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Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome

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Princeton University Press

In this prequel to the now-classic Makers of Modern Strategy, Victor Davis Hanson, a leading scholar of ancient military history, gathers prominent thinkers to explore key facets of warfare, strategy, and foreign policy in the Greco-Roman world. From the Persian Wars to the final defense of the Roman Empire, Makers of Ancient Strategy demonstrates that the military thinking and policies of the ancient Greeks and Romans remain surprisingly relevant for understanding conflict in the modern world.

The book reveals that much of the organized violence witnessed today–such as counterterrorism, urban fighting, insurgencies, preemptive war, and ethnic cleansing–has ample precedent in the classical era. The book examines the preemption and unilateralism used to instill democracy during Epaminondas’s great invasion of the Peloponnesus in 369 BC, as well as the counterinsurgency and terrorism that characterized Rome’s battles with insurgents such as Spartacus, Mithridates, and the Cilician pirates. The collection looks at the urban warfare that became increasingly common as more battles were fought within city walls, and follows the careful tactical strategies of statesmen as diverse as Pericles, Demosthenes, Alexander, Pyrrhus, Caesar, and Augustus. Makers of Ancient Strategy shows how Greco-Roman history sheds light on wars of every age. In addition to the editor, the contributors are David L. Berkey, Adrian Goldsworthy, Peter J. Heather, Tom Holland, Donald Kagan, John W. I. Lee, Susan Mattern, Barry Strauss, and Ian Worthington.

Review:

“The book is a worthwhile read and some of the articles would do well as reading material on courses of ancient warfare or even modern strategic studies.”–Joonas Sipila, Acto Philogica Fennica

“At every point throughout this superb collection of essays, one cannot but reflect on Western engagements in far-off, alien places.”–Peter Jones, Sunday Telegraph

“Mr. Hanson’s examination of the dangers implicit in pre-emptive warfare is riveting, as is John W.I. Lee’s explanation of why the specter of urban warfare was as despised by ancient strategists as it is today by modern warriors. . . . Mr. Hanson and Mr. Luttwak have begun the serious study of what the ancients might have to teach us about a world where traditional nation-states not only have to coexist with armed non-state actors but must negotiate with them on nearly equal terms or sometimes fight them.”–Gary Anderson,Washington Times

“This is a worthy edition to the literature of military history.”–Kevin Winter, Sacramento Book Review

“The essays are all thought provoking, and readers will find surprises, insights, and things to argue about.”–Choice

The Savior Generals

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Leading military historian Victor Davis Hanson returns to non-fiction in The Savior Generals, a set of brilliantly executed pocket biographies of five generals who single-handedly saved their nations from defeat in war. War is rarely a predictable enterprise–it is a mess of luck, chance, and incalculable variables. Today’s sure winner can easily become tomorrow’s doomed loser. Sudden, sharp changes in fortune can reverse the course of war.
These intractable circumstances are sometimes mastered by leaders of genius–asked at the eleventh hour to save a hopeless conflict, created by others, often unpopular with politics and the public. These savior generals often come from outside the established power structure, employ radical strategies, and flame out quickly. Their careers often end in controversy. But their dramatic feats of leadership are vital slices of history–not merely as stirring military narrative, but as lessons on the dynamic nature of consensus, leadership, and destiny.

The Western Way of War

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Book Reviews

From reviews of the first edition:

“[Hanson’s] vivid style and meticulous combing of the ancient literary, archaeological, and epigraphical sources have produced a near masterpiece of historical imagination and reconstruction. . . . Masterful and gripping.”–Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“A small masterpiece of style and scholarship.”–The Economist

“[Hanson] has opened up a whole new way of looking at classical Greek war-fare. . . . The study of Greek warfare can never be quite the same again.”–Journal of Hellenic Studies

“Enthralling. . . . One closes this book wishing that its final verdict was as well known as more familiar tenets of Greek wisdom.”–Christopher Hitchens, Newsday

Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece

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Book Reviews

“The book is excellent. . . . Hanson’s literary style is clean and lucid, a delight to read.”–Walter Donlan, University of California, Irvine

Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece presents a closely argued and thoroughly supported critique of an entire tendency in classical scholarship to think uncritically about agriculture. . . . Hanson’s success in this results in an admirably short work that is full of interest, not just for classical scholars but also for military, agriculture, and environmental historians.”–Colin Duncan, Queen’s University, Ontario

The Soul of Battle

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Book Reviews

“He has written groundbreaking, indispensable books…. In THE SOUL OF BATTLE, he widens the scope of his inquiry to discuss, in rich and fascinating detail, three campaigns…. [A] brilliant and engrossing book.”—Bernard Knox, The New York Times Book Review

“An eloquent reminder that democracies under great captains, facing enemies challenging the essence of their cultures, cam make war at levels beyond the worst nightmares of their warrior opponents.”—Publishers Weekly

“[A] stirring tale in highly wrought prose…a superb book forcefully argued and narrated, profoundly meditated, boldly and fruitfully at odds with contemporary political morality….He illuminates this subject like few other recent writers.”—Boston Globe

“THE SOUL OF BATTLE is a tour de force.”—Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review

The Ripples of Battle

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Review by Jay Winik from the National Review Book Service

“Great battles,” Winston Churchill once remarked, “change the entire course of events, create new standards of values, new moods, in armies and in nations.” Yet while books abound that examine decisive battles in either a strategic or tactical context, rarely are they examined for the cumultative effects — the ripples — that change societies for years, centuries even, well after the day’s killing is over. Now, however, historian and National Review contributor Victor Davis Hanson does just that in Ripples of Battle, an eye-opening look at three great military encounters: Okinawa, Shiloh, and Delium, an obscure battle of the Peloponnesian War.

A master of military detail, Hanson begins by describing the strategies and tactics of each battle and the terrible cost in human life. But these vivid accounts merely set the stage for a wider inquiry into the long-term, often unintended, consequences of war. Among his fascinating insights and arguments:

 

  • Okinawa: Why the Japanese kamikazes — like their 9/11 suicide-bomber counterparts — only succeeded in heightening America’s resolve to win the war at any cost. Why the failure of suicide tactics was also a vital catalyst in ending Japan’s militarist leadership and setting the country on the path toward democracy
  • Shiloh: How the death of Confederate Commander in Chief Albert Sidney Johnston, long considered a turning point in the Civil War, gave birth to the myth of the Lost Cause — the belief that only a tragic accident of fate destroyed the South’s noble dream. How the stubborn devotion to this reactionary view would slow Southern progress for a century
  • Delium: How this little-remembered battle inspired a tragedy by Euripides, profoundly altered the direction of Western philosophy (Socrates was one of the few Athenians to survive) — and virtually created Western infantry tactics

“Battles really are the wildfires of history,” writes Hanson, “out of which the survivors float like embers and then land to burn far beyond the original conflagration. To teach us those important lessons we must go back through the past to see precisely how such calamities affected now lost worlds — and yet still influence us today. In that regard, I have selected across time and space three less well-known battles of spears, black powder, and modern guns to show how our lives even today have been changed in ways we do not readily appreciate — and by a few hours long ago that few recall.”

 

“America’s laureate of military history” at the top of his form
“Hanson has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the most interesting and innovative military historians in the world. In Ripples of Battle, he shows once again why he’s the best. He ranges far and wide, from World War II to the wars of ancient Greece. Along the way he combines a born storyteller’s gift for rip-roaring battle narrative with a scholar’s attention to the deeper meaning of conflict. Once again he manages to take what may seem familiar and to show it in an utterly new light. … This book is not only deeply enlightening but also a sheer pleasure to read. It is, in short, vintage Victor.” — MAX BOOT, author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

“With this usefully idiosyncratic and provocative work, Hanson may succeed the late Stephen Ambrose as America’s laureate of military history. But where Ambrose’s tone is ultimately elegiac, reflecting on the deeds and character of a past ‘greatest generation,’ Hanson’s is sharp edged and confrontational, linking past history and present policy. . . . Hanson’s conclusions show the threads of these battles in the garments of the war on terror.” — Publishers Weekly

“Like any good classicist, Victor Davis Hanson accepts the primacy of military history in human affairs. In Ripples of Battle, a sequel of sorts to his masterful Carnage and Culture, he shows the fascinating repercussions of three lesser-known battles. You cannot fully understand Hiroshima, the bitterness of the Old South, or the Golden Age of Athens without reading this gem of a book.” — ROBERT D. KAPLAN, author of Warrior Politics

“Hanson is one of our leading military historians, and in Ripples of Battle he does not disappoint. A far-reaching story of man, war, and history, it is, by turns, iconoclastic, touching, deeply learned, and endlessly fascinating.” — JAY WINIK, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America

Ripples of Battle

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Book Reviews

Interview with NPR

With this usefully idiosyncratic and provocative work, Hanson may succeed the late Stephen Ambrose as America’s laureate of military history. But where Ambrose’s tone is ultimately elegiac, reflecting on the deeds and character of a past ‘greatest generation,’ Hanson’s is sharp edged and confrontational, linking past history and present policy…. He makes [his arguments] with conviction and a genuine sense of wanting history to provide valuable lessons.”—Publishers Weekly

“Each human life has an impact on others, creating ripples that eventually affect future generations. Here, Hanson (classics, California State Univ., Fresno; The Western Way of War) argues that the outcomes of certain battles have had far-reaching effects on American culture…. [W]ell written…clear and easy to read…. [T]he arguments are lucid…. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

“[A] worthy—and timely—outing in military history.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Fascinating and well–executed…. Hanson is a superb storyteller andd a clear and concise writer.”—The Washington Times

“Like any good classicist, Victor Davis Hanson accepts the primacy of military history in human affairs. In RIPPLES OF BATTLE, a sequel of sorts to his masterful CARNAGE AND CULTURE, he shows the fascinating repercussions of three lesser–known battles. You cannot fully understand Hiroshima, the bitterness of the Old South, or the Golden Age of Athens without reding this gem of a book.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of WARRIOR POLITICS

The Other Greeks

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Book Reviews

Independent Criticism

“Exhaustively documented and developed, beautifully reasoned, clearly and–for the most part–calmly stated.”–The New Yorker

“Brilliant and moving. . . . Hanson’s informed exploration of the crucial role of the small farmer in the creation of Greek civilization is a much-needed reminder that the artistic and intellectual splendor of Athens’ great age did not spring to life fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus; it has its base in the countryside.”–Bernard Knox, Washington Times

Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

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Book Reviews

Independent Criticism

“Classics professor Hanson is also, like generations of his family before him, a fruit farmer in California’s central valley. He has employed immigrants, seen them flood his community during the last 30 years of mass flight from Mexico, and endured the crime associated with illegal immigrants. Hanson is immensely sympathetic to poor Mexicans, however, and the most powerful chapter here outlines the harried life of the illegal alien. But he hates to see the ordered culture in which he grew up drowned by an alien inundation who undeserving beneficiaries are Mexico’s kleptocratic rulers, for whom an open border is a safety valve expelling the potential for democratic change.”—*Booklist (starred review)

Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience

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In ancient Greece, men dressed themselves in armor, armed themselves with pikes, stood shoulder to shoulder eight ranks deep facing another group of similarly armed and arrayed soldiers, and then charged into each other with homicidal intent. The resulting carnage was horrific.

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