The History of the Peloponnesian War

Front Cover Publishing, Jan 1, 2004 - History
16 Reviews
Commonly acknowledged as one of the earliest written accounts of history, this classic work of Thucydides chronicles the war between Athens and Sparta during the fifth century B.C. While dispassionately and accurately reporting the events of this ancient Greek war in a strict chronology, Thucydides includes the causes of the conflict, descriptions of battlefield strategy, political opinions, and all other aspects of the war in brilliant detail with the tactful insights of an intellectual and observant eyewitness. Himself an Athenian general who served in the war, Thucydides relates the invasions, treacheries, plagues, amazing speeches, ambitions, virtues, and emotions of the conflict between two of Greece's most dominant city-states in a work that has the feel of a tragic drama. Though in part an analysis of war policy, "The History" is also a dramatic account of the rise and fall of Athens by an Athenian man. As such, it has the ring of historical warning that has sounded over two thousand years, continuing for modern military, politics, and international relations an ageless admonition.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gbill - LibraryThing

Loosely put, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War describes the war between Athens and Sparta which took place over 431-404 B.C. That may sound incredibly dry, and I suppose you have to have a strong ... Read full review

Review: The History of the Peloponnesian War

User Review  - Jeni Enjaian - Goodreads

This was a much welcomed change of pace from the dragging, "classic" fiction I have been reading lately. As an amateur historian this book is fascinating to study for its historiography rather than ... Read full review

Selected pages


The State of Greece from the earliest Times to the Commencement of the Peloponnesian War
Causes of the WarThe Affair of EpidamnusThe Affair of Potidaea
Congress of the Peloponnesian Confederacy at Lacedaemon
From the end of the Persian to the beginning of the Peloponnesian WarThe Progress from Supremacy to Empire
Second Congress at LacedaemonPreparations for War and Diplomatic SkirmishesCylonPausaniasThemistocles
Beginning of the Peloponnesian WarFirst Invasion of AtticaFuneral Oration of Pericles
Second Year of the WarThe Plague of AthensPosition and Policy of PericlesFall of Potidaea
Third Year of the WarInvestment of PlataeaNaval Victories of PhormioThracian Irruption into Macedonia under Sitalces
Tenth Year of the WarDeath of Cleon and BrasidasPeace of Nicias
Feeling against Sparta in PeloponneseLeague of the Mantineans Eleans Argives and AtheniansBattle of Mantinea and breaking up of the League
Sixteenth Year of the WarThe Melian ConferenceFate of Melos
Seventeenth Year of the WarThe Sicilian CampaignAffair of the HermaeDeparture of the Expedition
Seventeenth Year of the WarParties at SyracuseStory ofHarmodius and AristogitonDisgrace of Alcibiades
Seventeenth and Eighteenth Years of the WarInaction of the Athenian Army Alcibiades at SpartaInvestment of Syracuse
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Years of the WarArrival of Gylippus at Syracuse Fortification of DeceleaSuccesses of the Syracusans
Nineteenth Year of the WarArrival of DemosthenesDefeat of the Athenians at EpipolaeFolly and Obstinacy of Nicias

Fourth and Fifth Years of the WarRevolt of Mitylene
Fifth Year of the WarTrial and Execution of the PlataeansCorcyraean Revolution
Sixth Year of the WarCampaigns of Demosthenes in Western GreeceRuin of Ambracia
Seventh Year of the WarOccupation of PylosSurrender of the Spartan Army in Sphacteria
Seventh and Eighth Years of the WarEnd of Corcyraean RevolutionPeace of GelaCapture of Nisaea
Eighth and Ninth Years of the WarInvasion of BoeotiaFall of AmphipolisBrilliant Successes of Brasidas
Nineteenth Year of the WarBattles in the Great HarbourRetreat and Annihilation of the Athenian Army
Nineteenth and Twentieth Years of the WarRevolt of IoniaIntervention of PersiaThe War in Ionia
Twentieth and Twentyfirst Years of the WarIntrigues of AlcibiadesWithdrawal of the Persian SubsidiesOligarchical Coup dÉtat at AthensPatriotism of...
Twenty first Year of the WarRecall of Alcibiades to SamosRevolt ofEuboea and Downfall of the Four HundredBattle of Cynossema

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About the author (2004)

Born into a family of Athens's old nobility claiming descent from the Homeric hero Ajax of Salamis, Thucydides pursued a political career under Pericles and served as a general in the Great Peloponnesian War of 431--404 b.c. His subsequent exile for failure to prevent a Spartan takeover of an Athenian colony in Thrace enabled him to observe the war from both sides. In his history of the war, he examines the policies and motives of the people involved with a calculated rationality that nevertheless conveys great passion. Although his narrative style is lucid and astringent, the language of the speeches that he gives his protagonists is some of the most difficult, yet rhetorically powerful, Greek from any period of antiquity. The work is deeply serious in tone. As Thucydides tells his readers at the beginning of the work, it contains nothing of entertainment value. He meant it, as he says, to be not simply a set-piece written for the delectation of an audience, but a "possession for ever." As Herodotus was the inventor of universal history, Thucydides was the inventor of the analytical historical monograph. He wrote in conscious contrast to Herodotus, whose work is full of entertaining fable and romance. While Herodotus wrote about the past by using all manner of traditions gleaned in his travels, Thucydides considered only contemporary history to be reliable and writes as an interrogator and witness of contemporary men and events. The gods, too, are absent from Thucydides's work, which scrutinizes human motivations as the exclusive business of history. The most powerful intellectual influences visible are the fully rational method of description and prognosis developed by the Hippocratic physicians and the tools of logical analysis and verbal argument then being forged by the Sophists. Behind these, however, lay a sense of tragedy. The history of Thucydides possesses the rhythm of a Sophoclean drama of reversal of fortune in which Athens falls from the pinnacle of imperial success and brilliance into political corruption, ruthless and amoral imperial aggression, and finally utter defeat and disaster. Athens's imperial hubris leads to its nemesis at the hands of Sparta, a conservative and landlocked state that had been powerless at the beginning of the war to inflict significant harm on the Athenians. Thucydides's work is unfinished. It ends abruptly in midsentence during a discussion of the events of the year 411 b.c. It was continued to the end of the war by Xenophon. Although very much the intellectual inferior of Thucydides, Xenophon managed by imitation to infuse this part of his Hellenica (his continuation to 362 b.c. of the history of Thucydides) with an elevation absent in the rest of his work. Until relatively recently, scholars took Thucydides at his word as an objective writer. More recently it has been recognized that his work skillfully promotes a patriotic and political argument, written in the climate of postwar recriminations. He presents Athens's empire as a natural consequence of the position of that city-state in the Greek world and the Athenian leader Pericles as Athens's greatest statesman, a leader who had governed Athens and preserved the empire with a firm and intelligent hand. Thucydides wanted to persuade his readers that Pericles was not the villain who destroyed Athens, that the blame fell to the politicians who came after him and pandered to the most extreme ambitious of the common citizens, the politicians who were the ultimate arbiters of policy in Athens's democracy. Some modern historians remain persuaded by Thucydides's portrait of Pericles and the Athenian democracy, but others argue from Thucydides's own testimony that Pericles led Athens into an unnecessary war in the belief that the opportunity had arrived to advance Athenian domination over the whole of the Greek world.

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