Sparta's Sicilian Proxy War - Encounter Books

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Sparta’s Sicilian Proxy War

The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 418-413 B.C.

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Publication Details

Hardcover / 400 pages
ISBN: 9781641773379
AVAILABLE: 9/26/2023

Sparta’s Sicilian Proxy War
The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 418-413 B.C.

The great expedition to Sicily described in the sixth and seventh books of Thucydides’ history can be depicted in a variety of ways. By some, it has been thoughtfully treated as an example of overreaching on the part of the Athenians. By others, it has been singled out as a sterling example of patriotism, courage, and grit on the part of the Syracusans. Never until now, however, has anyone examined this conflict from a Spartan perspective – despite the fact that Lacedaemon was the war’s principal beneficiary and that her intervention with the dispatch of a single Spartiate – turned the tide and decided the outcome. In Sparta’s Sicilian Proxy War, Paul Rahe first outlines the struggle’s origins and traces its progress early on, then examines the reasons for Sparta’s intervention, analyzes the consequences, and retells the story of Athens’ ignominious defeat. Rarely in human history has a political community gained so much at so little cost through the efforts of a single man.

About the Author

PAUL A. RAHE is the Roger and Martha Mertz Visiting Fellow in Classics at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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When a power dominant at sea faces off against a power dominant on the land, their strategic rivalry tends to endure—and the same can be said regarding rival nuclear powers. In such circumstances, it is difficult—it may even be impossible—for either to land a knock-out blow on the other. It is this that explains why strategic rivalries of this sort tend to go on and on. Witness the First Punic War; the rivalry between England and France that extended from 1689 to 1815; and the great conflicts that developed in the twentieth century—initially, between the United States and its allies, on the one hand, and Germany and its allies, on the other; then, between the Americans and their adherents and the Soviet Union and its satellites

The same observation applies with no less force to the enduring strategic rivalry between Athens and Sparta. By 415, these two póleıs, each supported by an alliance, had been warily circling one another for half a century. In the interim, each had come close to victory, and neither had achieved it.


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