The below is a review of the CD edition of this work.
Books in the “Great Courses” series tend to be written, in general, for those who are novices in the fields they cover. However, this particular book is a bit different in that, at least in this reviewer’s opinion, even those with an intermediate level of knowledge on the subject can actually learn something new. This reviewer has that level of knowledge and found this audiobook very informative.
A second point that needs to be made about the book is that, unlike so many books on Athens during this age, it is very eclectic in its coverage. It not only covers the geopolitical issues of the day, how the Peloponnesian War progressed and the life of Pericles (with respect to the last it is ironically quite weak) but provides coverage of a wide variety of subjects that few books on Athens of this time actually cover. Coverage, in many cases full chapters, is provided regarding life in general, economics/business, foreigners in the city, institutional structure of the political system, social classes, slavery, women and children, among other topics. This reviewer, with his intermediate level of knowledge on the subject, found this much of this enlightening. The novice, undoubtedly, would find it even more so. With respect to the last positive that needs to be noted, the narration provided by the author is very, very good. It is never monotone, unenthusiastic or boring. Very typical of books in the “Great Courses” series.
Of course, all this does not mean the book does not have weaknesses. The most important of these, as noted earlier, is the very ironic fact that the biography of Pericles is weak. Secondly, the geopolitics of the time and the progression of the war is also weak albeit it does suffice as a very “scratch the surface” introduction for the novice. For anyone over and above that there is nothing new. Thirdly, with respect to its eclectic coverage of topics (i.e., political institutions, social relations, economy, slavery, women, etc.) there is very little comparison of these in Athens and the other Greek City states, and even less with the major powers of the time (i.e., Egypt, Rome and Persia) and the “barbarian” lands laying outside of these such as Northern Europe and the Steppes of Russia. Lastly there is no analysis or discussion of the topology of Athens. This is important as the fact that Athens had to import its food supply led it, eventually, to the disastrous Sicilian expedition that played an important part in its losing the Peloponnesian War. Sicily was one of the main supplies of grain in the Mediterranean at that time and it was relatively secure compared to other two, Egypt and the Crimea. With respect to the Crimean grain supply, Persia could easily choke off the Bosporus and dependence on Egyptian supplies would put Athens at the mercy of this state. This tends to be ignored by many authors covering the Sicilian Expedition who, instead, attribute the disaster, like Thucydides did, purely to Hubris run amuck.
Despite these weaknesses, the book is still very good, even for the intermediate level listener. For the novice it would be even better. Highly recommended.