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Tag Archives: Sparta

The Spartan Mirage and American Militarism

Several years ago I wrote a post for this site claiming that the Spartan mirage is/was rooted in military excellence. As I later pointed out on that post, this characterization is inaccurate. In fact, the Spartan mirage stems from the stability of the Spartan constitution. The state did not suffer from the same internecine stasis […]

Thermopylae

How often does a military defeat set a standard for excellence? How often does a defeat create an aura of invincibility? Even a defeat like The Alamo just became a rallying cry, and the Roman republican defeats showed both their weaknesses and their resiliency, not their invincibility. The only defeat with this result was the […]

The First Reconstruction of Athens: Between Salamis and Plataia

The story goes that between the defeat at Thermopylae and the arrival of the advance Persian troops at Athens, the Athenian leadership managed to remove the entire population of Attike to the island of Salamis. At this point it is commonly accepted that not all of the population went to Salamis, and that a sizable […]

Athenian Allies

In the funeral oration venerating the Athenian dead as reported by Thucydides, one of the themes is the inherent differences between Athenians and Spartans. Perikles strikes on government differences, educational differences, personality, et cetera, while praising Athens and downplaying the virtues of their opponents. One of the striking contrasts (according to the Perikles of Thucydides) […]

Thermopylae – Problems of Propoganda

Thermopylae was a failure. No really, it was an unmitigated disaster for the Greek defenders, with the only real questions being about what caused this (Leonidas’ generalship, failure of intelligence, sluggishness, indecisiveness, or infighting in the high command such that it existed). Just for a reference point, there were 300 full-blooded Spartans, 298 of whom […]

The Spartan Myth – Martial Prowess & Invincibility

On the eve of the Persian Wars1 Sparta was undeniably the most powerful military force in Greece. The only true competitor during this period was Argos, but under Kleomenes, Sparta annihilated their army at Sepeia, supposedly killing half of that generation’s military capacity. Athens had a naval component of sorts, but it was not until […]

Leuctra and Waterloo; The transience of invincibility

Waterloo, the final defeat of Napoleon by the joint Prussian and British forces was an incredibly well-orchestrated defense by the Duke of Wellington, who bore the brunt of the French assaults until the Prussian army arrived and finalized the defeat. But before the Prussians arrived Wellington drove off multiple charges of the French cavalry, defended […]

The Oblique-Heavy Left

In the field of Greek military history and tactics, there is one formation that astounds with its simplicity and also with its effectiveness: the Oblique-Heavy Left. In traditional phalanx warfare (a great source-book for which is The Western Way of War by Victor Davis Hanson), the king or general and his bodyguard anchored the right […]

Alexander Essay no. 1

The series of Alexander Essays is taken courtesy of a course taught by Professor Waldemar Heckel at the University of Calgary. The list of topics may be found here Evaluate Darius III as a political and military leader. Is he rightly depicted as cowardly and incompetent? I feel obliged to preface this essay with a […]