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Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership

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  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616575514
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616575519
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Happy Chappie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A very readable book that looks at the three commanders from a very modern standpoint and relates their actions to every day battlefield/political problems. Whether the three thought in the same way is a moot point, but as I said it's very readable and certainly makes one think.

Some 300 pages long, decent, easy to read, typeface. Only four stars as I couldn't possibly give any book that comes out and says that Caesar was the greatest general of the ancient world five stars: "While Caesar and Hannibal played with fragments of continents, Alexander played with continents". Slightly tongue in cheek and that's probably the main point of this book. Depending on your point of view there's a lot to agree with and a lot to disagree with too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 33 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Essential Fare for History Buffs and Leaders Alike 17 Jun. 2012
By M. A. Sears - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For would-be leaders, for amateur ancient history buffs, and, yes, even for professional scholars of antiquity, Strauss's latest book has much to offer. Countless indeed are the works written about all three of these giants of history, yet in Masters of Command the reader will find important new perspectives and that rarest of things when dealing with the ancient world: lessons relevant to modern life. Without simply eulogizing Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar, in eloquent and accessible prose Strauss shows us which of their methods worked - and didn't work - in leading armies, acquiring empires, and dealing with pesky politicians. This book offers many insights for today's leaders, both actual and aspiring, all through the medium of a compelling narrative sure to satisfy anyone eager for a good story.

Strauss brings to the study of warfare his idea of the five stages of war: attack, resistance, clash, closing the net, and knowing when to stop. Deftly he shows how the three generals respectively fared at each stage, offering his own expert opinion as to who managed the best. For instance, while Alexander and Hannibal were past-masters at the "clash" stage, performing feats at Gaugamela and Cannae hardly equaled in all of history, Caesar pursued the soundest strategy while "closing the net" around the supporters of Pompey after the Battle of Pharsalus. Where each general failed the most was in knowing when to stop. As Strauss argues, all three were military conquerors, in thrall to the sound of the war trumpet. None - except perhaps Caesar in his most prescient moments - was a true statesman, capable of ruling what had been won through so much hard fighting. Today's leaders - those in politics, business, or any conceivable field - would be wise to take note of Strauss' words of caution in this regard.

As a professional ancient historian myself, I am well acquainted with the legends and I dare say many of the facts surrounding Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar. And yet Strauss had me thinking in new ways about all three. Take for instance the sacking and burning of the great Persian capital of Persepolis under Alexander's army. What to many ancient historians seems the crime of an undisciplined mob of conquerors is reinterpreted by Strauss as a deliberate move on the part of Alexander to deprive the Persians of the seat of their religion, what might have proved a site at which to mobilize future resistance against their new master. As Strauss reminds time and again, these three generals were nothing if not prodigies of public relations, a fact even those most familiar with history often downplay.

Read this book, and take its lessons to heart. And don't forget, as Strauss himself cautions us: Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar achieved things scarcely believable, but not all of their actions are to be emulated.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Barry Strauss is the Master Of Command! 11 Jun. 2012
By Stu Cohen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once again, a hearty thank you to Irene Hahn, and her august group, Roman History Reading Group on their recommendation of Barry Strauss' Master of Command. Absolutely loved it. He writes in a way that even a 'laymen', like myself, can easily understand and enjoy. I found the accounts of each of his Commanders, Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar to be exhilarating, extremely well thought out, and his assessment and comparison of each, profound! Not having a 'Classical Education', did not prevent me from devouring, comprehending, and enjoying this masterpiece! And proves once again, that the stories and events of antiquity, are far more entertaining and interesting than anything coming out of Hollywood. And he justifies my admiration of the Divine One, by claiming in conclusion, that Caesar was the best Commander and Leader. But not by much. Thank you, Barry!
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Masters of Command 9 May 2012
By Chris Harper - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Barry Strauss has written a superb assessment of three of the greatest commanders in history: Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar. He makes ancient history come alive, describing the battles--both military and political--that these leaders faced. But the qualities needed for success then still apply today: ambition, judgment, leadership, audacity, strategy, Divine Providence, and others.
Today's business people and politicians would be well served by reading this wonderfully written book to see how and why great leaders succeed and fail. I thoroughly enjoyed Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Who's Da Man? 14 Nov. 2012
By Russell V. Olson Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barry Strauss has given us a concise overview and comparison of ancient history's three greatest captains. As a field artilleryman who served for 30 years with 12 years overseas including a combat tour in Vietnam followed by 12 years as a high school history teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed "Masters of Command." I applaud Barry's efforts in producing this slim, yet informative, volume.
In my Military History classes, we spent quite a lot of time on Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar during our study of ancient warfare. As a culminating "Who's Da Man" exercise, I would divide the class into three groups and instruct them to convince the rest of the class that their general was the greatest. Their presentations were quite lively, always humorous, and often insightful. I was thus glad to see that Barry shared with us his view as to who was the "fairest of them all." My personal choice is Hannibal because he did so much with so little for so long with virtually no support from home.
My only criticism is with his organization and the chapter headings he used for comparisons. I just felt uncomfortable with his five stages. I feel that he should have included "preparation" as a stage before "attack" and he should have used different terminology for "closing the net" and "knowing when to stop."
Anyone interested in ancient military history should include "Masters of Command" in their reading program.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not what it claimed to be... 3 Jan. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As I have read in some other reviews, the book itself is not bad [though it *does* get a tad repetitive], however it is not so much an analysis of leadership as it is a historical record. Sure, Strauss outlines the qualities he believes create a great leader, but he never really explains how those elements transition to success or what modern readers can really learn from them--how they can be applied to modern lives [yes, the reader can do this however it is implied early on that he will give his 2 cents as well]].

What he does do exceptionally well is give an introduction to the three generals in the book. As a huge Alexander history buff, I admit that [and the failed promise of a discussion about leadership] is the primary reason I picked this up, but after reading the book I find myself looking more into Hannibal (and, to a lesser extent, Caesar). At the end of the book Strauss also does the reader a tremendous favor by listing about 10 pages of other recommended reading that includes commentary on what each book entails (it's an extension of dialog--not a list; historical writers should take note!).

Overall I did enjoy the book though I felt it did not live up to its promise; if Strauss wanted to focus on battles and historical record he really should have made this much more clear in the beginning and he should have taken the time to fully delve into the material (240 pages is just barely scratching the surface). You should read this book if you enjoy military history or if you are interested in one of the 3 figures, but if you are looking for something that relates ancient lessons to modern times this is not the book for you.
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