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Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership Hardcover – May 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439164487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439164488
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Assessing the reputations of Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar, Strauss analyzes their military leadership and political acumen. Using a scheme of 10 criteria of leadership (ambition, audacity, etc.) and 5 of statecraft (e.g., deciding to start a war or to stop it), Strauss, a notable historian of ancient Greece (The Battle of Salamis, 2004), comparatively applies them to each warlord’s famous campaigns (for Caesar, the civil war, not Gaul). Summaries of their pretexts for war, strategies to win, and inspiration for their soldiers precede Strauss’ detailed accounts of their crucial victories: Alexander’s at Gaugemela in 330 BCE, Caesar’s at Pharsalus in 48 BCE, and Hannibal’s at Cannae in 216 BCE. His opinion about the last exemplifies the weight Strauss gives to converting battlefield success into durable settlements in appraising command ability, and he finds Hannibal wanting for his political failure to make Cannae a war winner. Ditto Alexander, whose empire broke apart immediately after his death. Caesar earns Strauss’ better marks, albeit in the cause of dictatorship. Spirited and well informed, Strauss’ estimates will engage buffs of the big three of ancient military history. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“Barry Strauss has done it again: Masters of Command combines the timeless wisdom of the classical world with the urgent realities of modern warfare. This is a stunning handbook to leadership—both on and off the battlefield.”
—Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer

“Barry Strauss has written a riveting, fast-paced, penetrating volume around three powerful war leaders—Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Caesar. While other classicists draw on ancient philosophers for lessons on the life well lived, Professor Strauss looks to men of action and determination for lessons on leadership and strategy. It’s a great read, packed with terrific insights.”
—Karl Rove

“Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar—this is a book on leadership like no other. A rare combination of stirring dialogue, masterful ancient scholarship and sage advice—both lessons and warnings. Just as Asian corporate planners read Sun Tzu, Western entrepreneurs and strategic thinkers will want to read Masters of Command.”
—Robert L. O’Connell, author of The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

“With Masters of Command, Barry Strauss further establishes himself as one of our premier historians of the classical world. Steeped in ancient learning and gifted with a clear, accessible writing style, he is able to shed new light on three of the most famous generals in history: Alexander, Hannibal and Caesar, teasing out fresh meaning and original insights from their epic tales of conquest and failure. There are lessons here not only for budding military strategists but also for ‘great captains’ of the boardroom. . . . A crackling good read.”
—Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, The Council on Foreign Relations, and author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today

"Military historian Strauss cleverly exposes the characters of three legendary leaders through the five stages of war: attack, resistance, clash, closing the net and knowing when to stop. . . . Strauss sharpens our image of three brilliant commanders and makes military history great fun."
Kirkus Reviews


"Barry Strauss has no superior and few counterparts as a scholar of ancient military history and a student of war."
—Dennis Showalter, former president, Society for Military History

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Customer Reviews

An elegant read - balancing academic rigour with page-turning style.
Richard S. Garber
Considerations like this do not seem to factor into the author's analysis of the command decisions made by these famous generals.
N. Perz
It made for an enjoyable read each night and I highly recommend it especially to ancient history buffs and to anyone else.
Kevin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Sears on June 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For would-be leaders, for amateur ancient history buffs, and, yes, even for professional scholars of antiquity, Strauss's latest book has much to offer. Countless indeed are the works written about all three of these giants of history, yet in Masters of Command the reader will find important new perspectives and that rarest of things when dealing with the ancient world: lessons relevant to modern life. Without simply eulogizing Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar, in eloquent and accessible prose Strauss shows us which of their methods worked - and didn't work - in leading armies, acquiring empires, and dealing with pesky politicians. This book offers many insights for today's leaders, both actual and aspiring, all through the medium of a compelling narrative sure to satisfy anyone eager for a good story.

Strauss brings to the study of warfare his idea of the five stages of war: attack, resistance, clash, closing the net, and knowing when to stop. Deftly he shows how the three generals respectively fared at each stage, offering his own expert opinion as to who managed the best. For instance, while Alexander and Hannibal were past-masters at the "clash" stage, performing feats at Gaugamela and Cannae hardly equaled in all of history, Caesar pursued the soundest strategy while "closing the net" around the supporters of Pompey after the Battle of Pharsalus. Where each general failed the most was in knowing when to stop. As Strauss argues, all three were military conquerors, in thrall to the sound of the war trumpet. None - except perhaps Caesar in his most prescient moments - was a true statesman, capable of ruling what had been won through so much hard fighting.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stu Cohen on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once again, a hearty thank you to Irene Hahn, and her august group, Roman History Reading Group on their recommendation of Barry Strauss' Master of Command. Absolutely loved it. He writes in a way that even a 'laymen', like myself, can easily understand and enjoy. I found the accounts of each of his Commanders, Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar to be exhilarating, extremely well thought out, and his assessment and comparison of each, profound! Not having a 'Classical Education', did not prevent me from devouring, comprehending, and enjoying this masterpiece! And proves once again, that the stories and events of antiquity, are far more entertaining and interesting than anything coming out of Hollywood. And he justifies my admiration of the Divine One, by claiming in conclusion, that Caesar was the best Commander and Leader. But not by much. Thank you, Barry!
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Chris Harper on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Barry Strauss has written a superb assessment of three of the greatest commanders in history: Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar. He makes ancient history come alive, describing the battles--both military and political--that these leaders faced. But the qualities needed for success then still apply today: ambition, judgment, leadership, audacity, strategy, Divine Providence, and others.
Today's business people and politicians would be well served by reading this wonderfully written book to see how and why great leaders succeed and fail. I thoroughly enjoyed Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on December 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is by no means an in-depth review at all, its just a few words of my enjoyment of the book. I enjoyed how the author paced the book, starting with Alexander, moving onto Hannibal, and then ending with Caesar. It made for an enjoyable read each night and I highly recommend it especially to ancient history buffs and to anyone else.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Russell V. Olson Jr. on November 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barry Strauss has given us a concise overview and comparison of ancient history's three greatest captains. As a field artilleryman who served for 30 years with 12 years overseas including a combat tour in Vietnam followed by 12 years as a high school history teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed "Masters of Command." I applaud Barry's efforts in producing this slim, yet informative, volume.
In my Military History classes, we spent quite a lot of time on Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar during our study of ancient warfare. As a culminating "Who's Da Man" exercise, I would divide the class into three groups and instruct them to convince the rest of the class that their general was the greatest. Their presentations were quite lively, always humorous, and often insightful. I was thus glad to see that Barry shared with us his view as to who was the "fairest of them all." My personal choice is Hannibal because he did so much with so little for so long with virtually no support from home.
My only criticism is with his organization and the chapter headings he used for comparisons. I just felt uncomfortable with his five stages. I feel that he should have included "preparation" as a stage before "attack" and he should have used different terminology for "closing the net" and "knowing when to stop."
Anyone interested in ancient military history should include "Masters of Command" in their reading program.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As I have read in some other reviews, the book itself is not bad [though it *does* get a tad repetitive], however it is not so much an analysis of leadership as it is a historical record. Sure, Strauss outlines the qualities he believes create a great leader, but he never really explains how those elements transition to success or what modern readers can really learn from them--how they can be applied to modern lives [yes, the reader can do this however it is implied early on that he will give his 2 cents as well]].

What he does do exceptionally well is give an introduction to the three generals in the book. As a huge Alexander history buff, I admit that [and the failed promise of a discussion about leadership] is the primary reason I picked this up, but after reading the book I find myself looking more into Hannibal (and, to a lesser extent, Caesar). At the end of the book Strauss also does the reader a tremendous favor by listing about 10 pages of other recommended reading that includes commentary on what each book entails (it's an extension of dialog--not a list; historical writers should take note!).

Overall I did enjoy the book though I felt it did not live up to its promise; if Strauss wanted to focus on battles and historical record he really should have made this much more clear in the beginning and he should have taken the time to fully delve into the material (240 pages is just barely scratching the surface). You should read this book if you enjoy military history or if you are interested in one of the 3 figures, but if you are looking for something that relates ancient lessons to modern times this is not the book for you.
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