The History of the Peloponnesian War

1593080913.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Two political-economic systems compete for influence and dominance after the greatest war that has ever happened, but peace could not last. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides covers the first twenty years of the war between Athens and Sparta before it’s abrupt ending, but throughout his text the motives of the participants and the analysis of unintended consequences shows give the war it’s full context.

The first book—created by later editors not Thucydides—of the work focuses on early Greek history, political commentary, and seeks to explain how the war was caused and why it happened when it did. Over the course of Books 2 through 8, Thucydides covered not only the military action of the war but also the numerous political machinations that both sides encouraged in each other’s allied cities or in neutrals to bring them to their side. The war is presented in a chronological manner for nearly the entire work with only two or three diversions in either historical context or to record what happened elsewhere during the Sicilian Expedition that took up Books 6 & 7. The sudden ending of the text reveals that Thucydides was working hard on the work right up until he died, years after the conflict had ended.

The military narrative is top notch throughout the book which is not a surprise given Thucydides’ time as an Athenian general before his exile. Even though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was positively and negatively critical of both Athens and Sparta especially when it came to demagogues in Athenian democracy and severe conservatism that permeated Spartan society in all its facets. Though Thucydides’ created the prebattle and political speeches he relates, is straightforwardness about why he did it does not take away from the work. If there is one negative for the work is that Thucydides is somewhat dry which can make you not feel the urge to pick up the book if you’ve been forced to set it down even though you’ve been enjoying the flow of history it describes.

The History of the Peloponnesian War though unfinished due to Thucydides death was both a continuation of the historic genre that Herodotus began but also a pioneering work as it recorded history as it happened while also using sources that Thucydides was able to interview. If you enjoy reading history and haven’t read this classic in military history, then you need to.

The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan

5 thoughts on “The History of the Peloponnesian War

  1. Yay, you finished! I absolutely loved this book! Perhaps it was because I did posts for each couple of chapters/books but I really was enthralled with the people, their mentalities and the growth of the war. Honestly, it was one of my favourites. I always get excited when I see a post about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I should have finished probably two months ago but a friend and I had been working on and off on a short comic (he did the artwork, I wrote the script) for 18 months and in May things clicked and we finished it up. But instead of reading Thucydides once home I was working with him via Skype (he lives in Ireland). Then in June I could get back into the flow of reading it consistently) that’s why I just got in done in two days by taking it to work so I could read it for 90 minutes during my various breaks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This seems a very apropos book to have reviewed on our own Independence Day.

    On a side note, do you read any current history? I ask because when I first met Mrs Bookstooge one of the issues I had with adventism was the lack of a role that the US was going to play in the end times and I couldn’t understand how the one remaining superpower wasn’t there. But over the last decade, seeing how things are going, I can understand.
    Just wondering if you have any pet speculations about that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The US figures heavily in the SDA interpretation of Revelations since the beginning of the denomination. The US is identified as the Land Beast of Revelation 13, whose economic-military power will join with the Papacy (the Sea Beast of Revelation 13) to set up a worldwide Sunday Law (the Image of the Beast of Revelation 13). That’s why SDAs are big separation of church and state/religious liberty advocates not only in the US but around the world.

      As for current history, latest book I’ve read is about the 2008 Obama campaign and I read that in January 2013. “Current” current history is so politicized by the left and right that, I decided a long time ago to give myself a buffer between present day and history (10-15 years depending on the subject).

      Liked by 1 person

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