The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta The Persian Challenge Paul Anthony Rahe

Yale Library of Military History
Publication date:
02 May 2017
Yale University Press
432 pages: 235 x 156mm
44 b-w illus.
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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.

Paul A. Rahe is the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in Western Heritage and professor of history at Hillsdale College. He lives in Hillsdale, MI.

"[Rahe] has an excellent eye for military logistics: His account of the practicalities of Xerxes’ vast invasion of Greece (what did those hundreds of thousands of men eat?) is crisp and persuasive."—Wall Street Journal

"There is a wealth of information in this book, covering almost every aspect of the complex situations on both sides that resulted in such a crushing defeat for the Persian Empire."—David Sim, Minerva

"Polymath Paul Rahe—classicist, historian, scholar of the European Enlightenment—in this brilliant revisionist study, reminds us how Sparta, not just Athens, saved Western freedom from the Persian aggression—and did so because of its innate courage, political stability, and underappreciated genius."—Victor Davis Hanson, author of The Other Greeks and A War Like No Other

"Western civilization owes much to Athens but also, Paul Rahe argues, to Sparta. He shows how Sparta’s militaristic culture enabled it to defeat the massive Persian invasion of 480 BC, and make the flowering of ancient Greece possible."—Michael Barone, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

"The level of learning demonstrated here is high and the mastery of the source material and scholarship impressive."—Thomas Figueira, Rutgers University

"The degree of originality in this book is remarkable. Its careful, detailed description and analysis of the Spartan constitution is full of keen understandings that help explain Spartan policy, diplomacy, and strategy."—Donald Kagan, author of The Peloponnesian War