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The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge

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The Origins of the Spartan Way of War

This volume is the first of a three part series by Prof. Rahe (Hillsdale College) that explores the origins and evolution of Sparta’s political and military strategy. Rahe opens with opens with some background on the origins of Sparta and the formation of its unique social and military institutions. He then takes a closer look at Sparta’s response to the Persian threat, using two broad themes

In “The Crisis of Sparta’s Grand Strategy,” Rahe reviews the rise of the Persian empire with its expansion into the Greek world. This ultimately led to the Ionian Revolt, which provoked the first clashes between the mainland Greeks and the Persians, in which Sparta played only a limited role, and culminated in the Campaign of Marathon in 490 BC, in which Sparta had no role at all, but which influenced Spartan political and military strategic thought.

In the second section, “The Crisis Comes to a Head,” Rahe goes into more detail, as Sparta began to take a more central in the Graeco-Persian confrontation. He covers the events leading up to the Persian invasion of Greece in 480-479 BC, the course of the war, including the battles at Thermopylae, Artemesium, Salamis, Plataea, and to Mycale, out of which Sparta emerged with an impressive reputation. The volume ends with a short “Epilogue”, reviewing the consequences of the Greek victories.

 

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