The Origin of Strategy
By: Rich Horwath
The use of strategy has literally changed the map of the world and caused the rise and fall
of many a nation and its people. The unique combination of wisdom, science and craft
have made strategy creation and its application a universally sought after skill. A look
back at where it all began and how it developed from its military origins provides the
foundation for a more thorough grasp of what often seems ungraspable.
The Dawn of Strategy
Strategy sprung from the need for people to defeat their enemies. The first treatises that
discuss strategy are from the Chinese during the period of 400 – 200 B.C. Sun Tzu’s The
Art of War, written in 400 B.C. has received critical acclaim as the best work on military
strategy, including those that have followed it centuries later. However, unlike the
theoretical treatises that followed, the Chinese works took the form of narratives,
including poems and prose accounts. An example of this prose form of strategy can be
seen in the poem by Lao Tzu, the father of Tao-ism:
Once grasp the great form without a form
and you will roam where you will
with no evil to fear,
calm, peaceful, at ease.
The hub of the wheel runs upon the axle.
In a jar, it is the hole that holds water.
So advantage is had
from whatever there is;
but usefulness rises
from whatever is not.
The term “strategy” is derived indirectly from the Classic and Byzantine (330 A.D.)
Greek “strategos,” which means “general.” While the term is credited to the Greeks, no
Greek ever used the word. The Greek equivalent for the modern word “strategy” would
have been “strategike episteme” or (general’s knowledge) “strategon sophia” (general’s
wisdom). One of the most famous Latin works in the area of military strategy is written
by Frontius and has the Greek title of Strategemata. Strategemata describes a
compilation of strategema, or “strategems,” which are literally “tricks of war.” The