Author: Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy
Date read: 23/4/2018
How strongly I recommend it: 8/10
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Summary & High Level Thoughts
Starting at Marathon in 490 BC all the way to Waterloo in 1815, this book goes through fifteen different battles whose outcome’s shaped the world as we know it.
Considering it was written in 1871, this book is a vibrant read for anyone interested in strategy, military or not. Each battle is described in detail, including context of both parties, military maneuvers and repercussions after the event.
Do keep in mind that it was written in 19th-century England, so it has a decisively English point of view.
Note: Do not skip a chapter. In most cases, it provides context for the next one.
Single events can change history
The main lesson from this book is that a single event can change the course of history as we know it. And not only this is possible, but it happens more often than we can imagine.
If Darius had won Marathon in 490 BC, the Persian Empire would’ve conquered Europe without difficulty, and society as we know it wouldn't exist.
Modern Western civilization is modelled after Roman law, language and culture. If Athens had won the battle of Syracuse in 413 BC, the main influence for today's society would've been Greece.
The United States is, arguably, the most powerful country on Earth. If the English had triumphed at Saratoga, there would be no United States as we know it. A defeat would’ve demolished the fragile independence, declared one year earlier.
Miscommunication can destroy an enterprise. Waterloo - Napoleon v. England & Prussia in 1815
Best practices are just that, best practices
In Marathon, best practices are just that, best practices. See how the Greek general adjusted the Phalanx to receive Persian cavalry.
The Underdog has a chance
Athens won Marathon with 10,000 men; against Darius' hundreds of thousands. It’s not just about numbers. Greece had 10,000 while Perisa had hundreds of thousands.Marathon - Persia v. Greece in 490 BC
Syracuse - Athens v. Syracuse in 413 BC
- The underdog has a chance. You won’t win because you are supposed to.
Overpreparedness leads to lack of flexbility
In the battle of Arbela, Darius expected a night assault so he kept the troops awake and alert. Instead, Alexander waited patently and attacked during the morning.
- If Persia won, it would’ve conquered Europe without difficulty.
- Know your enemy.
- Morals and a purpose matters.
Bad actions can kill a reputation
Late actions can tarnish earlier ones, just see Nero. A condecorated general who kept Rome alive went insane. But we don't remember him as a general, but as a madman.