures. And I say this in full realization that our professional military is a whole lot better led & trained than the fucked up mess I survived. Books & movies don't matter: service does.

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"Gates of Fire" just proves never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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Humbled to be a subscriber, I am. Thank you.

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I like the take over at Angry Staff Officer. I think it's easier to romanticize warfare from the outside, but even those who have war as their business can get caught up in the fantasy.

https://angrystaffofficer.com/2016/12/14/stop-calling-us-warriors/

There's romantic, and there's winning wars. The Spartan warrior and nothing else culture, single combat, knights in armor are all very romantic. It makes for great stories even in unromantic wars. It's hard to read the Iliad and read anything but a tragedy, of individuals caught in a horrible tide.

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If you haven't already, you should read Paul Cartledge's "Agesilaos and the Crisis of Sparta".

Because I haven't read Gates of Fire I don't have any comment of my own, but isn't this a case where Devereaux thinks (worries?) that it glorifies Sparta and you don't (or at least you think it wasn't intended to)? We could have the same debate over Paradise Lost, and I never have known how to deal with people who manage to glorify the bad guy against the writer's intention. But at the end of the day, how sure are we of the writer's intention? Put another way, if lots and lots of people take the wrong message from a work, does the writer's intention matter?

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