• The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta

  • The Persian Challenge
  • By: Paul A. Rahe
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
  • Length: 14 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (204 ratings)

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The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta

By: Paul A. Rahe
Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
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Publisher's Summary

More than 2,500 years ago, a confederation of small Greek city-states defeated the invading armies of Persia, the most powerful empire in the world. In this meticulously researched study, historian Paul Rahe argues that Sparta was responsible for the initial establishment of the Hellenic defensive coalition and was, in fact, the most essential player in its ultimate victory.

Drawing from an impressive range of ancient sources, including Herodotus and Plutarch, the author veers from the traditional Athenocentric view of the Greco-Persian Wars to examine from a Spartan perspective the grand strategy that halted the Persian juggernaut. Rahe provides a fascinating, detailed picture of life in Sparta circa 480 BC, revealing how the Spartans' form of government and the regimen to which they subjected themselves instilled within them the pride, confidence, discipline, and discernment necessary to forge an alliance that would stand firm against a great empire, driven by religious fervor, that held sway over two-fifths of the human race.

©2015 Paul A. Rahe (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta

Average Customer Ratings
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Investigation Undermined by Bad Editing

Is there anything you would change about this book?

It would be reedited, which would involve rerecording parts of the narration.

What did you like best about this story?

For those who enjoy Herodotus, Rahe presents an excellent integration of Herodotus's story with current research into the details of that story based on other accounts of history and archaeological research. Rahe's account is fascinating, if perhaps mis-titled since it struck me that rather than really focusing on a thesis about Sparta's strategy, he was really giving worthy study of Herodotus.

Would you be willing to try another one of Bronson Pinchot’s performances?

Maybe. The real question with this one is why the final product turned out so bad. At times Pinchot's reading is great. However--and it is a gigantic 'however'--about every 30-120 seconds, there is an awkward pause, followed by a phrase with Greek names (cities, people, etc.) which are then pronounced with an intonation that does not at all fit the rest of the sentence. Whether these terms are mispronounced or have been rerecorded to be properly pronounced according to someone's understanding of correct pronunciation I do not know. I can only note that some of them vary considerably from pronunciation used commonly in some academic circles (but 'correct' with ancient Greek pronunciation is a tricky topic). Regardless, the final result is jarring and often painful to listen to. It has forced me to return this book to audible despite the fact that, were it more polished, it would be joy to listen to Rahe's account at least 2-3 more times.

This much I can say with complete conviction: Whomever gave the final go ahead on releasing this version and selling it to people should be personally very, very ashamed. This goes for everyone on that chain of command, whether it be Pinchot, the producers, the audio editors, or even Rahe himself if he was asked to OK the audio before it was released.

Any additional comments?

Someone should have the sense of decency to repair this very flawed final product and present the improved version to all who purchased it at no additional cost. (Frankly, anyone who endured the full recording should be recompensed for her trouble.)

18 people found this helpful

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The narrator stumbles over all the non English words

Seriously, just ask somebody & practice. Audible pauses before horrible attempts to pronounce Greek and Persian names really wrecks the flow.

8 people found this helpful

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Herodotus for today

This is an excellent work, a scholarly but highly interesting amplification and re-telling of Herodotus informed and corrected by archeology, ethnography and the careful comparison of historical sources. But it avoids the dryness of much academic writing. The only negative is the poor performance of the narrator. His voice drones, he pauses before reading every name and his pronunciation of those names is execrable (e.g. 'ArJive' for 'ArGive').

7 people found this helpful

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painfully boaring.


the narrator made it impossible to listen to this book. worst narration ever.
don't waste you time on this one..

4 people found this helpful

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Terrible narrator.

I had to give up listening after about two hours. The narrator stopped making sense of the clauses he was reading and it was driving me crazy! He would pause in front of every proper noun as if it surprised him, taking away all the flow and meaning of the sentence. Terrible job!

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting topic and well written. But the narrator ruins it.

The narrator halts at every Greek word plus he doesn’t pronounce some of the names that are very well known properly. His style is also a bit wooden. I don’t know if I will finish listening. I love the topic and the in-depth information but it’s not an enjoyable listening experience.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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I really had high hopes

First it’s free, so I am not complaining too much. That said, I can only imagine Bronson Pinchot is reading italics and emphasizing names and places. However, it comes across like he couldn’t figure out how to pronounce places like Athens or names like Cleanthes (ok if you don’t know to pronounce each letter you might mess up the ending), so the audio folks went back and edited in him pronouncing the names correctly. It gives the whole thing such a stutter stop aspect I could only get through 3-hours (and that was all because I was driving and didn’t have something else downloaded). Solid meh at best. Which is sad because I love geeking out on ancient cultures and this book is rather good without the horrible narrator. Sigh, sad really.

2 people found this helpful

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not what I was expecting

at the beginning of the book the author does a good job of describing Spartan culture and different classes of people but the rest of the book I feel is less Spartan and more Greek and Persian conflict as opposed to what the title of the book says it is.

1 person found this helpful

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Good but didn’t find its point

This is a good book, but misses, in that it doesn’t lay out the strategy of the Spartan hegemony. It recapitulates Herodotus for a large portion of the book, strangely diverges into Athenian politics and more deeply than one would think necessary. It seems the author just gets lost in the narrative Herodotus presents.

1 person found this helpful

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Required reading for a commander or an analyst

This book tells the story of how the world really is ruled and how it really works.

A little known academic gem that helps to get your strategic calculus started.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Arkhidamos
  • 08-16-21

Excellent use of all the major sources

Everyone who studies the Persian Wars even cursorily will know Herodotus and probably the much later encyclopaedist Diodorus Siculus, but the use of Aeschylus’ roughly contemporaneous dramas, and the later secondary Cornelius Nepos, Ammianus Marcellinus, even Justin, really enlivens this account and allows for the production of some interesting takes of key moments in the story. I use the term story deliberately, because this has dramatic twists and turns, moments of high tension, political skulduggery and plenty more, which makes it quite a thrilling listen.

The listening experience is only marginally impaired by the truly perverse pronunciations of the narrator. The bizarre pronunciation of Chersonesos reminded me of the old taunt, used against John Prescott, “I don’t think language is his first language”. There are many other examples. Oddly the same mystifying pronunciation of Decelea as Desealia as in an audiobook about Ancient Thebes by Paul Cartledge. Ah well. Can’t have everything I suppose.

3 people found this helpful

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  • L C
  • 12-02-21

Good book bad narrator

Terrible pronunciation and lack of understanding from narrator. Like Joey from Friends tying to read.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • gouldina
  • 10-20-21

Well written but terrible sound editing

Extremely interesting and well read but clearly, they have left gaps for place names which have then been extremely badly edited in afterwards which make it terribly jarring. I have no idea why they did this.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Jamie Hadley
  • 01-10-22

There's a reason it's free

As most of the other reviewers have noted, the big thing that lets this obvious work of serious scholarship down is the reading, which I found comically poor. The reading itself is painfully slow in any case, which makes it hard to focus on (I listened at 1.4x speed) and the reader is clearly not well briefed on the subject matter or subject-specific terminology, frequently leaving big gaps before unfamiliar words, followed by humourously minced attempts at pronunciation.
The work itself is probably mistitled, as it doesn't really analyse strategy so much as narrate historical events. Still, it is clear that a lot of work went into it's research. So it is a pity that this audio version is so distracting. I found it very hard to take anything from it because I became so focused on listening out for the next ridiculous pronunciation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • susan cumisky
  • 08-10-22

Interesting fascinating and informative

First of I must thank the narrator for his clarity of diction of all the names.
I had only previously dipped into accounts of Persian history, mainly the accounts of Alexander. I found this history absolutely riveting and I do feel that more respect and circumspection should be paid to the Iranians. People do not forget their history even though it would be wise to take it all on board not just the adulation and the seeming glory. That is what I particularly liked about this. There was a balance and having recently dipped into the English Civil War there is little new under the sun. Technology is the big difference. But I doubt if it really deters.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-25-22

Great book, Athens still did most of the job

Great book, excellent description of the events, however it did not change my kind as to the fact that Athens was mostly responsible for the victory on the Persian wars

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. Anthony Carney
  • 06-01-22

Drivel

A wonderful epic story reduced to babbling incoherence. 99 per cent padding plus one per cent garbled mis pronounciation. Rubbish.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • David Bennett
  • 04-06-22

Terrible pronunciation.

The pronunciation is so bad it makes it very difficult to listen to this audio book. It is so bad if this title was not free I would be requesting a refund.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark Dana Floden
  • 12-18-21

chock full of facts and details

I am amazed that so much detail is available 2500 years after these events.
I understand that there may be some questions even controversy over some of these facts and the author makes this clear in his many comments on the respective sources.

I definitely feel that I have a better understanding of Laconia, Sparta and Persia after this book.