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History Of The Peloponnesian War [Paperback]

Thucydides , M I Finley , Rex Warner
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1954 Penguin Classics
Written four hundred years before the birth of Christ, this detailed contemporary account of the long life-and-death struggle between Athens and Sparta stands an excellent chance of fulfilling its author's ambitious claim. Thucydides himself (c. 460-400 BC) was an Athenian and achieved the rank of general in the earlier stages of the war. He applied thereafter a passion for accuracy and a contempt for myth and romance in compiling this factual record of a disastrous conflict.

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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A controversial account of a fascinating time June 1 1999
Reading some of the reviews of this book seems to be almost as interesting as reading the book itself! However, I do feel the need to set the record straight on a few points. While it is true that most of the content of the speeches that Thucydides records are historically inaccurate, it is a grave fallacy to say that the facts he records are "lies." As was true of all authors of the time, Thucydides' text was written to further a political, military, and social agenda. The speeches of the work are not recorded verbatim, granted, but does that make Pericles' funeral oration any less beautiful and poignant? It reminded me very significantly of Vietnam, in all honesty. Instead of holding Thucydides to a modern historical standard, why not appreciate him for the excellent speechwriter and persuasive argumentarian that he was?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A milestone, and recurrent justifications .... April 22 2004
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"History of the Peloponnesian War" is, superficially, merely an account of a war that happened centuries ago, the Peloponnesian War, between Athenas and Sparta. Of course, you might think that the subject is trivial to you. After all, how important can a book like that be?. Well, if you were to think that, you would be enormously mistaken.
To start with, this book is a milestone you need to be aware of. Thucydides, its author, is very possibly the first modern historian. He tried to explain the causes of the Peloponnesian War, without reducing its complexity by saying that the gods had motivated it. Thucydides doesn't follow the easy path; instead, he searches those causes in human nature, and in power. He doesn't weave tales, but tries to write History.
It is rather astonishing how objective this Athenian was when he analyzed the war, and all that happened immediately before it. He examines methodically many events, paying special attention to facts. The author also gives his opinion from time to time, but he doesn't judge whether an action is good or evil: he merely shows that those that have power can use it as they see fit. Due to that, Thucydides is called by many the first realist theoretician. I was especially taken aback by how well he expresses his ideas regarding the fact that "power makes right" in the Melian debate. I don't agree with him, but I cannot deny that he makes a powerful case, and that his point of view is shared nowadays by many noteworthy thinkers.
It is important to point out that in "History of the Peloponnesian War" you will find a painstaking account of many things that actually happened, but also some speeches that weren't made by the actors, but could have been made by them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Work of History Nov. 26 2003
All serious students of military history should read Thucydides. It took me many years to get around to him, but it was well worth it. In order to understand all the popular topics of military history, US Civil War, WW2, etc., a reading of this work should be required. So much in this book relates to the Western experience of war throughout the centuries. Indeed, this work is considered one of the original primary sources of Western History, and one can easily see why.
Thucydides speaks of human nature, which from reading him we can see has not changed much over the centuries. The clash between Athens and Sparta can rightly be considered one of the classic confrontations of all time. One a naval power and the other a land power. Such a war was bound to shack the very foundations of the classical world as the old traditions of Greek Hoplite warfare were forever changed by this conflict. Thucydides provides us a stunning portrait of city states at war. The arrogance, greed, cunning, desperation and cruelity are all there for us to see. One can chart the progress of this conflict and see the effects at had on both protagonists. Over time the original reasons for the conflict become obscure as the war takes on a life all its own, which neither side seemingly willing or able to end it. Some of the names mentioned are well known in Greek History. Pericles and Alcibiades must surely be the best known, but there are also Cleon, Brisadas and others. The character of Alcibiades must surely be the most interesting, and one that we can certainly relate to in our own times. Former US President Bill Clinton probably most resembles him. Both are brilliant men of low social character and absolute opportunists.
Pure military historians may find this book a slow read at times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Originator Jan. 4 2004
By Buce
I had a Greek teacher who loved Herodotus, and did not love Thucydides. The consequences where not, perhaps, what you might expect. In the event, when we studied Herodotus, she would chatter on about the background, the characters. When we came to Thucydides, without nearly so much to entertainer, we just read the Greek.
Good thing, too. Herodotus' Greek is not elegant, and it is not pure Attic. But it is accessible to the relative novice. Thucydides, on the other hand, is about as hard as it comes - made worse by the fact that he is most accessible where he is least interesting, which is to say in the passages of pure battle narrative. It is in the "reflective" passages - where his "characters" are trying to explain or justify their actions, or where he is simply trying to make sense of an appalling calamity - that he is most obscure.
Is this an accident? I think not. Thucydides is, after all, an originator. He is perhaps not quite the first to give us a narrative of events, but he is surely the first to try to make sense of it all. And to recognize the path taken by his own beloved country as the course of stark strategy. It is the story, in short (at least at one level) of how a nation perhaps too rich and too self assured, can go terribly wrong.
It was fashionable to cite Thucydides in the dark days of the Vietnam War. I wonder if the comparison shows us too much flattery. For Thucydides' story is not only a story about the arrogance of power. Athens at its best was a priceless treasure. Anyone can throw away an opportunity, but some opportunities are better than others.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite fascinating but need time to trudge through
I once was in the U.S. Army. As part of our job we were always encouraged to study history to see how people thought and wars were executed. Read more
Published 12 months ago by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars Unparalleled
I will spare a full-blown review. But if you have the extra money or could easily afford it, I would recommend the newer more expensive edition of this book with the introduction... Read more
Published on June 25 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A lengthy albeit remarkable book
Thucydides' attention to detail is easily palpable and at times becomes numbing to the reader who is not familiar with the myriad of hellenic city states and peoples who come and... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars History as Story
By fortune, for me, Thucydides came first in college...followed not long after by David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest... Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars what a long way we have come
Before I am pilloried as a heathen and burned in effigy as a barbarian, let me begin by saying yes, I recognize the importance of this book - historical objectivity and attributing... Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2003 by doc peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Ancient History: International Affairs
Thucydides is one of the great historians of antiquity. He offers a first hand account of the terrible Peloponnesian war that plagued Greece for over thirty-years. Read more
Published on Dec 17 2002 by Matthew P. Arsenault
5.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Herodotus, but good enough
This was a very interesting and easy book to read concerning this ancient 30-year Greek civil war that was so devastating to the whole of Hellas. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2002 by Bunny Bear
5.0 out of 5 stars Greek social and war history, the human condition & nature
Thucydides, half a generation after the "father of history" Herodotus, is an amazing, analytical, concise (though side tracking) trip through one of the most interesting... Read more
Published on Dec 15 2001 by "umd_cyberpunk"
4.0 out of 5 stars The Original Man-On-The-Spot
Thucydides fought in the Peloponnesian War and probably attended some of the parliamentary debates in Athens which he so faithfully chronicles. Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2001 by Matherson
5.0 out of 5 stars First Anti-War, War History
This is an exhausting work, but exhausting in the best meaning of the word. Thucydides does what the few truly great historians can do, he brings to life not only the Pelopponesian... Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2001 by C. Sellers
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