The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta

Dear Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta,

You had a lot of information to share. As a person who knew little about the Peloponnese War, I found myself overwhelmed by the abundance of information. I left wanting to know more, so in that way, thank you.

With Love,

P.S. Book Details
Author: Paul A. Rahe
Book Length: 408 pages
Book Genre: History
Series: 1 out of 3
Publication Date: November 2015
Awards: N/A
Synopsis: 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. 


Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed reading this book. I felt under-educated in this area, which made it hard to read because most information was new information to me. There was a steep learning curve. I persevered through the book, because I realized I would never learn more if I quit every time a book was higher than my knowledge. Reading this book felt quite character-building for me, and I won’t lie… I feel proud to have finished this book.

Paul A. Rahe is a professor and scholar surrounding the Spartans. Currently he is a professor at Hillsdale College. He has written books surrounding the Spartan Regime in the past, and wrote this book as the first installment of a trilogy. In an interview with Rahe, he was asked about the meaning behind his title. His response interested me and brought more meaning to some of the smaller details he brought in. The purpose behind grand strategy is the domestic aspect in addition to military tactics. Rahe goes into great detail surrounding the way of life, the cultural factors, and political alliances during this time. He deeply delved into these concepts. If you are interested in learning more about this subject in an easier format, Rahe does a video lecture series which I found informative.

Winston Churchill said, “Battles are the principal milestones in secular history. Modern opinion resents this uninspiring truth… But great battles, won or lost, change the entire course of human events, create new standards of values, new moods, new atmospheres, in armies and in nations, to which all must conform”. “The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta”, unpacks why this war was life-changing for history. As a person who does not have a classical education, or a strong history base, I found myself a little exhausted finishing this book. It was as if I finished a marathon, it was draining. I definitely grew as a learner, and this is my main takeaway. Yes, my knowledge on this subject increased (substantially). But, even more than expanding my knowledge, I felt like I showed myself I can finish a difficult book, such as this. Oh, I also took away that I don’t want to live in the Spartan community.

This isn’t a traditional book review, because I don’t necessarily feel qualified to write one. There are many good reviews on Goodreads, which I would direct you to read. I didn’t do a star rating for this book on Goodreads, for the same reason this isn’t a traditional book review. I believe anyone could pick this book up, but I would recommend this book to people who really enjoy history and the way history books are written.

Goodreads | Author’s Page | Lecture Series


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