What happens in the "Horses" chapter of A War Like No Other?

In A War Like No Other, a lot happens in the chapter entitled “Horses.” The primary focus is on the important role the cavalry played in the Peloponnesian War. Through the story of Athen’s attack on Sicily, Hanson discuss the benefits and challenges of soldiers on horses and highlights the crucial role horsemen played in ensuring strong military power in this war.

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The chapter entitled “Horses” opens at the start of the Peloponnesian War’s seventeenth year. Hanson describes how the aftermath of plague in Athens had killed many of the war’s leaders, like Pericles and Cleon, and that Sparta had been suffering because many of their serfs were fleeing to Pylos. The war was not over, but Athens and Sparta were in a period of peace. They had not fought for six years.

Hopeful to change the state and the course of the war, Athens looked to the island of Sicily. Athenians began to realize that if they gained control of Sicily, they could potentially prevent Sicilian aid from going to Spartans. With the Spartans out of the loop they would reap the agricultural benefits of Sicily’s grain supply. However, Sicily’s vast, communicative network of cities and strong military assets meant that the Athenians would need a lot of force to victoriously conquer the island.

In order to have any chance at victory Athenian troops would need a large cavalry (soldiers on horses). Hanson explains that at first, Athenians only brought 30 men on horseback. He notes that this is somewhat understandable, because transporting horses over water from Greece to Sicily was easy task. Athenians initially didn’t want to risk too many of their horse-transport ships. Thus, at first, Athenians failed to make progress in Sicily.

Eventually, Athenians worked to build up and transport a cavalry and began to gain the upper hand in Sicily. But Hanson notes that their “courage and audacity” began to become problematic (Hanson 212). Sparta saw the Athenians’s actions and realized that their period of peace was over. Spartans began to send fighters to Sicily right as Athenian horsemen were reaching success. Spartan forces supported the Syracuse fighters in Sicily and saved the island from falling to Athens.

Although it also contains extensive discussion of battles and politics, ultimately this chapter focuses on the strength and significance of the horsemen who fought in the Peloponnesian war.

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