The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History

The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History

The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History

The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History


In the 19th-century classic, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Alfred Thayer Mahan argued the paramount importance of naval superiority in peace and war. This work is still considered definitive today, but as Chester Starr, eminent historian of antiquity, points out in this thought-provoking volume, Mahan's theories have led to serious distortions in the way historians interpret the role of naval power in antiquity. Trade by sea was always important in providing raw materials as well as luxuries, but only rarely was it protected by an established navy. As Starr reveals, two nations that did protect their trade routes--Athens and Carthage--both fell after long duels with land-based forces, Sparta and Rome. And though Rome went on to create the most perfected and widely based naval structure in antiquity, when Rome fell it was due to invasions by land, not by sea. Starr describes major naval battles in fascinating detail, and he examines technological developments as they help to illuminate the limitations of galleys in warfare. Ranging from the Bronze Age to the fall of the Roman Empire, this innovative study provides an important corrective to Mahan's thesis, both as applied to ancient history and to modern strategic thinking.


Once again I am grateful for the encouragement of Nancy Lane at Oxford University Press, who has provided wise counsel as in several earlier books; she has become a valued friend as well as a sagacious editor.

To explain the list of names in my dedication: Arther Ferrill and Thomas Kelly assembled and edited my essays for publication by Brill; John and Joan Eadie, with Josiah Ober and Adrienne Mayor, produced a magnificent Festschrift; Richard Mitchell had much to do with my honorary degree from Illinois. Three have been my students, two have been warm-hearted colleagues for a number of years. I am much indebted to them.

Ann Arbor, Michigan Chester G. Starr

March 1988 . . .

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