For almost three decades at the end of the fifth century BC the ancient world was torn apart in a conflict that was, within its historical context, as dramatic, divisive, and destructive as the great world wars of the 20th century. The Peloponnesian War pitted Greek against Greek: the Athenians, with their glorious empire, rich legacy of democracy and political rights, and extraordinary cultural achievement, against the militaristic, oligarchic Spartan state. The result was a period of unprecedented brutality, one that violated even the rugged code that had previously governed Greek combat, and led to an enormous destruction of life and property, intensification of factional and class hostility, and a reversal of the trend toward democratic development. With these came a collapse in the habits, institutions, beliefs, and restraints that had long been the foundation of civilization.
Now Donald Kagan, one of the world’s most respected historians, has written a new account of the Peloponnesian War—a lively, readable narrative that offers a richly detailed portrait of a vanished world while honoring its timeless relevance. In chronicling the rise and fall of a great empire, The Peloponnesian War illuminates the interplay of intelligence and chance in human affairs, the role of great individuals and masses of people in determining the course of events, and the potential of leadership and the limits within which it must operate. Among the brilliant portraits of extraordinary statesmen are those of Pericles, the greatest among the Athenians and a man determined to pursue a policy of deterrence, and the charismatic, duplicitous Alcibiades. Kagan captures the dynamic of war in his thrilling re-creations of some of the most famous military campaigns of antiquity.
With its fresh examination of a pivotal moment of Western civilization, The Peloponnesian War is a magisterial work of historiography—a chronicle of a dark time whose lessons are especially resonant today.
©2003 Donald Kagan (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A fresh, clear and fast-moving account…for general readers.” (New York Times Book Review)
“The best account [of the Peloponnesian War] now available.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
“Kagan gives us neither heroes and villains nor victors and victims. What infuses his pages is above all a sense of agency: men making and implementing decisions that seemed right at the time however they ended. Such lessons will not be lost on contemporary readers.” (Publishers Weekly)
Fills in a lot of gaps and holes that Thucydides does not explain to his 5th Century Greek audience. This book should be read only if you've labored through the real thing which is also available on audible.
I listened to this book in advance of reading Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War".
The author presents the work in an objective manner, providing an account of what transpired and not engaging in polemics or comparing this war to others.
The story is impossible to follow without reference to maps. Just as an example, geographic place-names like Naupaktos, or Mthone, or Locris are bandied about and there is no way of knowing what the author is referring to without reference to maps. To remedy this, I borrowed Kagan's book from the library but though it has multiple maps, they are of poor quality. You are best off by following along with "The Landmark Thucydidies" by Robert Strassler. Pity that Audible did not provide a pdf file for maps and names.
Obtaining a better grasp on what caused the war, what happened during the war, and what the outcome was.
How much it ties into events that still occur in international relationships to this day.
The description of the battles on Cyprus and the Athenian fleet when they left for Cyprus were amazing.
I knew it would be too long to listen to in one sitting.
If you are a lover of history, international relations, or military action you should listen to this book.
The only frustrating part was the significance of the people involved in this conflict and how I had no clue how to spell their ancient Greek names since I read this as an audiobook instead of on paper.
No. While I think this is one of the best books of all time, I believe only a small percentage of the population would listen to the whole thing. And further, I've seen Kagan's lectures online and he animates this material better than one could expect of a narrator other than himself.
Lords of the Sea, by John Hale.
John Hale seems to me to be at the level of Donald Kagan in terms of understanding the ancient Greeks and also in communicating great enthusiasm on this subject.
Even if the book were short enough to finish is a sitting, no. There are moments that are too tragic to not take a break.
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