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The History of the Peloponnesian War (Classics) Paperback – 31 Dec 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (31 Dec. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440393
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

THUCYDIDES was born probably about 460BC. He took a small part in the Peloponnesian War when it broke out in 431BC. 'The Peoloponnesian War' is the only surviving source for much of the period that he describes. Some of the chronological inconsistencies have been the cause of controversy among scholars for centuries.
Rex Warner 1905-1986 was a classical scholar of Wadham College, Oxford. M. I. Finley was a lecturer in Classics and then Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge. He died in 1986


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Arrived promptly and in new condition. Fascinating book, written by a literary master, at a time when recorded history had not even started in Britain.
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For anyone who wonders how an unfinished manuscript from the 4th century BC became one of the seminal works of military history, influencing people from Machiavelli, all the way to analysts of our present day, one only has to indulge in Thucydides highly readable, and extremely eventful narrative.
The first book explains the treaty system that preceded the outbreak of hostilities, describing a diplomatic process between Corinth, Athens, Lacedaemon and other city states within the Greece of its day, henceforth referred to as Hellas.
Early on Thucydides posits the cause of the war as the growth of the power of Athens, and from the ensuing pages, it becomes clear that many states joined the anit-Athenian alliance more out of fear of subjugation, rather than pursuit of particular grievances. Corinth had a particular grievance against Athens, namely that they fought against them with the Corcyraeans at the time of the original treaty. As Thucydides states, "the love of gain would reconcile the weaker to the dominion of the stronger, and the possession of capital enabled the more powerful to reduce the smaller towns to subjection."
Much detail is given to the deliberations and consideration of war, such as manpower, naval power, and logistical control of sea and land. One can evince from this 2,400 year old text that rational considerations of real politik played just as an important part in war and peace back then as they do today.
The Peloponnesian war, we learn, was often beset with a variety of natural disasters, such as a wide outbreak of disease, earthquakes, and the eruption of Mount Etna.
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I first read Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian War" in the sixties, when the Cold War was fast simmering towards a boiling point. Reading Thucydides at that moment, which (thankfully) passed into modern history with a whimper rather than a bang, was a revelation. The 5th-century BC historian writes a riveting account of how two major powers--Sparta and Athens--became embroiled in a twenty-seven-year war because of self-interest, mutual distrust, and buildup of arms. He then notes that he is writing his history as a lesson for mankind so that such wars will never occur again. With chilling cynicism, however, he notes that since human nature is essentially rotten, the same wars will break out over and over for exactly the same reasons.

Rex Warner's translation from the Greek is both enlightening and readable. The headings at the top of every other page allow the reader to 'skim' easily to particular topics. I shall note only two passages, which speed by despite their length, as examples: the Plague of 430 BC (Thuc. II. 47-55), and the Corcyrean Revolt of 427 BC (Thuc. III. 69-95; esp. 82-83). The first demonstrates Thucydides' brilliance as what we today would call a journalist. His account of the plague is based on keen observation of the disease, which he both caught and survived. Originating at Athens' harbour, it swept through the confines of the city, partly as a result of Pericles' disastrous policy of moving the population into an already-crowded city (Thucydides does not know about rats and lice, but he does note that all domestic animals and birds of prey, which came into contact with the stricken, died).
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Who should read this book ?

* Anyone who wants to understand how free societies can descend into tyranny:

* Anyone who does not realise that merely holding free elections is not enough to preserve a society worth living in, especially if you don't combine democracy with the rule of law:

* Anyone who needs to understand how two or more nations can stumble into a war devastating to both:

* Anyone who imagines that genocide and ethnic cleansing were limited to our own era:

* Anyone interested in reading one of the first works of true history ever written.

In other words this history of a terrible war nearly two and half thousand years ago is as relevant in the first decade of the third millenium as it was when it was written, four centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

If I had to nominate one historical work for my son and daughter to read, I would think carefully between this volume, Suetonius's "The 12 Caesars", and Herodotus's "Histories", but Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian war" would edge it.

The Wordsworth Classics version includes an introduction by Lorna Hardwick which I found most helpful in understanding the importance of Thucydides and the context in which his writing needs to be understood.

You cannot take every word in this book for granted, but Herodotus and Thucydides came closer to an objective search for truth than any writer whose works survive and was writing before them or for centuries afterwards.

The story of the tragic wars, initially between Athens and Sparta, which decimated Greek civilisation between 431BC and 404 BC is absolutely gripping, and Thucydides brings the story to life for me.
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