Book Review: Makers of Ancient Strategy – Edited by Victor David Hanson

This book was conceived as being a sort of prequel to the modern classic, Makers of Modern Strategy, edited by Peter Paret and first published in the 70’s and updated in the 90’s. As Dr Hanson states in his foreword the scholars who wrote the various essays presented in the book did so with an eye to drawing lessons from antiquity that are relevant to the challenges faced by modern states and statesmen. They have succeeded admirably. It is not as hard to do as you might think despite the fact that modern war is fought with the benefit of tanks, night vision, aircraft, and satellite communications. Modern commanders Face many of the same challenges as did Xenophon, Pericles, Alexander, Caesar, or Constantine I. This is so because while technology as changed, basic human character has not.

The book itself is divided into ten chapters covering topics as diverse as urban warfare in ancient Greece to slave rebellion in the ancient world. The two chapters i found most interesting were the chapters on counterinsurgency and Ancient Rome and Roman frontier defense. The chapter on counterinsurgency illuminates the differences between the modern method of co-opting conquered peoples and the way the ancients did it and how close the two methods actually are. Th discussion of frontier defense is especially interesting by highlighting the way Rome managed to defend her huge frontiers for so long with such a small army. I know we are accustomed to think of the Roman army as large, but if you look at the size of the Roman army compared to the size of the Empire it was actually quite small.

Dr Hanson and the other eminent scholars that contributed to this work have produced a volume that should be on the bookshelf of anyone that aspires to leadership in a time of war whether they be military or civilian. They have proven the old adage that The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the way the ancients responded to military/strategic problems and how their solutions can provide lessons relevant to modern conflict.

Makers of Modern Strategy