The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge (Yale Library of Military History)

The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge (Yale Library of Military History)

Language: English

Pages: 424

ISBN: 030011642X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A fresh appreciation of the pivotal role of Spartan strategy and tactics in the defeat of the mightiest empire of the ancient world  

More than 2500 years ago a confederation of small Greek city-states defeated the invading armies of Persia, the most powerful empire in the world. In this meticulously researched study, historian Paul Rahe argues that Sparta was responsible for the initial establishment of the Hellenic defensive coalition and was, in fact, the most essential player in its ultimate victory.
Drawing from an impressive range of ancient sources, including Herodotus and Plutarch, the author veers from the traditional Atheno-centric view of the Greco-Persian Wars to examine from a Spartan perspective the grand strategy that halted the Persian juggernaut. Rahe provides a fascinating, detailed picture of life in Sparta circa 480 B.C., revealing how the Spartans’ form of government and the regimen to which they subjected themselves instilled within them the pride, confidence, discipline, and discernment necessary to forge an alliance that would stand firm against a great empire, driven by religious fervor, that held sway over two-fifths of the human race.


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Chios—who had conspired unsuccessfully to assassinate Strattis, the tyrant imposed on the island by Darius long before—sought the help of the Hellenes in raising Ionia, Leotychidas shifted this flotilla to Delos. But he dared go no further. From the perspective of this landlubber, Herodotus explains, Samos was as far off as were the Pillars of Heracles at Gibraltar, and he feared, we can surmise, that the triremes he commanded would be outnumbered—and outclassed as well.25 Herodotus does not

a wonder well worthy of extended contemplation. In the aftermath, the Spartans had a choice. They could declare victory, retreat to their fastness in the Peloponnesus, and return to their time-honored ways, grateful that they had weathered the storm, confident that no such threat would reappear, and satisfied with their diminutive realm and the disciplined way of life it made both possible and necessary. Alternatively, they could try to sustain their extended hegemony on both land and sea by

uncritically the minimum calorie-intake calculations of Donald W. Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 1–24, 123–30. Effort to overawe: Thomas Kelly, “Persian Propaganda—A Neglected Factor in Xerxes’ Invasion of Greece and Herodotus,” IA 38 (2003): 173–219. 23. Judgment of Hermocrates: Thuc. 6.33.5–6. 24. Demaratus on the Greeks and Spartans: Hdt. 7.101–4. The literary dimension of Herodotus’ use of the Demaratus

home, exile leaders: 9.77. 15. Oath of the Amphictyonic League: Aeschin. 2.115 with François Lefèvre, L’Amphictionie pyléo-delphique: Histoire et institutions (Athens: École française d’Athènes, 1998), passim (esp. 147–51). Note also Aeschin. 3.109–11. 16. Actual handling of Thebes in 479: Hdt. 9.86–88. 17. Juxtaposition of Spartan and Persian meals: Hdt. 9.82. Author’s Note and Acknowledgments This book, intended as the first volume in a trilogy dedicated to the study of Sparta and its

something by this poet—with the polemarch acting as judge and awarding extra meat to the victor. The poetry Tyrtaeus composed in the seventh century did much to reinforce the exaggerated piety that was the foundation of Spartan morale and to instill an ethos conducive to eunomía. His principal subject, however, was not peace, but war. In one of his hortatory elegies, he drew the attention of his compatriots to the manner in which their well-being depended on the fate of the city itself. It is a

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