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The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC Paperback – 7 Mar 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New ed. edition (7 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007115067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007115068
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘It is a lively narrative that moves with immense speed towards its grim conclusion…Recent events have enhanced Kagan’s reputation among American conservatives as a sage.’ Daily Telegraph

‘It is a daunting task to cover the same ground as a great classical historian, but Donald Kagan achieves it splendidly with “The Peloponnesian War”.’ Sunday Times, Books of the Year

‘Kagan’s narrative of one of the critical episodes in the history of the ancient world is as good an account of the subject as one could ask for.’ Spectator

About the Author

Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of History and Classics at Yale University. and is an internationally recognised authority on ancient Greek history and culture, as well as a scholar of diplomatic history. He is the author of a four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War that is considered the landmark academic work in the field as well as the highly acclaimed Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy and On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Public Interest and the New York Times Book Review.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By "blinkpsychoofafrica" on 26 Jan. 2006
This is quite simply the best all-round book for learning about the peloponnesian wars. Kagan manages to combine factual information with a very easy-to-read style.
Maps are numerous and even include maps of the various battlegrounds including ship formations.
Kagan not only narrates the events very well, but also provides his own insights into why some decisions were made, and some of these decisions would appear very bizarre without them.
In all, I can't recommend this book enough. I have a huge interest in ancient times and this is easily the best book i've read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Braga on 24 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
For most of the fifth century BC Sparta had the most feared army in the whole of the Greek world while Athens ruled the seas. Towards the beginning of the century Sparta, Athens and 29 other Greek city states had joined forces to see off a mighty Persian invasion, but since then Athens grew ever wealthier and more powerful, and Sparta and some of her allies became uneasy and resentful. To make matters worse Athens and the Spartan allies couldn't help getting involved into conflicts elsewhere in the Greek world and would end up backing opposite sides; not unlike the USA and the Soviet Union during the cold war. Despite genuine efforts by politicians on both sides to avoid direct confrontation tensions came to head and in 431 BC Athens and the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta clashed in a brutal war that would last for 28 years and shake the Greek world.

Donald Kagan is a renowned scholar of ancient Greece, and in this book he gives us a fascinating, if dark, account of the Peloponnesian war. Resorting to ancient sources, including the extensive writings of men who lived during the war, Thucydides, who actually fought in the war, and Xenophon, Kagan gives us a vivid account of the build-up of animosities prior to the war, the military operations, the many diplomatic efforts to negotiate and keep the peace, internal arguments between pro-war and pro-peace factions in both Sparta and Athens (well known in the case of Athens, where all important decisions were argued before and voted by all male citizens who bothered to turn up), and the personal ambitions and motivations of several men that probably influenced decisively the course of the war. Kagan writes very clearly and has produced a real page turner.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Duducu on 7 May 2008
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The Peloponnesian Wars were something I had heard of but had never studied so I sought out a book to illuminate things for me. Kagan's book couldn't have been a better choice.

This is a highly engaging account of the savage wars between Sparta and Athens after the famous Persian invasions and before the rise of Macedonia and Alexander. Demonstrating my true ignorance on the area, many famous names rear their heads such as Pericles and Lysander and I never realised these were real people rather than dramatic ciphers for the stage! Kagan brings them all marvellously to life and mixes the social impact with battles than turn the tide one way then another.

A big issue in many history books is the assumption of your intimate knowledge of the topography being discussed often leaving the reader a little baffled. However in this book there is a plethora of maps allowing you to understand why certain armies went to certain areas.

This is a fascinating period of history and it's further remarkable that so much art and literature was created during such a violent time. This is a fabulous book that absolutely does justice to the period.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By rob_hawke on 8 Aug. 2010
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i have to say this is one of the best books ive ever read... having been massively interested in all things Greece i thought this book would be ideal and i was right.
from start to finish it is excellently researched and very well written. you probably dont need to buy any other book on the pelopennesian war, thats how great this book is.
details the massive differences between the 2 powers, sparta's amazing infantry and athens amazing navy cancelling each other out until the very end when it turned in sparta's favour... one of the most interesting subject matters you could ask for!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Winter Hathaway on 10 Jan. 2006
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I bought this book for my first semester studying Ancient History at university, and it was definitely the best choice- this one book taught me everything you could possibly need to know about the Peloponnesian War, and I found it extremely easy to read. It is not at all monotonous, unlike most historical texts! Kagan writes with depth but doesn't swamp you. I really enjoyed reading his book and it really made me (even more)interested in my subject. Even if you're not studying the subject, and are simply interested, then this is the book for you. Amazing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rob C on 22 Feb. 2015
The Peloponnesian war was the battle for control over Greece between the Forces of Athens and the Armies of Sparta. Lasting 27 years, the two sides fought numerous conflicts over the period, but rarely did they strike directly at each other until close to the end of the conflict. (Sparta was unable to breach the defences of Athens and its impressive Navy, while Athens could not compete with the Spartan army), instead they fought against each other's allies and colonies, wearing each other down. In the end Sparta and its coalition defeated the Athenian Empire, leading to a brief period of Spartan superiority till they collapsed and the Macedonians rose in prominence.

Donald Kagan writes an engaging history of this period, giving us the run up to the conflict and the underlying causes of it, then breaks the conflict into 7 phases giving them ample time and detail. The authors style works well, never coming off as too dry and works to bring to life some of the people from the time. There are ample maps to support the narrative, though no pictures of the areas, though given that it has been almost 2500 years this should not be surprising.

A very fun and engaging work about ancient Greece.
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