Why did Alexander the Great not conquer Sparta?
Was he concerned that he would be unable to conquer them? Or that he could conquer them but it would be too costly? It seems odd to leave such a strong city state near his allies and Macedon without subduing them.
Reply by XenophonTheAthenian (Late Republic and Roman Civil Wars)
> a strong city state
Sparta by Alexander’s lifetime was anything but. The constant Athenian raids and costly battles of the Peloponnesian War had cost them a huge amount of their precious Spartiate forces and had permanently destroyed the fertility of much of the Peloponnese. Their defeats in the Corinthian War had cost them entire formations of Spartiates wiped out largely by mercenaries and light troops, as well as breaking their nely won hegemony within less than a decade after the end of the Peloponnesian War.
So they had some form of biowar/ecowar, even way back then. Perhaps by cutting down the trees, or burning the land.
High quality but difficult to rebuild forces, verses the endless cheap hordes. Not a good situation: for the West, even losing two soldiers for every 10 you kill is too high a loss ratio. And our birth rates aren’t looking too good either….
Hit and fade can do serious damage, if you (or the opposition!) simply never let up. Air/rafts given a minimal stealth treatment and just a bit of armour can be a real terror, if used well…
And their humiliating defeats at the hands of the Thebans had shattered what little was left of the Spartiate population, and robbed them of arguably their most precious resource, their helots.
“It’s all about the economy.”
By Pyrrhus’ invasion of Lacedaemon soon after Alexander’s death the city of Sparta could field only 300 Spartiates against him, most being old men and boys, and only a couple thousand non-citizens (and the shortage of helots in the city after the liberation of Messenia also severely cut into their numbers).
There has to be a Traveller situation — certainly in the New Era’s TED (Technologically Elevated Dictatorships) governments, and in other milieu’s as well — where the dominant government has only a handful of top fighters: and when those fighters are gone, they’re gone for good.
(The vital few can be highly trained and equipped fighters: but they could well be a special race (Aslan mercs, say), robotic warriors, or psi teleporters on loan from the
Zhodani Consulate distant allies.)
You could have an entire campaign where PC insurgents quietly sneak around, whacking them one by one (and using the occasional IED/arranged accident to kill a few more at one go.) Eventually, they will Get Noticed, which is when the fun begins…
The Spartans did attempt a revolt, fought mostly by their allies, while Alexander was away, but it was the most pathetic of all the Greek revolts during and after Alexander’s lifetime.
Nobody stays on top forever: not even Sparta.
I like to think that the leaders of the Third Imperium remember that their rule will end one day, and carefully plan to leave a good legacy…
Even with Persian support and a reinforcement of 8000 veteran Greek mercenaries, the survivors of the Issus, Antipater had no trouble absolutely stomping the Spartans out with an army of over 40,000 men, outnumbering the Spartan force by about two-to-one, and outnumbering their actually useful troops by god-knows-how-much. So easily did Antipater think the Spartans would be beaten that he actually delayed in marching on them for some time, dealing with Memnon’s attempts to cross over into Thrace instead and allowing the Spartans to build strength through their allies without even worrying about it. Alexander described the rather pathetic battle at Megalopolis as a “battle of mice.”
Have the PCs visit a militaristic world in it’s prime: then, come back and visit it 20 or 40 years later, after the rot has set in.
Same deal for
- a charismatic religion (dissolves into a sanctimonious ceremonial cult)
- a centre of wealth and entrepreneurship (declines into political corruption and bribes)
- even a peaceful, charming rural world (which shifts into fearful & isolationist tribes)
Annihilating the Spartans would’ve been child’s play for Alexander. But why bother? There was nothing in Lacedaemonia, which had suffered severely during the last century’s warfare and whose infrastructure was largely non-existent.
Endless warfare has a high price tag, even three millennia ago.
Lacedaemonia’s fairly large iron deposits were worthless to them without their helots,
“Kill the economy, kill the empire.”
and in any case the Macedonians had iron mines vastly more productive up north.
“Protect the economy, protect the empire.”
Since their defeat at the hands of the Thebans the Spartans had made no offensive actions, having never left Lacedaemonia, and they really didn’t have the ability to do so in the first place–at Megalopolis their forces were almost entirely their allies and mercenaries. Sparta didn’t exactly have the greatest diplomatic reputation with any of the states of Greece, being unanimously hated among all of them.
Diplomatic isolation does not win wars per se… but it does cripple any nation that aspires to greatness, or even security over the long term.
Further, the Lacedaemonians were surrounded by strong neighbors, particularly the Messenians (whom the Thebans had artificially strengthened to stomp the Spartans in case they ever tried to re-conquer their former helots) and the strong Macedonian garrison at Corinth. Besides, the Lacedaemonians had accepted Alexander’s hegemony, even if they refused to join the League of Corinth. Their inability to provide anything or to undertake any hostile actions without serious outside aid was enough of a reason not to bother delaying the restructuring of Greece and the invasion of Persia (as well as the inevitable casualties even a battle as easy as Megalopolis would’ve caused–a battle’s a battle, after all, and no matter how easy it is somebody on your side is bound to get killed).
Why waste men over nobodies?
It’s important to note that Alexander was also spot-on correct in his assessment–the Spartans couldn’t do anything without help. Megalopolis was fought pretty much entirely with Persian-provided troops, or troops from cities sympathetic to the Persians, and was funded pretty much entirely with what money the Persians could smuggle across the Aegean, which turned out not to be very much. The Spartan revolt occurred entirely because of Persian diplomatic prodding, not because the Spartans thought of it on their own.
Outsiders whisper promises into eager ears. And when the fat’s in the fire, and the promises simply MUST be honoured, or all is lost…
… better have some good disposable identities and an emergency cash supply ready. An agreement with a network of safehouses and a trusted people-smuggler could be real handy about now, too.
This Persian diplomatic meddling is something that happened quite a lot while Alexander was in Asia, and it’s an interesting question whether Alexander simply failed to anticipate it, whether he figured his position in Greece was so strong that it didn’t matter (which ended up being the case–all the Greek revolts were doomed from the start),
Interesting. Assuming this is the case, Alexander was a really sharp politician, as well as a great warrior and a born leader.
From 2017, it’s hard to imagine a culture where actual Great Leaders are a walking, talking reality: we’re a long way from Churchill & Stalin, or even Reagan & Deng, nevermind Elizabeth I or Suleiman the Magnificent.
I leave it to the Referee to decide if they want their Imperial leadership to be mundane, bland and predictable; reasonably bright with some initiative; or powerful, inspiring, and extremely dangerous to cross.
or whether the pan-Hellenic rhetoric that Tarn fell for wasn’t as successful as he had thought