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Publisher's Summary

The Peloponnesian War pitted Athens and its allies against a league of city-states headed by Sparta. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides captured this drama with matchless insight in his classic eyewitness account of what was arguably the greatest war in the history of the world up to that time.

These 36 half-hour lectures draw on Thucydides' classic account as well as other ancient sources to give you a full picture of the Greek world in uneasy peace and then all-out war in the late 5th century B.C. Professor Harl plunges you into the thick of politics, military strategy, economics, and technology.

You will feel the ancient Greek world come alive as you explore the war debates at Athens and Sparta, the devastating plagues that swept through Athens, the Revolt of Mytilene, the Battle of Pylos, the disastrous Athenian and Spartan expedition to Sicily against Spartan allies. You'll experience the thick of action and consider lively scholarly debates that continue to this day.

Unlike earlier great wars, the Peloponnesian War was not a conflict between kings, but between citizens from different city-states who shared the same language, gods, and festivals. Citizen assemblies decided questions of war - voting on their own fates, since they were the ones who had to do the fighting.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this era is that culture flourished side-by-side with the politics of war - that, even as Athenian citizens were honoring Aristophanes' mocking antiwar play, The Acharnians, by giving it first prize in a drama competition, they were debating with equal ardor whether to continue the war, and deciding overwhelmingly to do so.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Enjoyable, not for Greek newbies...

If you already have a grasp of Ancient Greek history, this will be a good listen about the Peloponnesian war. If you know very little or nothing, it will be harder to follow as the Professor throws out names, places, events rather rapidly and assumes you know what he's talking about. Before listening to the Peloponnesian war, I listened to The long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World by Ian Worthington, so I had the necessary background knowledge to follow along. This series of lectures focuses more on the war as the title suggest and I learned a good deal more about the war and its players and events than I had known before. Even so I wish the lectures were longer and even more details could be provided about the many events as I feel some were glossed over too quickly but in the interest of keeping things moving along, I suppose it's better for most listeners.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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I cannot suggest this lecture series enough!

If you could sum up The Peloponnesian War in three words, what would they be?

Harl is great

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Peloponnesian War?

All of it.

What does Professor Kenneth W. Harl bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Harl relays the informative in a comprehendible and digestible manor that makes listening a joy. Nothing kills a lecture like a Prof who is clearly disinterested of bored with the subject but Harl is clearly electrified and excited by the topics at had which in turn only makes the lectures far more engaging.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Knowing little about the greek world, aside from myth and the Iliad, learning about the Greek political climate as well as actual warfare strategies was intensely interesting

Any additional comments?

If you're interested in Greek ancient history then this is a must.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A very well delivered, and engaging series.

One of the top five lecture series from TTC I have enjoyed to date. The professor does an excellent job of keeping the story interesting. His delivery of this course is what elevates it from merely good to fantastic.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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An excellent choice

Kenneth W. Harl is truly exceptional. Probably the best performance in my experience with the great lectures series, and I own a dozen. Buy it, listen to it, enjoy it, you can't go wrong with this guy.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Timeless, Thought Provoking, and Timely

Thank you Professor Harl. As another reviewer observed this is a "serious" course. The histories explored and questioned, the importance of the prelude to the war, the actions within it, and the repercussions throughout and after lend us insight into the important wars and alliances then, and throughout the intervening 2,400 years even unto our present day. This is a course to be studied with the excellent accompanying course PDF and the best maps that you can find to refer to throughout. I will never see our "modern" world the same. More complex, perhaps. More devastating, definitely. More humane or evolved? These questions remain with me as I view the Athenians, Spartans, and others presaging the EU, US, former USSR and Daesh, while wading through alliances, diplomacy, and war after war. If you think critically, you will be challenged with this course.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I would recommend if looking for a good overview

Overall, this was quite educational. At times, it seemed like there were a bit too many digressions, but Professor Harl typically used them to help with context and background.

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A epic rendition of he Peloponnesian War

Kenneth Harl hits it out of the ballpark with this one. He brilliantly weaves the various narratives together into an emotional powerful story.

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very informative and in depth, well read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and learned a ton. Dr. harl has an immense amount of knowledge. my one criticism would be that he moves thematically and not chronologically which was sometimes confusing. I would totally recommend this course.

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Alot of time on introduction and minute details

Unfortunately, this course did not meet my expectations. I am very much interested in the war and this time period in history but you had to get through HALF the course to get to the actual war. I think a much better title of the course would be "A History of Athens and Sparta from 490 BC through the Peloponnesian War".

Don't get me wrong: this is not a bad course. It had adequate historical narrative covering the Peloponnesian War as well as other major events in the Greek world involving Sparta and Athens from 490 BC to the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC (with a quick recap of major events in the Greek world until 338 BC).

I thought lecture 7 (Greek-Persian wars) was a clear highlight of the course.

But too much time was spent on minute details without much understanding of how sometimes they all fit into the big picture of the narrative.

And there were too many introductory lectures to the actual war: background information is crucial but 18 lectures seem a bit much! If this course is seen more as a history of Athens and Sparta since the begining of the Persian wars then it makes sense but a lot of the factors that led up to the Peloponnesian War could’ve certainly been summed up in much fewer than 18 lectures.

Another thing that struck me as odd: After many lectures of in-depth details of strategies and play by play minutiae details of individual battles, the discussion on Sparta’s decisive victory to end the war was surprisingly sparse on details and info. In fact until that point we had heard of very few Spartan victories throughout the course and all the momentum seemed to be with Athens. And maybe the sources were light on this reversal but it just seems odd the professor would spend lecture after lecture creating and building a narrative and then introduce a Spartan total victory that was out of character with it and with few details.

If you are interested in the ancient Greek world of the 5th century BC, know alot about the war already, and are interested in learning more then by all means purchase this course. But if you are interested in only the war itself and don't have alot of knowledge on the topic then I feel like you may get more out of another great course: "History of the Ancient World - A Global Perspective".

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Prof Harl is fantastic

This is the third great course I’ve listened to by professor Harl. All three are outstanding. Well worth the time.

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  • Manish
  • 05-18-18

Peloponnesian Wars

This is a.great set of lectures. However it is more of a political and economic history rather than a military history. I found there was too much on the introduction and less on military tactics for each battle. For this Donald Kagan's book is probably better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 06-03-18

outstanding series of lectures by a brilliant prof

outstanding series of lectures by a brilliant professor who both knows and is passionate about his subject.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-21-17

Beautiful and virtuous Sparta

Goes against the grain of the predominant historical analyses (and vilification) of Sparta's role in these wars, and manages to do it with some justification, These are very complex and intricately wound events, but Harl manages to extricate them well, displaying an impressive knowledge of the subject matter. He uses Thucydides as his primary inspiration and paragon, but then who else?

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  • Christopher
  • 07-21-17

Best Great Course that I've listened to

Would you consider the audio edition of The Peloponnesian War to be better than the print version?

The story was definitely improved by the exciting manner in which Professor Harl told it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, definitely, I tend to listen to audiobooks on the train, but I would continue to listen after my journey was complete, even if I had things to do. Totally addictive listen

Any additional comments?

I've listened to a lot of the Great Courses, particularly history courses, and this is probably the best one. Very good listen.

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  • Deus
  • 10-18-16

Balanced narrative

It was an enjoyable experience. A very balanced review of the war. He tried his best to entertain the viewpoints of both belligerents without choosing favorites despite the obvious Athenian bias of the contemporary western tradition.

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  • Tim Dubber
  • 06-11-16

excellent

An amazing overview of an incredibly interesting and important episode of Greek history. highly recommended