THE STORY: (30 minutes) The transition from shepherd to Crown Prince of Troy isn’t easy, but with some help from Aphrodite (and from the royal harem), Paris manages to settle in to Troy quite nicely. A road trip to the the Greek kingdom of Sparta follows, during which Paris discovers that Aphrodite keeps all of her promises.
THE COMMENTARY: DID SPARTA REALLY THROW BABIES OFF OF CLIFFS? (14 minutes; begins at 30:00) I spend the entire post-story commentary of this episode talking about Sparta. Most of us, when we hear the word “Sparta”, immediately conjure up the image of bad-ass Spartan warriors, and the recent Hollywood blockbuster “The 300”. I note that this particular Sparta – the Sparta of popular consciousness – existed circa 480 B.C.E.; whereas the Sparta of the Trojan War existed circa 1250 B.C.E. After a quick review of the social and military practices of the 480 B.C.E. Sparta – killing unfit babies; raising boys in military barracks; murderous initiation rites into manhood; selective breeding and eugenics programs – I explore the historical veracity of this picture of Sparta. I note that our most reliable and authoritative source was Plutarch, writing circa 100 A.C.E., a full 500 years after 480 B.C.E. I note that Plutarch relied for his account of Sparta almost exclusively on oral history, supplemented by the incomplete accounts of Herodotus and Thucydides. I remind listeners that “tales grow with the telling”, especially over 500 years. And I note that Plutarch, like all historians, had his own agenda for presenting the picture of Sparta that he did. I conclude by reviewing some recent archeological “finds” concerning all those babies thrown off of cliffs, and by noting some recent historical views on the million-strong Persian army that Sparta defeated at the Battle of Thermopylae.