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Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns [Hardcover]

Dr Scott M. Rusch
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

17 Mar 2011
During the eighth century B.C., Sparta became one of the leading cities of ancient Greece, conquering the southern Peloponnese, and from the mid-sixth century bc until the mid-fourth, Sparta became a military power of recognized importance. For almost two centuries the massed Spartan army remained unbeaten in the field. Spartan officers also commanded with great success armies of mercenaries or coalition allies, as well as fleets of war galleys. Although it is the stand of the Three Hundred at Thermopylae that has earned Sparta undying fame, it was her victories over both Persian invaders and the armies and navies of Greek rivals that upheld her position of leadership in Greece. Even a steady decline in Spartiate numbers, aggravated by a terrible earthquake in 464 bc, failed to end Spartan dominance. Only when the Thebans learned how to defeat the massed Spartan army in pitched battle was Sparta toppled from her position of primacy. Scott Rusch examines what is known of the history of Sparta, from the settlement of the city to her defeat at Theban hands, focusing upon military campaigns and the strategic circumstances that drove them. Rusch offers fresh perspectives on important questions of Spartan history, and illuminate some of antiquity s most notable campaigns.

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Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns + The Spartan Army + A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite in Action
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Frontline Books (17 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848325304
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848325302
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Scott Rusch studied Greek and Roman history at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his Ph.D. in 1997. Reflecting his lifelong interest in military history, he examined in his dissertation Greek military operations during the Peloponnesian War, a valuable preparation for this work. He has written on ancient military history for many publications.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although this does not seem to have been the author's intention, this book is an excellent introduction and overview of Sparta. In slightly more than 200 pages and plenty of well drawn maps and shematics for Sparta's major battles, Scott Rush has produced a very good summary of Sparta's military history. Although the book contains the date 550-362 BC, it also presents what happened before and after.

In fact, and to a large extent, this book is also a summary of the main conflicts over a period of about 200 years. Unsurprisingly, 2 and 3 chapters are devoted to, respectively, the War aganist the Persians and the Great War (or the war against Athens, as the Spartans called it with the Athenians calling it the war against the Peloponesians). I particularly enjoyed the last four chapters from 404 to 362 BC, the period of domination and Fall, simply because it is usually less well known and less studied. There are some very interesting developments on Theban tactics and their impact on Sparta. The limits to Sparta's power and the importance of Messenia are also clearly shown, but the importance of Argos as the secular rival is also emphasized while the other cities could be either (more or less voluntary) allies or adversaries, depending on their interests.

One limit of this book is that the discussion on "oliganthropia", its causes and its effects on Spartan armies are a bit on the "light side". Since this is one of the key reasons for Sparta's ultimate demise, this is proably a weak point. To learn more on this, read Cartledge's book (and "Agesilaus and the Crisis of parta", in particular).

Another limit of this book is perhaps that it is mostly focused on campaigns, battles and tactics, with the larger picture (diplomatic ties, politics etc...) being less developed.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Ned Middleton HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sparta was a city state and, as such, the dominant military power in ancient Greece for almost 200 hundred years. Remarkably, for such a small state, the Spartans produced a political and social structure which provided a seemingly invincible military elite with many of their conquests passing into a mixture of ancient history and local folklore with the latter becoming more and more embellished as each story was handed down through countless generations.

Dr Scott M. Rusch's impressive list of credits inform the reader that he is eminently qualified to provide those with an interest in ancient Sparta with a realistic and trustworthy description of the history of that particular part of the world at that time. In reality he produces a most interesting and readable account which destroys many myths and explains much that some might think they already knew. Commencing with Sparta's development as city circa 950 BC through to her eventual defeat by Thebes in 369 BC and her attempts to regain power afterwards, this work is destined to become regarded as the definitive work on the subject.

Only after Thebes had learned the secret of beating the Army of Sparta were they finally defeated. Prior to that, the Spartans had won no fewer than 10 major land battles and became most famous of all for the heroic stand of the three hundred men at Thermopylae.

Using no other tool except the requirement for meticulous research and the checking - and double, treble checking!, of every single fact relating to the period, Rusch has successfully separated fact from popular fiction and produced a work which is hard to put down once you commence reading.

As someone who thought he knew nothing whatsoever of the period under the microscope, on several occasions I found myself saying - "so that's what really happened."

Altogether an excellent work, a triumph of dedicated research and a darned good read.

NM
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Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is REALLY Sparta! 23 Nov 2011
By Anibal Madeira - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After writing his magnificent PhD thesis about siege warfare in the Peloponnesian war, Dr. Rusch probably thought that Sparta deserved a well written, thorough, detailed, myth free and unbiased account of their exploits.

And the Spartan citizen was defined by his profession - being a warrior. So it is only fair that warfare was the most important characteristic of this society. So, "Sparta at War" is the most appropriate title and subject that can better represent the society of the "homoioi".

This work doesn't focus on the upbringing, training, social values of the Spartan. Like the subtitle clearly states, this book is about strategy, tactics and campaigns; although by the end of this wonderful read you'll probably know more about those topics then after reading most of books that have specific chapters for those subjects.

You will find in this book how Sparta rose to power through the dominance of the Peloponnese by conquests and alliances; the wars against their main rivals like Argos; their preponderance in both Persian invasions; the complex Peloponnesian war against Athens's empire (both phases); their period of dominance and inevitable fall.

Many subjects are detailed, including:
- Persian interference in Hellenic politics supporting alternatively both powers;
- The importance of warlords like Conon and Alcibiades in the Peloponnesian war;
- The almost invincible Spartan Phalanx opposed to the clumsiness of (most of) their Navarchs at sea;
- The complex politics of the Hellenic world (Sparta, strong supporter of Oligarchy, even helped to reinstate Democratic regimes!!!);
- From Sparta fight against oppression to becoming the oppressors themselves;
- Use of several sources for many subjects, making excellent analyses and worthy conclusions.

You will also find very good maps, plates with photographs of important visual documents like friezes, painted Krater's (vases), votive figurines, etc; battle plans; stunning bibliography and thorough annotations.

The only tiny reproach to the author is that he assumes a reader is well read in the subject. For example he frequently mentions the Iphicrates reforms but only gives hints about what those reforms were much later in the book.

This book has another small dent...in the jacket we can read "Stunning colour illustrations and maps". Well, all illustrations are B/W! Even so, this is a magnificent work.

Leonidas, Pausanias, Gylippus, Lysander, Agesilau and many other important personalities that served Sparta are remembered...and they really deserve it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling work which traces the origins of Sparta. 23 Sep 2011
By Ned Middleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Sparta was a city state and, as such, the dominant military power in ancient Greece for almost 200 hundred years. Remarkably, for such a small state, the Spartans produced a political and social structure which provided a seemingly invincible military elite with many of their conquests passing into a mixture of ancient history and local folklore with the latter becoming more and more embellished as each story was handed down through countless generations.

Dr Scott M. Rusch's impressive list of credits inform the reader that he is eminently qualified to provide those with an interest in ancient Sparta with a realistic and trustworthy description of the history of that particular part of the world at that time. In reality he produces a most interesting and readable account which destroys many myths and explains much that some might think they already knew. Commencing with Sparta's development as city circa 950 BC through to her eventual defeat by Thebes in 369 BC and her attempts to regain power afterwards, this work is destined to become regarded as the definitive work on the subject.

Only after Thebes had learned the secret of beating the Army of Sparta were they finally defeated. Prior to that, the Spartans had won no fewer than 10 major land battles and became most famous of all for the heroic stand of the three hundred men at Thermopylae.

Using no other tool except the requirement for meticulous research and checking (double and treble checking!) every single fact relating to the period, Rusch has successfully separated fact from popular fiction and produced a work which is hard to put down once you commence reading.

As someone who thought he knew nothing whatsoever of the period under the microscope, on several occasions I found myself saying - "so that's what really happened."

Altogether an excellent work, a triumph of dedicated research and a darned good read.

NM
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to (and overview of) "Sparta at War" 9 Mar 2012
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
First posted on Amazon.co.uk on 17 February 2012

Although this does not seem to have been the author's intention, this book is an excellent introduction and overview of Sparta. In slightly more than 200 pages and plenty of well drawn maps and shematics for Sparta's major battles, Scott Rush has produced a very good summary of Sparta's military history. Although the book contains the date 550-362 BC, it also presents what happened before and after.

In fact, and to a large extent, this book is also a summary of the main conflicts over a period of about 200 years. Unsurprisingly, 2 and 3 chapters are devoted to, respectively, the War aganist the Persians and the Great War (or the war against Athens, as the Spartans called it with the Athenians calling it the war against the Peloponesians). I particularly enjoyed the last four chapters from 404 to 362 BC, the period of domination and Fall, simply because it is usually less well known and less studied. There are some very interesting developments on Theban tactics and their impact on Sparta. The limits to Sparta's power and the importance of Messenia are also clearly shown, but the importance of Argos as the secular rival is also emphasized while the other cities could be either (more or less voluntary) allies or adversaries, depending on their interests.

One limit of this book is that the discussion on "oliganthropia", its causes and its effects on Spartan armies are a bit on the "light side". Since this is one of the key reasons for Sparta's ultimate demise, this is proably a weak point. To learn more on this, read Cartledge's book (and "Agesilaus and the Crisis of parta", in particular).

Another limit of this book is perhaps that it is mostly focused on campaigns, battles and tactics, with the larger picture (diplomatic ties, politics etc...) being less developed. One example is the rather shoprt piece on the period between the end of the Persian Wars and the beginning of the Great war between Athens and Sparta. Also, the outbreak of the Peloponesian war could have been better covered. For those wanting to learn more on this, Donald Kagan's first volume that bears this very title (of four) is a must. In particular, Kagan shows very convincingly in my view that neither Sparta nor Athens wanted to go to war initially, but that they were dragged into it by their respective allies.

Anyway, this is certainly not "the definitive work on the subject", as the other reviewer claims. However, it is a rather excellent introduction to Sparta, and to its main claim to undying fame: War. Not perfect perhaps, but certainly very good.
4.0 out of 5 stars Sparta's Rise and Fall. 12 April 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very good history of Sparta except I would of liked more details of Sparta's demise. He "fast forwards" through this demise.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 6 April 2012
By Mr. P. W. Ball - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I liked Scott Rush's book , but feel Lazenby is on the right track with the Spartan Army. A Morai of the Spartan Army must have been bigger than 600 men , more like 1200 if Sparta was going to control an Empire. But simply put the Spartans were the best Hoplite Soldiers in the Greek world. Rush's book is well written and I never lost interest reading it , though its takes a traditional view on the Spartan Army. As I said, I agree with Prof Lazenby and his view of the Spartan Army

Peter Ball (BA)
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