The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC

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9780007115051: The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC

The Stalingrad of the ancient world, this is an immensely readable, brilliant, brutal and vivid history of the greatest and bloodiest war of ancient Greece. Kagan concentrates on the human cost of this first cataclysmic clash of two great empires, its unprecedented cruelty and the resulting utter destruction of Athenian civilisation.

The Peloponnesian War, fought 2,500 years ago between oligarchic Sparta and democratic Athens for control of Greece, is brought spectacularly to life in this magnificent study. Kagan demonstrates the relevance of this cataclysmic event to modern times in all its horror and savagery. As two uncompromising empires fight a war of survival from diametrically opposing political, social and cultural positions, the seemingly invincible glory of Athens crumbles in tragedy.

Athenian culture and politics was unmatched in originality and fertility, and is still regarded as one of the peak achievements of Western civilisation. Dramatic poets such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes raised tragedy and comedy to a level never surpassed; architects and sculptors were at work on the Acropolis; natural philosophers like Anaxagoras and Democritus were exploring the physical world, and philosophers like Socrates were dissecting the realm of human affairs. All this was lost to this bloody conflict.

Unprecedented cruelty and brutality marked this war, as anger, frustration and vengeance replaced established codes of behaviour. Bands of marauders murdered innocent children, entire cities were obliterated, men killed, women and children sold as slaves. With such violence came a collapse of the habits, institutions, beliefs and restraints that were the pillars of civilised life.

In this work of brilliant scholarship, Kagan illustrates his remarkable ability to interpret these events as a part of the universality of human experience. His clear expertise in both the ancient world and the wars of the 20th century are combined with his storytelling gifts to give an unforgettable portrait of this pivotal war which has shaped the world as we know it.

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Review:

‘It is impossible to skip, so monomaniacally complete, so beautifully told, so wisely understood and so Herodotian in its warmth and sympathy is this masterly work… in searching for words with which to praise Professor Kagan as highly as he deserves, I cannot do better than to say that although the great shadow of Thucydides must have been looking over his shoulder throughout, when Professor Kagan wrote The End, the shadow nodded in admiration.’ Bernard Levin, The Times

Praise for On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace:

‘Lucid, erudite… ambitious… [by] one of the most renowned classical scholars of this century… a remarkable study in historical juxtaposition and analogy. Mr Kagan’s undertaking is valuable and compelling because it distills so much history into so clear and transparent a liquid.’ Richard Bernstein, New York Times

‘A particularly timely masterpiece… brilliantly examines the origins of four major conflicts.’ Los Angeles Times Book Review

Praise for Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy:

‘Pericles is the greatest of subjects, Kagan the best qualified to write on him, his book wonderful reading.’ C. Vann Woodward

‘Masterly… a concise introduction to the political life of Athens in its moment of greatest glory and greatest peril.’ Commentary

‘Kagan draws on ancient sources as if they were a phone call away, recreating Pericles as a vibrant model for current democratic leaders.’ Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author:

Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of History and Classics at Yale University. and is an internationally recognised authority on ancient Greek history and culture, as well as a scholar of diplomatic history. He is the author of a four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War that is considered the landmark academic work in the field as well as the highly acclaimed Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy and On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Public Interest and the New York Times Book Review.

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