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Pylos and Sphacteria 425 BC: Sparta's island of disaster (Campaign) Paperback – December 24, 2013
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The book highlights the tactics used by the Athenian light infantry and missile troops that completely befuddled the fearsome Spartans (or Spartiates - if you want to be more specific) - the best heavy infantry in the world at that time, perhaps of all time. Greek naval and amphibious operations which were critical to the Athenian victory are also featured. The failed negotiations between battles and the preceeding Pylos naval battle is also covered very well. On other sources, Pylos is frequently glossed over due to the more dramatic ending of the Sphacteria battle.
The maps are more than adequate and the art (by the prolific Peter Dennis) is great - there are four (4) color plates in this one, most Osprey Campaign titles only have 2 or 3 on average.
Nice purchase and very recommended - obviously fighting to the death has its limits, even for the Spartans.
Also, makes you wonder if they would have surrendered if the opponent was non-Greek...
Following the standard format of the Campaign series, the book starts off with an introduction to the overall strategic picture. This is, basically, how the how the war was progressing for both sides. At this the book does an excellent job. It shows that both sides were at a stalemate albeit suffering significant losses. The book, in this section, also does a good job at showing how tactics were changing from being based almost entirely on heavy infantry and the phalanx, to making more and more use of "light" and skirmishing infantry (i.e., peltests, etc.). This was so for a number of reasons. One was that the expansion of troops could not keep up with the ability to supply them armour and another that this expansion could not permit use of heavy infantry tactics as these were based on serious training and discipline.
Then the book goes on to discuss opposing commanders and armies. Here we learn that both side's leaders were very experienced and quite good at their craft. The reader also learns that, as stated previously, light infantry tactics were starting to come on their own. However, they were doing so in a very asymmetric manner.Read more ›
First, the volume covers key points in continuing warfare between the two city states, from 479 through 425 B. C. This time frame included events that precipitated the wars (pages 5-20). From my perspective, this is one of the best background discussions across the Campaigns series. Sometimes, in this series, the background to a battle ends up being a bit too brief or fuzzily described to allow a sense of the context. Surely, not so here.
Second, the work explores the campaign in its entirety, showing how Athenian and Spartan forces (and allies) maneuvered and developed their positions at Pylos and Sphacteria. Spartans' dispositions were flawed at a number of points, including naval forces and positions of land forces. The Spartans also were dilatory in preparing for the oncoming (and superior) Athenian naval forces, being very tardy in responding to the advancing fleet of the Athenians.
Third, the book discussed political elements during the entire time frame of the war and also at the time of the conclusion of this battle.
Fourth, as with other Osprey works in the series, one gets an introduction to the leaders of the battle, the opposing forces, and the plans of battle for each side.
In the end, this is a very strong entry in the Campaigns series.
That said, the author gets off to a shaky start, with a tedious and overblown 16-page introduction that goes all the war back to 479 BC, in order to provide a blow-by-blow description of what was going on in Greece five decades before the campaign began. I suggest that anyone who has already read Thucydides skip this introduction and go straight to the battle section. The section on opposing forces is good, but the plans and commanders section are basic. The campaign proper begins on page 35. In a nutshell, Athens decided on coastal raiding to distract Sparta, not expecting the Spartans to commit much forces against raiders.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great account of the fighting that took place between the Spartan and Athenian forces. The writing was solid and engaging. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kevin
William Shepperd has a problem. He wrote many of the best Osprey titles published. This leads to very high expectations. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Anibal Madeira
Osprey Publishing has a problem with quality control. When you purchase an Osprey book, you never know whether you are getting a small gem or a dry desiccated dud. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Marco Antonio Abarca
The book relies a great deal on Thucydides, but that was fine with me. It was great to get a slice of that great war that included maps, photos of locations, and highly graphic... Read morePublished on March 24, 2014 by T. Hinckley