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Sparta At War (Kindle)

Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns, 950–362 BC

Ancient History All Frontline eBooks Frontline: Ancient

By Dr Scott M Rusch
Frontline Books
File Size: 39.8 MB (.mobi)
Pages: 258
ISBN: 9781783468157
eBook Released: 20th February 2013


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The rulers of the city-state of Sparta in Ancient Greece were supposedly descended from the legendary hero Heracles, who tackled opponents vastly superior in strength and remained undefeated. Heracles’ feats were echoed in the victories of Sparta and its Peloponnesian League over the mighty Persian and Athenian empires during the 5th century BC. The first settlements at Sparta can be dated back to c.950 BC. Its territory eventually expanded to include the entire southern portion of the Peloponnese. From 550-371 BC, Sparta was the predominant military power in Greece. During this time, it fought and won ten major pitched land battles. It also won undying fame for the stand of the three hundred at Thermopylae.

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’s military power toppled. Scott Rusch’s book focuses on the reasons for Sparta’s rise and fall from power. It provides vivid descriptions of battles and campaigns and detailed analysis of the Spartan army. Maps and illustrations throughout help to illuminate some of antiquity’s most notable campaigns.

Author Scott M. Rusch presents students, academics, researchers, and general
interest readers with an examination of the city-state of Sparta in times of war over the two centuries between 550 and 362 BCE. The author has organised the main body of his text in twelve chapters devoted to Messenians and Athenians, the Persian invasions, the end of the Spartan Empire, and a wide variety of other related subjects.


This well-researched book will be enormously valuable for all those embarking on an interest in the Golden Age of Greece.


This well-researched book will be enormously valuable for all those embarking on an interest in the Golden Age of Greece, but it will also be valuable for established enthusiasts and scholars. A rewarding read.


'Here we have, in a single volume, the collected materials together and the author has by and large done an excellent job'

Ancient Warfare, Paul McDonnell

'This narrative is excellent at bringing together the source material that makes up our histories of this period'

Ancient Warfare, Paul McDonnell

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, including 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.

Albert Nofi, Strategypage.com

Perhaps the ancient culture that is most likely associated with war is Sparta, which is the subject of Scott Rusch's easy-to-read Sparta at War. This book is excellently illustrated with maps, and presents the history of the period 500-362 BC in an engaging and lively manner.


It is rather extraordinary to think that, no one before Scott M.Rusch has though to attempt what he has pulled off rather triumphantly here – a battle-by-battle account of Spartan armies' performance on the field.

This is a most serviceable and highly recommendable volume.

The Anglo-Hellenic Review

Rusch uses his sources well. I was interested to read about the limited sources for some of Sparta's early wars - the First Messenian War appears to come from a reference in a later poem! It's also rather refreshing to read an account of the Great Peloponnesian War written from the Spartan point of view.
This is a very readable examination of Sparta's military history, with enough use of the sources to back up the text but that avoids getting bogged down in too many technicalities.

History of war website

About Dr Scott M Rusch

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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