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History of the Peloponnesian War

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This description may be from another edition of this product. "The greatest historian that ever lived." Such was Macaulay's assessment of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) and his history of the Peloponnesian War, the momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta that...

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Ancient Greece History

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Lessons that are to be applied today more than ever.

My edition is an old Penguin paperback "For the power of Athens rests on mercenaries rather than on her own citizens; we, on the other hand, are less likely to be affected on this way, since our strength is on men rather than on money." This could have been said also by the proud Japanese up until the bomb was dropped in WWII, or by the Taliban of the Left or the Muslim suicide-bombers of today. "This is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all." said by the Athenians. Both quotes speak volumes of the views they held of their own societies. And Pericles himself: "My own opinion is that when the whole state is on the right course it is a better thing for each individual than when private interests are satisfied but the state as a whole is going downhill. However well off a man may be in his private life, he will still be involved in the general ruin if his country is destroyed." The Cubans, North Koreans should not miss the significance of what is said here. And doesn't well off sound very much like well fare? If (almost) everybody is poor is it more just than some be poor and others rich? So for the sake of fairness we all are going poorer in the West, spiritually, culturally, and therefore economically. And what about Pericles' foreign policy? "I prefer the man who stands up to danger rather than the one who runs away from it ... Your empire is now like a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go ... Those who are politically apathetic can only survive if they are supported by people who are capable of taking action [that goes for the American Left and the American military respectively]. They are quite valueless in a city which controls an empire, though they would be safe slaves in a city that would be controlled by others." And who is going to control the world today is the USA refuses to? No wonder Athens declined once Pericles was out of the picture. Now a good response to the isolationist utopias of Libertarians: "It is a general and necessary law of nature to rule wherever one can. This is not a law that we (Athenians) made ourselves, nor were we the first to act upon it when it was made. We found it already in existence, and we shall leave it to exist for ever among those who come after us ... we know that you or anybody else with the same power as ours would be acting in precisely the same way." The book is very dense, but intense. It has to be read slowly, in little sips, or else it can become tiresome. The speeches are glorious stuff. The images vivid, as could only be from a man who played a military role during the events narrated. The actions, tactics, comings-and-goings can become dizzying, but overall it is a imperishable classic that should be read by anyone who claims a right to vote and by those who call ourselves citizens and not lackeys or serfs.

Greatest Of All Greek Historians

The greatest of all Greek historians was the Athenian general Thucydides (455-400 B.C.E.). Thucydides' classic work, "History Of The Peloponnesian War", provides us with the historical framework for 5th century Greece, a golden age of intellectual achievement and creativity rarely equaled in human history. This history is by far the best account of the bitter war between Athens and Sparta as well as the only surviving contemporary record of the rise of the Athenian empire. Thucydides as a master story teller doesn't just cover the battle scenes, he records the great political speeches of Pericles, leader of Athens, and Lysander leader of Sparta with great acumen. He is recognized as the first historian to actually go and get eyewitness accounts, visit battlefieilds and research documents and records. This work took him over 20 years and it shows! The lessons he teaches about imperial over reaching and unreasonable peace settlements are prescient today as they were during his times. President Woodrow Wilson, read this book on his voyage across the Atlantic to the Versailles Peace Conference and vociferously fought the other Allies in making unreasonable demands of the Germans. Wilson learned the dangers that the world would be placed in by backing the Germans into a corner politically and economically from Thucydides book. I recommend this timeless classic to anyone who is interested in political philosophy, and history. I also recommend you read it with David Cartwright's "A Historical Commentary On Thucydides.

The Originator

I had a Greek teacher who loved Herodotus, and did not love Thucydides. The consequences were 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 entertain her, 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. Suggestion: of all the readers who responded to the challenge of Thucydides, none met it more dramatically than Thomas Hobbes, the British political philosopher who began his career by fashioning the first great English translation of the Peloponnesian War. Hobbes' 17th-Century translation is perhaps not the most accessible, and I gather it is not the most accurate. But Hobbes has a gnarly directness of his own, and echoes of Thucydides reverberate through just about everything he later wrote.

An entertaining and well-written history

This is the most objective and readable contemporary history ever written. Only in classical Greece could a work at once so sympathetic and objective be created. Thucydides was an Athenian and served as a general in their army, but first and foremost he was a Greek. Because of this he did not slander Athens' enemies or feel the need cast the Athenians' actions in a glorious, righteous light. Every chapter shines with brilliance and humanity, particularly the section on the plague which hit Athens when it was already in a crisis. I'm actually tempted to call this 2,000 year old history a page-turner.

The best translation of Thucydides yet.

The Hobbes translation and David Grene's intelligent and relevent notes make this the best version of Thucydides I have yet read. While I am not a scholar in this area, I feel that this is probably the grandest history ever written and that the Hobbes translation does it justice. It has been said that at best a translator is not merely changing the work from language to language but giving it a new life. Hobbes succeeded briliantly in this, and I feel that through Mr. Grene's notes, the translation is as near to the original as one can get.
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