Book Review: Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns, 550-362 BC


by Scott M. Rusch

Barnsley, England: Frontline/Philadelphia: Casemate, 2011. Pp. xii, 246. Illus., maps, notes, append., biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1848325304

In Sparta at War, classicist Rusch gives us a detailed look at the most admired military force of “Golden Age” Greece.

Although it opens with a survey of the early history of Sparta and the origins of its unique social and military institutions, Sparta at War concentrates on the period during which the city-state was most influential in the affairs of Greece, from roughly the sixth century BC through the fourth.  Rusch devotes a chapter to the imposition of Spartan dominance over the Peloponnese in the sixth century, and follows this with two chapters on the Persian Wars (c. 490-475 BC).  There follows a chapter on rising tensions with Athens, includnig the First Peloponnesian War (460-445 BC) and its consequences.  Three chapters are needed for the Great Peloponnesian War ( 431-404 BC): one each for the early period of Athenian success, the Spartan revival, and the final campaigns and collapse of Athens.  The last four chapters cover the Spartan dominance over the Greek world, the eclipse of Sparta by Thebes, and the long decline of the city.  Rather than leap to conclusions over sometimes thorny questions of historiography, Rusch often usefully reminds the reader that there is much we don’t know even about this relatively well-documented period, a refreshing change from some overly definitive treatments of these events. 

Although written primarily for those having only a passing familiarity with the “Golden Age of Greece”, Rusch's analysis will likely to be of interest to the more serious student of the period as well.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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