Book Review: Sparta's First Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 478-446 B.C.


by Paul Anthony Rahe

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019. Pp. xii, 316. Illus., maps, chron., notes, index. $38.00. ISBN: 0300242611

The Evolution of Sparta’s Grand Strategy

Following up his The Spartan Regime: Its Character, Origins, and Grand Strategy and The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge, Prof. Rahe (Hillsdale) gives us a very detailed look at Spartan history and policy in the decades following the Persian Wars (490-478 BC). During this period, Sparta, although seeking to return to isolation, found itself threatened by an expansionist Athens, leading to the protracted First Peloponnesian War (460-445 BC).

Rahe argues that the rising tensions between the erstwhile allies were driven by internal forces, rather than critical foreign interests. While Sparta was seeking to maintain its unique institutions and dominance of the Peloponnesus, Athens was intent on expanding its commercial and political influence and territorial control, each seeing the other as a threat.

This is a story generally told from the Athenian point of view, due in part to the nature of our sources – primarily Thucydides – and in part to the biases of most scholars, strongly influences by the ancient sources, and a general hostility to “militarism”. Rahe gives us the Spartan perspective, as he delves deeply into the complex politics, wars, and diplomacy of the times, aided by an impressive number of useful maps.

A volume in the “Yale Library of Military History”, Sparta’s First Attic War is an important read for those with an interest in Classical Greece or the concept of Grand Strategy.


Note: Sparta’s First Attic War is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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