Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer
Helena P. Schrader
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (9/11)
Historians, writers and artists have symbolized Leonidas of Sparta as the epitome of military courage and self sacrifice for centuries. Helena P. Schrader uses the medium of historical fiction to construct a comprehensive three part chronological biography of the life of Leonidas. She has taken the limited known facts about his birth, family, and military record as the basis for building this historical novel.
“Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer” begins in 5th Century BC. Sparta’s Island of Kythera is under attack by the Argives. However, King Cleomenes is obsessed with meddling in Athenian affairs. Co-Monarch King Demaratus has another agenda. Neighboring city states take advantage of this conflict. Soon Sparta is in the midst of revolt. Schrader picks up her story of Leonidas who is now twenty-one years old and has just attained his citizenship and is in the Spartan army. Unaware of how this uprising may impact his destiny, Leonidas is concerned with matters of his estate and marriage. A parallel story traces Gorgo, niece of Leonidas, who exemplifies Spartan womanhood.
Schrader incorporates incidents from the life of Leonidas and from stories of his peers that form his character in ways that will impact the decisions he makes later when he becomes as King.
Although there may be some disagreement with other accepted classical or historical sources, Schrader’s approach in this account leads to an interesting assumption and a dramatic story true to the time and culture of the society of the period.
Careful research and painstaking editing add to the authenticity of Schrader’s mammoth undertaking in creating this three part biographical chronology of Leonidas’ life. She skillfully integrates dozens of Greek terms specific to the time and culture. These are explained within the narrative or in a comprehensive glossary included with historical notes, and a section describing the “Presumed Organization of the Spartan Army in 480 BC.” I found these tools especially helpful as a valuable resource to my understanding and enjoyment of the story.
“Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer” is historical fiction at its finest. Helena P. Schrader’s writing is engaging, rich in classical history, and literary style. I am looking forward to Book III in the trilogy, “Leonidas of Sparta: A Dispensable King.”