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The Classical Art of Command

Eight Greek Generals Who Shaped the History of Warfare

Joseph Roisman

Publication Date - 05 July 2021

ISBN: 9780197607176

416 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


In The Classical Art of Command, Joseph Roisman examines eight of history's best-known generals and commanders from the Classical Age of Greece. They are: Spartan king Leonidas, who embodied his countrymen's heroic ethos in the battle of Thermopylae; the Athenian leader Themistocles, credited as the architect of Athens' naval power and of the Greek victory over the Persians; the famous democratic leader, Pericles, who prepared Athens and directed its conflict with Sparta, known as the Peloponnesian War; the Athenian general Demosthenes, who deviated from contemporary conventions of warfare with his innovative approach; the Spartan general Lysander, who won the Peloponnesian War for Sparta; Dionysius I of Syracuse; and Epaminondas and Pelopidas who together transformed their city, Thebes, into an hegemonic power.

The Classical Art of Command explores the variegated nature of Greek generalship through the individual careers of eight prominent commanders, describing the attributes of these leaders' command, the many facets of their individual careers and stratagems, and the mark they left on Greek history and warfare. Joseph Roisman investigates how these generals designed and executed military campaigns and strategy, and to what degree they were responsible for the results. The volume also looks at how the Greek art of command changed during the Classical Age, and how adaptable it was to different military challenges. Other questions involve the extent to which a general was a mere leader of the charge, a battle director, or a strategist, and what made both ancient and modern authorities regard these eight generals as outstanding shapers of military history. Filled with original analyses and accessible accounts of legendary battles, The Classical Art of Command will appeal to all readers with an interest in ancient warfare and generalship.


  • First single, comparable book that encompasses detailed investigations of different generals of Classical Greece, showing their impact on Greek war
  • Investigates Greek generalship through the individual careers of commanders, highlighting the important role that personality and other factors played in the Greek art of command
  • Explores these Greek generals both individually and as measured against ancient and modern yardsticks of military leadership

About the Author(s)

Joseph Roisman is Professor of Classics at Colby College. He has authored numerous publications on Ancient Greece, including The Rhetoric of Conspiracy in Ancient Athens and Alexander's Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors.

Table of Contents

    List of Maps and Illustrations
    List of Abbreviations

    Introduction: Greek Generals and Warfare in the Classical Age
    Chapter 1. Leonidas of Sparta: the Lion at the Gates
    Chapter 2. Themistocles of Athens: the Clever Counselor
    Chapter 3. Pericles of Athens: the Magisterial Commander
    Chapter 4. Demosthenes of Athens: The Master of Surprise
    Chapter 5. Lysander of Sparta: The Lion and the Fox
    Chapter 6. Dionysius I of Syracuse: The Evolution of a General
    Chapter 7. Epaminondas and Pelopidas of Thebes
    Chapter 8. Conclusion
    The Art of Command: Planning, Management and Tactics
    The Art of Command: Personality
    A. The Main Ancient Sources
    B. Modern Literature