Masters of Command

Barry Strauss is one of my favorite historians, and I enjoyed this book. Comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of these three great generals, Strauss also draws enduring lessons: “In spite of many changes in technology, since ancient times the principles of war have changed as little as human nature has.”

John Wilson, Books & Culture

Cornell University’s Barry Strauss has no superior and few counterparts as a scholar of ancient military history and a student of war. Strauss takes ancient warmaking beyond linguistics and archeology without interpreting it in contemporary contexts. … In evaluating his subjects Strauss is balanced, perceptive, and convincing.

  Dennis Showalter, Colorado College, former president of the Society for Military History, writing for the History Book Club, where Masters of Command is a featured selection.

Dynamic and entertaining history.

 Mark Lynch, Inquiry, WICN Public Radio

In Masters of Command, Barry Strauss compares the way the three greatest generals of the ancient world – Alexander, Hannibal and Caesar – waged war and draws lessons from their experiences that apply on and off the battlefield.

Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar – each was a master of war. Each had to look beyond the battlefield to decide whom to fight, when, and why; to know what victory was and when to end the war; to determine how to bring stability to the lands he conquered.  Each general had to be a battlefield tactician and more: a statesman, a strategist, a leader.

Ten Qualities of Successful Commanders – excerpt from Masters of Command

Tactics change, weapons change, but war itself remains much the same throughout the centuries, and a great warrior must know how to define success. Understanding where each of these three great (but flawed) commanders succeeded and failed can serve anyone who wants to think strategically or who has to demonstrate leadership. In Masters of Command Barry Strauss explains the qualities these great generals shared, the keys to their success, from ambition and judgment to leadership itself.

The result of years of research, Masters of Command is based on surviving written documents and archeological evidence as well as the author’s travels in France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Tunisia in the footsteps of Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar.

“Spirited and well informed, Strauss’ estimates will engage buffs of the big three of ancient military history.” — Booklist

“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

“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 3 of the most famous generals in history: Alexander, Hannibal and Caesar. Cross-cutting between their stories as adroitly as any Hollywood director, he teases 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. And, most importantly, there is a crackling good read for anyone who delves into this insightful and entertaining new book.”

—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

“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

“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, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff and author of Courage and Consequence

“Military historian Strauss (the Spartacus war, 2009, etc.) cleverly exposes the characters of 3 legendary leaders through the 5 stages of war: attack, resistance, clash, closing the net and knowing when to stop.The author effortlessly compares their histories side by side, describing battles with both comprehensiveness and simplicity. Strauss sharpens our image of three brilliant commanders and makes military history great fun.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“Celebrated and larger-than-life military heroes and captivating masters of political intrigue, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar, each developed reputations as master strategists and commanding battlefield generals. As Cornell University classicist Strauss (The Trojan War) deftly points out in this entertaining set of stories, each of the three leaders was not only a field commander but also a statesman. Retelling their lives in rich detail, Strauss compares and contrasts how each man successfully navigated the five phases of war—attack, resistance, clash, closing the net, and knowing when to stop—and why they failed in their ultimate goals.”
–Publishers Weekly