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on 2 February 2005
The Essential Histories are a great series. There are plenty of full colour photographs and battle plans throughout. There is a solid bibliography using the latest works available.
The text reads very easily, which is impressive given the complexity of the period. There is also very little repetition of earlier events in the three books. The only area that shows lack of editing is the spelling of Greek names. Both authors use different techniques. A minor point, but I would have thought by now Osprey would have a standard policy on the use of names (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc) in all their works.
There are only two real complaints:
No decent maps. Osprey have always published in the smaller format and a set number of pages, but they never seem to go in for maps to any extent. There are two maps of Alexanders' campaigns, but they don't have a great deal of detail. The general route of the campaigns is noted, as are major battle sites and some place manes, but few of the cities and many regions mentioned in the text are mentioned in the maps. Similarly, there are often no maps relating to the places mentioned in the Peloponnesian War. While there are maps of Greece, again they focus on the overall picture without mentioning many of the places in the text. I would prefer to pay a little more and have a few more detailed maps. In particular I would like to see an overall 'theatre of war' map, plus three or four more detailed maps that focus on regions of the campaigns in particular. But, to read any Osprey books it is best to have a volume with some decent maps to hand. Modern city names are often added in brackets in the tex, so even a modern atlas would be of some help.
The second issue is the photographs. For the first two books, there are plenty of shots of military equipment and the all-pervasive Greek figure vases. I find them good to look at and yes, they are informative and link in to the text easily. But when it comes to Alexander, there are a series of paintings from the 1650-1800 period, depicting scenes from the conquests of Alexander. I know from other works that there are plenty of archaeological finds from the later Greek period, there are many statues of Alexander, and there are even some good shots of the sites where the battles took place. So why are there three lines of text squeezed in below a full colour painting of Babylon's surrender to Alexander, painted about 1700?
Overall, these works are well worth the money. Of course, they are only introductory works, but make a good addition to any historians' library.
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on 13 May 2006
This book - part of a series primarily aimed at military history fanatacists - was thankfully written by some of the most knowledgable historians in the field, and presents a very straightforward, readable, and well-illustrated account of the subject matter. It's actually something of a compilation of three books (with a rather wimpy new preface by the eminent and ultra-Conservative American historian-upstart Victor Davis Hanson), and in the compilation process the book presents some amusing editorial infelicities.

First of all, in the 'contents' page the first section (on the Persian wars) is given the unusual dates of 449-386BC, whereas the chapter refers to events from 499-480! Secondly: throughout the book there are illustrations, which appear in the first section, of items which then reappear in the second section in different photographs, so for example there's a rather dramatic black-and-white picture on p.24 of a Corinthian helmet which then reappears in glorious colour on p.130. Similarly, the Hellenic Navy's reconstructed trireme is given two chances to amaze the reader.

Not that these editorial oversights detract at all from the quality of the prose, which is very concise and useful but sadly devoid of references & so recommended as an introduction for undergraduates and as a guide for enthusiasts.
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