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A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War Hardcover – 4 Oct 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 397 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (4 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060958
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060955
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,941,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Xiradakis on 26 May 2010
Format: Paperback
Victor Davis Hanson is one of the most highly respected classical historians. His book, "A War Like No Other", which describes the events of how the Athenians and Spartans fought the Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 B.C.) based on Thucydides history work is laid out in very accessible thematic chapters. The book offers an analytical critique of the events, strategies, politics and behaviours, of this devastating and catalytic period in the long and didactic history of ancient Greece. In my view, it is a "must read" book for everyone and not only for scholars. It is engaging, thoughtful, and indeed excellent, and above all it brings home the message that, although Thucydides wrote the history almost 2500 years ago, it continues to be relevant today as an eternal source of human endeavour and behaviour in pursuing objectives (right or wrong ones) in difficult and problematic times and of drawing many parallels with events in later and more recent western history.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 89 reviews
149 of 160 people found the following review helpful
A history like no other. 13 Oct 2005
By R. Klappenbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Hanson has taken this well studied war and approached it from a a very interesting perspective. Rather than the standard chronologic retelling (done recently and well by Donald Kagan), Hanson delves into the facets of the conflict such as ships, seiges, horses etc. to craft a readable and stimulating exegesis of the twenty-seven year bloodbath. I say readable because his writing is fluid and almost conversational. You almost feel as though your in a lecture hall. My only criticism (which doesn't cost the book a star) refers to the quality of the maps ...they don't seem to add very much to the text other than simply showing where the various cities or islands are located. Personally, I prefer the tactical maps and would have liked to see more of them, especially for episode such as Mantinea , Delium, and the late naval battles. That aside, this was a wonderful experience. I hope Dr. Hanson will someday do the same for the Punic or other Roman wars.
64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, lucid, readable 1 Jan 2006
By Henri IV - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a graduate degree in studies relating to this period, I have read Thucydides, and I have studied ancient Greek, so the subject matter of Hanson's book is not unfamiliar to me. I found it engaging, thoughtful, and absolutely brilliant. I especially liked his skill in relating events of the times to concepts and concerns the modern reader can relate to, as well as his ability to flesh out the personalities of the participants. He personally tested some of his theories and attempts to define ancient Greek expressions, e.g., how hard is it to "lay waste" to an orchard and what might this phrase actually have meant, and he describes first hand the terrain on which some battles were fought. He also offers interesting discoveries relating to numbers of things--I had no idea that so few of the battles fought were hoplite engagements, nor did I know that all of the generals suffered in some way for their efforts. I've always found that counting things can be very useful, and Hanson used arithmetic very effectively to make interesting points. I thought that all of his insights were fresh and went a long way to bring reality and common sense to the text. I liked the inclusion of the Greek words he is translating. I also liked the organization of the book into different ways of examining the war rather than a simple chronological exegesis or the sort of timeline that is always to me rather boring. In addition, Hanson writes in an engaging, clear manner. I learned a great deal from this book and think it is simply brilliant.
114 of 131 people found the following review helpful
A War Like No Other is an Illuminating Study of ancient Greek warfare 10 Nov 2005
By C. M Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Victor David Hanson is the famous classicist who has soared to the top of the best seller non-fiction charts with outstanding

historical works! I have never read a Hanson work without being informed about the way war in all its nefarious aspects has influenced the course of Western civilization from the Greeks to the present day of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this new seminal work Dr. Hanson provides a modern examination of the Peloponessian war (the first major Civil War in World History) between democratic and empire expanding Athens in Attica and the militaristic oligarchic society of Sparta in

southern Greece. Throughout these pages the author quotes the classical writer Thucydides whose book on the Peloponessian War

fought in the 5th ca. B.C. is told from the perspective of an Athenian general officer. Thucydides was skeptical of human nature and critical of warfare so he is still pertinent today!

Instead of a blow by blow account of the horrific lengthy war the author focuses on the major factors in the conflict with

chapters devoted to such subjects as:

Walls-the importance of siege warfare

Horses-how mounted Syracuse calvary forces destroyed the Athenian invaders on Sicily.

Plague-a brilliant discussion of how plague ravaged Athens during the war.

Ships-the crucial importance of sea power chronicling how landlocked Sparta developed a powerful naval force which defeated the vaunted Athenian navy and won the war.

Land-how crop destruction and fire destroyed the lives of many

bucolic farmers.

Throughout his writing Hanson wants us to see how devasting is warfare to the common soldier/civilian drawn into the horrific

maelstrom of war. Hanson does not glorify war but like General William Sherman manifestly makes evident the fact that war is


In these pages you will meet such men as Pericles; explore the

building, manning and fighting done on Greek warships called

triremes; understand ancient economies and witness brutality in

the several slaughters of this ancient war.

Any educated reader will find insights and parallels to modern warfare in these many pages.

This book like all of Dr. Hanson's outstanding historical

works is highly recommended!
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Democracy can lose 13 Nov 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Hanson is one of the most readable military- political writers.. He is able to see the whole picture and thus to relate what he sees with a special kind of clarity. In an interview he gave to FrontPageCom. he spoke about a certain parallel between Athens of that time, and the United States of today. In both places it is severe domestic criticism that undermines seriously the war effort. It seems to me that Hanson is very much concerned about the precedent of Democracy losing. He believes that a democratic nation must have a strategy for winning the war, and not for simply carrying it on indefinitely.

I suspect however that the great enjoyment of this book does not relate to the parallels between past and present, but rather to the dramatic, tragic story of the Pelopennesian War as analyzed in this work.

Because of his depth of knowledge, enthusiasm for his subject the parallels and implications he draws from the Athens-Sparta war to other wars, are by and large convincing.

It seems to me that if there is one book President Bush should be reading these days. It is this one.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"There's a commonality to war...that transends time and space." 15 Nov 2005
By Daniel Weitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The above quote is the thesis of Hanson's book. His message,like Thucydides's classic, is meant to be for the ages.

Most of us limit our study to the Pelopponesian War (what Hanson calls the "first civil war in a western civilization")to the great classic, which Hanson points out, sells 10,000 copies a year! This book is as necessary a companion as the comments in the famous "Landmak Thucydides". There is so much in Hanson's book that is thoughtful, from the comparison of Agis and Pericles with Sherman, Kitchener and LeMay, to the key conundrum that Athens could not solve: how to dissolve the alliance of Sparta, Thebes and Corinth. Unlike many others, Hanson does not feel the the Sicilian campaign was in itself decisive in Athens' defeat; rather it was the influence of Persia.

Hanson pretty much repeats his excellent earlier work when he discusses land warfare, and his discussion of naval warfare seems heavily influenced by Barry Strauss. Particularly interesting was how the traditional "social" qualifications for serving as a hoplite, cavalryman, psiloi or rower broke down under the pressure of "total war". He raises but cannot solve the problem of the inability of classical Greeks to storm even small cities.
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