Donald Kagan, The Peloponnesian War (New York: Viking, ), pp. It was Alfred North Whitehead who said that all Western philosophy is but a footnote. Donald Kagan. The Peloponnesian War. New York: Penguin Books, xxvii + pp. $ (paper), ISBN Reviewed by Janice J. The first volume of Donald Kagan’s acclaimed four-volume historyof the Peloponnesian War offers a new evaluation of the origins andcauses of the conflict, b.

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And why was Sparta not? It is not just a reflection of Prof Kagan’s scholarship, but even those of the authors to whom he referred. Please try again later.

Kagan manages a serviceable one volume history but not an exciting and engrossing one. I adore the Athenians. His friend John Hale of “Lords of the Sea” fame, convinced him to write a single volume history of the Peloponnesian War for non-specialists. How would it work? The volume’s ultimate worth, however, lies in the perceptive, magisterial judgment Kagan brings to his account of the war that ended the glory that was ancient Greece. The War itself was vast, and you get the distinct feeling that Kagan writes from the Athenian perspective.

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Great insight and commentary, built on the ancient works of Thucydides and others, we get a full summarized story of the conflict, the causes, powers, personalities and forces that shaped this “first world war”.

I found the book to be a fascinating glimpse into the world of Greek city-states and the sometimes decorous way in which they fought battles–I will never think about a trophy in the same way ever again the pelponnesian side in these battles won the right to “set up a trophy” on the field of battle.

And there was much that I did not learn, but certainly do not fault Kagan for it. Demosthenes suggests the army retreat to defend Athens but Nicias wwar both due to fear of returning to Athens and because of a solar eclipse that soothsayers say is an omen to wait before retreating. As such it devolved into brutal internecine violence that had, heretofore, never before witnessed between Hellens. An easier read than the classic Greek, good maps.

See and discover other items: He is also the author of many books on ancient and modern topics. That said, I have a lot of respect for the author insofar as his scholarship is concerned. It’s not easy to get into and Kagan doesn’t write with the accessibility and warmth and actual liveliness aliveness? It seems that years of ‘progress’ hasn’t progressed very much because politicians today are just as prone to hubris and self-serving policy as they were in Ancient Greece. Oct 11, Rachel Moyes rated it liked it.


Due to the original detail this account is also very detailed — often describing what were no more than minor skirmishes with a handful of dead on each side Condensed version of a multi-volume academic study into the war between Sparta and Athens in the 5th century BC, the book is mainly based around a famous historic account of the war by a contemporary of the events often regarded as the first real history book but at many times uses peoponnesian sources to challenge the biases in that account.

Alcibiades was one slippery character. Virtually every major aspect of the conflict resonates in a contemporary context as well, whether it is the threats democratic societies face from factionalism and wad mentalities, the damage that can be done by charismatic, huge-ego leaders, or the role of intelligence, as opposed to ignorance and lack of judgement, in guiding a people.

Apr 01, Gumble’s Yard rated it really liked it Shelves: I rather wished I’d gone for the four volume expanded edition!

One is struck by the parallels between this war and 20th century wars. The fighting in Sicily was a disaster for Athens. It bears mentioning that the major source for this period is the history of the war written by Thucydides, himself an Athenian who fought in the conflict, so maybe this is simply Kagan sticking to his sources. An illuminating account of the year-long struggle for power between Sparta, the militarized society whose land-based army could ravage the enemy countryside at will, and fortified Athens, protected and fed by the might of a navy-maintained empire covering the islands and littoral of the Aegean.

On sale May East Dane Designer Men’s Fashion. The Athenians don’t get off lightly either, and usually it’s because of politicians. Forced into a path of war, once committed, these 2 city states and their allies descend into a war of almost 30 years that engulfs the entire region and is unrivaled in its scope, brutality and longevity.


All in all, the stories of the people and cities of Greece came to life, and then pulled me along as events inevitably led to a painful but in the larger scheme, not hopeless finale for Athens. This page was last edited on 23 Novemberat Athens was the naval superpower of the time, dominating in general the sea. Perhaps that’s inevitable, because most of the history is recorded by Athenians and that’s undoubtedly just the nature of a flourishing democracy at work. Strongly reinforced my good fortune at never living through a war.

Winner of the National Humanities Medal forand a prominent social and political critic, his graduate courses include seminars in the writings of selected Greek historians and in selected periods in Greek history. More By and About This Author. He is right about those lessons, but then many wars throughout our tumultuous history can teach us, though they seem more lessons we divine after the fact rather than learn from before the next crisis approaches.

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There is an astonishing amount of detail offered not only about the actions of the historical protagonists, but also their personalities and mind pelopnonesian, especially considering the relative paucity of sources. Imperialism is fine if it is used to install a puppet government which happens to be a democracy; Imperialism is a great evil if you use it to install oligarchic government.

About The Peloponnesian War For three decades in the fifth century b. The Peloponnesian War is a magisterial work of history written for general readers, offering a fresh examination of a pivotal moment peloponnesiah Western civilization.

His treatment of the oligarchic revolution, overturning democracy for a time, is concise yet thorough.


He is the father of Robert Kagan and Frederick Kaganboth well-known writers. If one wanted to read just one book on the Peloponnesian War this might be the one.

No, I am not a history professional. Kagan is at his best when he is describing the politics behind the war. For my formal studies we were required to have one modern and one ancient area of focus. War Aims and Resources