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bullet A BOY OF THE AGOGEbullet

Book I of the Leonidas Trilogy

book cover The smaller of twins, born long after two elder brothers, Leonidas is considered an afterthought from birth – even by his mother.  Lucky not to be killed for being undersized, he is not raised as a prince like his eldest brother, Cleomenes, but instead has to endure the harsh upbringing of ordinary Spartan youth.  Barefoot, always a little hungry, and subject to harsh discipline, Leonidas has to prove himself worthy of Spartan citizenship.  Struggling to survive without disgrace, he never expects that one day he will be king or chosen to command the combined Greek forces fighting a Persian invasion.  But these are formative years that will one day make him the most famous Spartan of them all: the hero of Thermopylae.

This is Sparta!
As you’ve never seen it before


Book Intro by Helena P. Schrader

The historical record tells us very little about the life of Leonidas.  His death is legendary.  His last days have inspired great works of art and popular enthusiasm.  The stand of “the 300” at Thermopylae has been harnessed to a hundred modern causes pitting East against West.  Leonidas and his 300 Spartans have come to symbolize what is good and noble in war: self-sacrifice for the sake of one’s country and family.  But who was Leonidas?  And what was he before he became the incarnation of Freedom fighting Tyranny? 

Herodotus gives us some tantalizing tidbits – the story of his father’s forced second marriage, the tensions between his elder brothers, the precociousness of his wife.   But he is silent on many key points, from the date of Leonidas’ birth to his role in Sparta prior to becoming king.  Only one thing about his early life do we know for certain: because he was not the heir apparent to the Agiad throne, he would have been subjected to the full Spartan agoge.  Knowing that, knowing how he ended, and building on fascinating insights into his personality provided by the few sayings attributed to him, I have created a young Leonidas. 

Nothing in this novel contradicts known facts about Leonidas – not even the late date of his birth. It is true that most historians prefer to think he was born “shortly” after Dorieus, as Herodotus says; but the fact that he personally led the Spartan advance guard to Thermopylae, fought in the front line for two full days of fierce fighting, and did not die until the last day supports my thesis that he was not already an old man at the time of the battle.   The fact that his son was still quite young at the time of his death is another undeniable historical fact that supports the postulated later birth of Leonidas.  

I have made Leonidas roughly 8 years younger than most historians postulate and from 10 to 15 years older than most popular portrayals of him in art and film.

That said, the novel is quite candidly fiction. 
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