What the Spartans did for us

Cartledge delivered his address, «What the Spartans have done for us,» to a crowded Great Hall at King’s College. His brilliant retrospective, firmly based on historical evidence, and with a resonance for the future, impressed his audience.«The battle of values,» said Cartledge, «continues on into our own 21st century, and the literal battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, arguably Sparta’s finest hour, provides a suitable focus for the discussion. The ancient ideal encapsulated in the myth of Thermopylae – the concept that there are some values that are worth dying for, as well as living for – still resonates today. ‘Utopia’ is formally ambiguous: It can mean either ‘No-Place’ (ou-topia) or ‘Place of Well-Faring’ (eu-topia). I’d like to think that a Thermopylae-inspired eutopia might not be too bad a place to be.» Among those offering their congratulations were the Greek ambassador to London, Alexandros Sandys, Consul General and artist Alexis Hatzimichalis, Euro-deputy Anna Karamanou who made a lightning trip from Brussels just for the lecture, and former British Ambassador to Athens Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith, who delivered a previous Runciman Lecture, with his wife Lady Colette. Llewellyn-Smith is writing a book on a topical subject, the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens.