The Spartan army was the strongest army in the world. Those who love the war history of Greece, the silhouettes of armored hoplites (citizen-soldiers), and the sound of bronze spear and shield clashing easily get attracted to the Spartan army. But let us reconsider the use of the word “strongest” when describing the Spartan army.
For tactical analysis, it is necessary to find the factors that made the Spartan army the strongest one in the world. The terrain, branch of the enemy’s army, and the goal of the tactic are some of the basic factors. The Spartan army is the strongest when it comes to making formations in bronze armor on the streets or warding off light infantry or armored infantry of other city-states. They are the strongest when it comes to fighting against an armored infantry squad on the plains. They would be no match for light infantry forces attempting to break through.
However, in an operation, where they should chase guerrilla forces consisting of light infantry and annihilate them, armored hoplites are slow and thus incapable of chasing them. Greece is mostly made up of plains but there are also rocky mountains. If light infantry forces run up the mountains, hoplites can easily lose the battle, let alone chase after them. Stones the size of a child’s head, which are common on the slopes, can strike the shields and helmets of the armored hoplites.
There are so many conditions that make the Spartan army a weak squad, such as running into a nomadic cavalry in the desert, being surrounded by Barbarian warriors in the forests, where they cannot form a close order formation, or facing off with a highly trained armored infantry unit, who is in better physical shape than the Spartan army.
Machiavelli said that mercenaries fight for money and citizen soldiers fight for their families. Friedrich the Great refuted the saying in one word. Citizen soldiers are no different from mercenaries if they are composed of vagrants and losers, and are without training and discipline.
As Friedrich the Great admitted, people are easily fooled by words such as the one Machiavelli said. It is because they give value to words and rush into a judgment without seeing the reality. We need to think about the environment, conditions, and methods that make freedom, fairness, justice, equality, taxes, and the values we deem to be important work properly. Putting a label that says “gold” on a rock does not make it a real gold.