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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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I found the book to be a fascinating glimpse into the world of Greek wat and the sometimes decorous way in which they fought battles–I will never think about a trophy in the same way ever again the victorious side in these battles won the right to “set up a trophy” on the field of battle. This book was meant peloponnesiqn be a one-book consolidation. Athens and their allies experience major defeats, which is foreboding for the next chapter of the conflict. It never quite comes to life, seems all summary, rather than a re-telling informed by the larger work.


A very enjoyable read that paces itself perfectly. Personalities dominate political decisions, people use religion to justify whatever they intended to do, and no amount of reason is an antidote to personal ambition and nationalism.

His peloponbesian wife of sixty-two years, Myrna Kaganwas a teacher and historian in her own right, and the author of Vision in the Sky: Pleoponnesian naturally the elites themselves had many a conflict, as egos jockeyed for power.

The above over simplifies the 27 years pelopnonesian of wars, peace and cold wars that ended in Athens’ defeat, Sparta’s hegemony and the Persian Empire taking back much of what it lost in the wars of BCE. I will admit I’ve always struggled reading or studying the Peloponnesian War. The presence of populist demagogues or figures who insist only they can be the dealmakers their city needs Cleon or Alcibiades, for exampleor t In the introduction, Kagan asserts that he wants to avoid the trap of describing the Peloponnesian War as a metaphor or parable for modern wars or the Cold War.

Kagan’s The Peloponnesian War – AshbrookAshbrook

He brings a modern sense of judgment to the historical record, balancing what is written with the most likely scenarios possible, based on his overall knowledge of this time period. The question of how to have “peace with honor” for both sides in a potential stalemate becomes the issue.


Eventually, the Peloponnesian forces allied with Persia and led by Lysander defeat the Athenian navy decisively in B. Also by Donald Kagan. But, Kagan does an excellent job providing an abundance of maps that provide the perfect balance of detail for the reader to follow.

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The Peloponnesian War

Absolutely amazing how the author manages to bring to life events that happened 2. This was an interesting and fast-moving account of a major event in classical history that I knew nothing about.

Those are assumptions are 1 the war will unfold precisely in the way the proposed strategy dictates and 2 the war can be quickly won.

Be the first to ask a question about The Peloponnesian War. There are a lot of classic elements to this story, in every sense of the word. Though, perhaps one could argue that that is the way with wars, especially wars of attrition, and both the Athenians and the Spartans had pretty much had enough of the whole thing. Cornell University Yale University. Donald Kagan is a gifted writer with the narrative gift to bring alive a 2, year old war.

New Strategies Chapter Eleven: Though, as befits a preeminent Classics scholar, he doesn’t just blindly quote the ancient but on occasion doesn’t hesitate to call into question, via shrewd analysis, a Thucydidan assertion. Donald Kagan is apparently the world’s foremost expert on this event, and his works on it seem unassailable. There are 29 excellent maps, spaced appropriately throughout the book, that provide the visual basis for understanding the narrative of the battles, and geopolitical landscape.

It felt good to read some history again.

The war would last for almost three decades, with one significant truce of several years that was frequently violated. The False Peace Chapter Sixteen: He is at his best when describing the dramatic defeat of Athens in the Sicilian campaign or when following the changing allegiances of Alcibiades or when explicating the political and strategic nuances of the war from all points of view. It remains an imperial morality tale, overreaching and hubris will get you every time.

In other projects Wikimedia Commons. What makes this war ‘special’ was that it happened 24 centuries ago and arguably, in many ways, we have just been riffing on the same chord ever since. While some reviews on Amazon have criticized this work as being “dry” or “too detailed,” I disagree; it was a long and historically consequential war involving various people groups and cultures and is more than just “Athenians” vs.


If one wanted to read just one book on the Peloponnesian War this might be the one. Most impressively, somehow Donald Kagan makes these complex events of almost two and a half millennium ago understandable to the modern reader, by identifying five or ten key causative factors to significant events, and then providing balanced, reasonable judgments.

I adore the Athenians. A long term rivalry. He is the father of Robert Kagan and Frederick Kaganboth well-known writers. A modern person should not praise the Athenians for being a democracy, they should condemn them for being imperialists. May 12, Bookish added it Shelves: Euripides wrote his tragedies during a time when the common people of Athens were suffering tragedy on a daily basis caused by the siege of Athens by Spartan troops and the gradual disintegration of its empire.

This book also made me interested in reading more Greek history; I suppose accounts of the Persian Wars which preceded the Peloponnesian or Macedonian Wars would be the logical next steps.

Still, I liked reading the book on the whole. Read reviews that mention peloponnesian war donald kagan athens and sparta history of the peloponnesian greek history alexander the great professor kagan city states years ago professor kagan background information human nature ancient greece persian empire work on the subject classical greece civil war kagan book cold war general reader.

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The Peloponnesian War: Donald Kagan: : Books

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. While chronicle history has declined within the profession its appeal to the amateur is still very, very strong.

After this meets with disastrous defeat, Alcibiades is convicted of treason and flees to Sparta– effectively turning traitor and convincing the Spartans to follow his advice in attacking Athens!

Because the cities pre-Phillip of Macedon are so different many people express a particular affinity for one city-state over another. Also, oddly, the book is peppered with in-text citations, as if this is a research paper instead of a book.

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