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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Xerxes in Attica While one column of his army was working its way through southern Phocis, Xerxes crossed with the great bulk of his forces into Boeotia, heading through the territory of Orchomenos in the direction of Attica. Ahead of him, to smooth the way and clarify for the Great King and his commanders just who had medized and who had not, went a number of Macedonians operating on behalf of their king, Alexander. It was at this time that the Spartan Demaratus arranged for his guest-friend

Hopkins University Press, 1987). There is more to the story of Cleomenes’ commitments with regard to foreign affairs than can be discussed here: see Rahe, SR, Chapter 4. 76. Cleomenes rejects Scythian appeal for help against Darius: Hdt. 6.84 read in light of 4.1–4, 83–93, 97–98, 102, 118–19. Learns from them to drink wine neat: 6.84. 77. Aristagoras and Ionian revolt: Hdt. 5.28–38. For further details, see Chapter 3, below. Persian arms: Hdt. 5.49.3, 97.1 with Chapter 4, note 50, below.

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

her ancient enemy Argos, a large and powerful city, stood poised, watching and waiting to take advantage of any disaster that might strike. To make matters worse, in the early archaic period, the Arcadians, just to the north of Messenia and Laconia, were allied with Lacedaemon’s Argive foe and ever ready to lend a helping hand should the helots revolt. Even in the best of times, the helots of Laconia and Messenia appear to have outnumbered their masters by a margin of, some say, four but quite

When the campaigning season came around in the spring of that year, with the ships available and the infantrymen conveyed on them, the victor of Marathon toured the islands, ousted the Medizers from power, and attempted to put these polities on a footing to resist the Persians when they returned. In most respects, Miltiades appears to have been successful in this endeavor.27 Paros was, however, an exception to the rule. There, Datis and Artaphernes had installed in power a local Medizer of some

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