Sparta and the Persian War


The first major challenge to the Spartan way of life occurred in approximately 546 B.C., when Persia, the largest empire at the time, set its sights on Greece. In a long war that led to the eventual defeat of Persia, Sparta was a decisive contributor in two major areas: leadership of the Greek resistance and military prowess, particularly at the decisive Battle of Plataea.


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Paul A. Rahe is the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Professor in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College. He earned his B.A. in history and Ph.D. in ancient Greek history at Yale University, and he read Litterae Humaniores at Oxford University. He is the author of several books, including Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution, Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory under the English Republic, and Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect. He is co-editor of Montesquieu’s Science of Politics: Essays on the Spirit of Laws and editor of Machiavelli’s Liberal Republican Legacy. In November 2015, Yale University Press released his new book, The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge, and in the fall of 2016 Yale will publish The Spartan Regime.