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.












wrecks driven south through the channel between Sciathus and the mainland on the current produced by that magnificent storm. In the interim, Leonidas may also have sent Eurybiades a message by ship, informing him that Xerxes had arrived. In any case, as soon as the storm abated, the Spartan navarch conducted the Hellenic fleet back past Euripus up the Euboean Gulf and through the Oreus Channel to its former post at Artemisium, hoping and even expecting that very few of the enemy ships had

then gives us a total for the whole fleet of three hundred seventy-eight triremes, which exceeds by twelve the sum of its parts. Even if one includes the penteconters said to have been provided by Cythnus, Seriphos, Siphnos, and Melos and the trireme from Lemnos that had defected from the Persian fleet at Artemisium, one comes up short.35 That is one problem. There is another that bears in a more serious fashion on our assessment of the strategy of the two sides and on the battle itself. In a

these imperatives—if one treats Sparta, Achaemenid Persia, and Athens or, for that matter, the United States, Russia, China, and Iran simply as “state actors,” equivalent and interchangeable, in the manner advocated by the proponents of realpolitik—one will miss much of what is going on. Wearing blinders of such a sort can, in fact, be quite dangerous. For, if policy makers were to operate in this fashion in analyzing politics among nations in their own time, they would all too often lack

entertained by the Corinthians and the Spartans with regard to Polycrates and his swashbuckling forebears were real enough, and recalling them to mind may well have been galling. The long-standing ties of guest-friendship, stretching back to the era of the first two Messenian wars—which linked the leading families of Lacedaemon with those among the wealthy Geōmóroι, ascendant at Samos prior to the rise of the tyrant clan, whose offspring appealed in 525 for aid—may also have been exceedingly

infantrymen made their way to Samos. They were not in a great hurry, but they probably did not long tarry. From Samos, however, they did not head for the Hellespont and Thrace, as Mardonius had done the year before. His experience at Mount Athos was a warning and a deterrent. Instead, they chose to retrace the route followed by Megabates shortly before the Ionian revolt, sailing past Ikaros to Naxos and the Cyclades.24 This time, if Herodotus is to be trusted, the Persians caught the Naxians by

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