The Poetry & Art

“A beautifully told, uplifting story of human endeavour. Inspirational and gripping.
I loved it.”
Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless)

The Road to Sparta does not just rely on the visual to relay the drama of the Spartathlon. It relies heavily on the mood of the music to relay the inner emotions of the runners and the poetry to invoke the spirit of Herodotus and the run made by Pheidippides in 490BC.

We were so fortunate to lure in the combined talents of Old House Playground and AE Stallings. Additionally, we would like to thank the vastly talented Manos Arvanitis for his work on the posters and website, and the artist Michael Lawrence for his fabulous painting The Road to Sparta.


Stallings4Telling the story of Pheidippides was always going to be problematical. On one occasion, Barney did send Roddy running through an olive grove with the camera but this was not a long-term solution to getting inside the head of the ancient runner as he left an Athens under threat to go on a dangerous mission to deliver a message that had so much hanging on it.

Instead they approached the highly-respected American poet AE Stallings who has lived in Athens since 1999 when her first book of poems Archaic Smile was published. It went on to win the Richard Wilbur Award.

She has published two other books of poems, Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her verse translation of Lucretius, The Nature of Things, showed an empathy with Ancient Greece which made her the perfect fit for The Road to Sparta.

Her contribution is four new sonnets (one of them from the perspective of the great Pan) and one double sonnet which is a mirrored, palindromic poem. Rare treasures in the world of documentary film-making.

Alicia is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.


The poems are voiced in the film by two of Greece’s leading actors, Renos Haralambidis and Malamatenia Gotsi.

RenosRenos came to the project via executive producer Tom Hiotis with whom he had worked on the Michael A. Nickles-directed golf movie Swing Away. Renos has appeared in over 50 films and is a mainstay of the Greek scene. He is perhaps best-known for the film Cheap Smokes (2000) which he wrote, directed and starred in.



Malamatenia came to The Road to Sparta via a French hospital drama called Nina in which she played the mother of Barney Spender’s son Nathaniel. Splitting her time between Greece and France, Malamatenia has featured in numerous plays and films. In 2003 she played opposite Renos in The Valiants of Samothrace.



After the teargas- Sunrise at Marathon Bay (Photo: B Spender)

After the teargas- Sunrise at Marathon Bay (Photo: B Spender)

Barney met Manos Arvanitis after a Puressence gig in Athens. They shared a beer, talked music and then moved on to films and art. It turned out that Manos specialises in designing posters and other movie artwork. So, it was entirely natural that Barney should turn to his expertise when The Road to Sparta was but a glint in its creator’s eye.

Manos produced an excellent poster for the crowd-funding campaign and has since gone on to create the poster that you see for the film. Manos also joined the crew for one memorable morning, a dawn shoot overlooking the Bay of Marathon.



LawrenceWhen the crowd-funding for the film got underway in 2014, there was no end of people willing to help. One such was the American painter and sculptor Michael Lawrence who produced a wonderful water colour which he has called The Road to Sparta.

Michael has lived since the 1990s on the Greek island of Hydra. His work resides in a number of top galleries and on the walls of such luminaries as Oliver Stone. Michael is also a writer and recently completed a book about his university friendship with Doors front man Jim Morrison.

Michael Lawrence painting (2)