From c.550 BC until her defeat at the battle of Leuktra in 371 BC, Sparta was a dominant force in the Greek world. This has traditionally ben explained by Sparta's egalitarian and militaristic society. Hodkinson's accessible and detailed study of Sparta's ruling classes shows how a new citizen organisation was established in the 6th and 5th centuries BC in response to the great discrepancy between rich and poor in Sparta which had caused a succession of civil wars. The book first discusses what Sparta ideally represented to the classical and modern worlds before considering the realities of Spartan landownership and private property and wealth. Hodkinson demonstrates that severe inequality never left Sparta but instead contributed to the rapid decline in the state's fortunes following the defeat of 371 BC.