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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best book on classical times
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...
Published on 26 Jan 2006 by blinkpsychoofafrica

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cold War perspective on classical history
I do not intend to write a comprehensive review of this very well known work. This has been done elsewhere, with considerably more skill than I am able to reproduce. But I just wanted to add my own personal conclusions for the benefit of those who might be considering investing in it. It is a very well-written and entertaining account of the Cold War, cleverly disguised...
Published 17 months ago by Grafthomond


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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best book on classical times, 26 Jan 2006
This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best on its subject, 10 Jan 2006
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the peloponnesian war, 26 Aug 2008
By 
X. Kowa (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
I am no historian but I love ancient history. I'm one-third away from the end and all I can say is - it's riveting and definitely very manageable for the so-called 'laymen'. Kagan shows no bias toward either party (namely Athenians/Spartans) and manages to flesh out the major players wonderfully. This book is a good continuation if you've also read 'Persian Fire' by Tom Holland, from Persia versus a united Greece to Greeks fighting Greeks.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellant telling of history, 16 Sep 2007
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L. Douglas (essex, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
this book is very good, having only just started reading books on ancient greece kagen makes it easy and enjoyable to get a feel for the ancient world. it is also uncanny the way politics and battles of this book bring to the for front more recent conflicts with the similarities of how both events started.i guess as a race we really have learned nothing. although a history book this reads like a novel.brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling account of a major conflict in the ancient world, 24 Aug 2009
By 
J. Braga (Bath, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A template for all Great Wars?, 26 Jan 2011
By 
Anthony K. Divey (Hertfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
In many ways the Peloponnesian war has exerted such an influence over historians because it is the template for all later wars representing a clash of superpowers. So much of it is familiar from later conflicts: the initial spark in a far off arena of conflict, the way much of the conflict is fought out in places other than the territory around the protagonists, the very different opposing political structures and ideologies and the resrictions on liberties imposed as a 'necessary' consequence of continuing the war. Athens itself seems familiar as a model for later empires: democratically ruling in a vaguely liberal fashion over an empire on which it is reliant for imports, bolstered by her supreme naval power and exporting her political systems.

It's probably natural for many readers to side with Athens as the cradle of democracy fighting the totalitarian, militaristic Sparta. Yet how Athens tries her supporters' patience! Atrocities are commited by both sides and Athens herself toys with rejecting democracy. Time and again Athens seems to make the wrong decision, like the way the war in Sicily is conducted, or imposing the death penalty on eight newly victorious generals. Spartan peace offers are rejected right up to the last fateful year.

Donald Kagan tell this story in a gripping and detailed way. He manages to be both thorough and fast-paced, moving the action on without over-simplifying. I particularly liked the ways the characters of the rapidly changing cast list are drawn. The proliferation of similar and sometimes unfamiliar names could easily get confusing, but Kagan handles this aspect very well. There are lots of maps, although they print up quite small in paperback and some of the maps of battles actually tell us little about troop or ship dispositions.

A good read, recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How history should be written, 7 May 2008
By 
J. Duducu (Ruislip) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account of the Peloponnesian War, 30 Nov 2009
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
The Peloponnesian War represents a trully epic time in the Ancient Greek World. The War was perhaps the Hellenic World's equivalent of a world war, involving at various stages Greek cities across the entire Med, Persia, Thrace, Macedon, and even Carthage. The war was also immense in that it placed two diametrically opposed rivals in Athens and Sparta, one a Naval Empire and the other a Land Power. The war also produced one of the greatest historians of all time in Thucydides, whose death prior to completing his history has meant that the later stages of the war are entrusted to an array of less talented historians. The triumph of Kagan's history is largely in its creation of a unified narrative for the war and also in its presentation of the material, including some excellent maps.

The book follows a straight forward narrative structure dealing with the war in a linear fashion. What Kagan does with this narrative is intertwine a good amount of primary source material, Kagan also reveals an excellent knowledge of Attic drama which he uses to annotate his portrayal of the key Athenian players in the war. Usefully he uses his knowledge of sources other than Thucydides to rehabilitate many of the radical politician's of Athens who were so villified by our historical sources.

If there is a criticism of the book, it is that Kagan has a strong bias toward Athens and importantly the concept that democracy as a form of government is superior to all others. Whilst a review on Amazon is not the place to debate the merits of Athenian Democracy, and nor is the review an attack on democracy, but rather Kagan's discussion of it. Firstly Kagan rightly challenges Thucydides opinion on matters pertaining to the democracy (he challenges his view that Pericles undermined the democracy, the Cleon, Cleophon and others where demagogues and slates Nicias) but is inconsistent, whilst he says that the assembly wasn't motivated by greed in seeking to attack Syracuse and cites complex motivations, he equally attributes to the Spartans an attitude of fear/jealousy for starting the war. It is perhaps Kagan's refusal to blame the democracy for things going wrong in the war that leaves the work slightly unbalanced in Athen's favour, equally it would have been nice of Kagan to have shown a greater appreciation of the political structures of Sparta (mixed constitution) or Boeotia (Federalism). Equally bis portrayal of Corinth and its relationship with Corcyra does seem to be against the grain of current academic opinion regarding the relationship between Mother City and Colony, Corcyra's behaviour was fairly anomalous for the period. I would also like to have seen him be more critical of Alcibiades, whose actions were always on the verge of counter-democratic conduct.

The criticisms above are not an attempt to dissuade would be readers, but rather an attempt to alert people to the works bias in favour of Athens. It is important not to confuse ancient and modern democracy, Athens was a major user of slave labour both in the fleet and in their mines (20,000 deserted to Sparta when they fortified Declea) as well as using resident aliens (metics) both in their Land Army and Fleet. Although Athens was a democracy it was not built on the same principles as a modern democracy. This is an excellent work however and should be of interest to both the academic and the lay historian.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent storytelling, 3 Dec 2010
By 
S. Peter (Budapest, Hungary) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
It is amazing how thoroughly it is possible to interpret a sequence of events that happened well over two thousand years ago. Besides the antique references a lot is provided by Prof. Kagan whose great narrative makes the book really enjoyable. The storyline is well built and I have not felt any unnecessarily jump neither in timescale nor in the level of the details. It is really positive that he adds clear explanation to the key events, what could have been the motivation of certain characters or group of people. There are great maps included in the book, however some of the mentioned places are not indicated on any of them. I wish this book would be a standard for history books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book, 8 Aug 2010
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This review is from: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC (Paperback)
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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