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on 15 August 2011
According to strategist Colin Gray: "If Thucydides, Sun-Tzu, and Clausewitz did not say it, it probably is not worth saying." (Colin Gray, Fighting Talk: Maxim 14) Although that might be a bit of an overstatement, it is undoubtedly true that "The Peloponnesian War" is a real masterpiece. In it, Thucydides describes the war between Athena and archrival Sparta (433-405 BC) between 433 and 411 BC, where the book abruptly stops. The rest of the book being either lost or never written, although the writer surely did survive the war and - probably - died in the mid-390s.
In "The Landmark Thucydides", (editor) Robert Strassler has done everybody a huge favor, in making this book as accessible as possible. The book is heavily annotated, littered with maps and completed with annexes on subjects such as Land Warfare, Trireme Warfare, Spartan Institutions, Greek Currency and Religious Festivals.
The Peloponnesian War is not always easy to read, littered as it is with names of places, tribes, cities and coalitions, but some of the longer stories of the war a particularly rewarding (like the fatal Athenian expedition to Sicily). Also the 'Melian Dialogue' ("... the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.") is considered the classical example of die-hard Realpolitik.