Why have the Spartans continued to exert such a hold on popular imagination? Nearly 2,500 years after King Leonidas led his Spartan warriors at the Battle of Thermopylae, their legend endures, as seen most recently in Frank Miller's hugely successful graphic novel, 300, and the 2007 film incarnation of the same name, which grossed $70 million in its opening weekend. This pivotal history of the kings of Sparta not only describes their critical leadership in war, but also documents the waxing and waning of their social, political, and religious powers in the Spartan state. The Spartans have seemingly never gone out of interest, serving as mythic icons who exemplify fearlessness and an unwillingness to give in against impossible odds. Yet most are unaware of the true nature of the Spartan leaders: the fact that the kings maintained their position of power for 600 years by their willingness to compromise, even if it meant giving up some of their power, for example. Organized in a logical and chronological order, this volume describes the legendary origins of the dual kingship in Sparta, documents the many reigning eras of the kings, and then concludes with the time when the kingship was abolished six centuries later. The book examines the kings' roles in war and battle, in religion, in the social life of the city, and in formulating Spartan policy both at home and abroad. The book concentrates on describing the role of the kings and their absolutely essential contributions to Spartan society in general. -- From publisher.