History of the Peloponnesian War
Published in 400 BC
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
The topic is interesting, but this is an extremely hard read. I struggled because of the sentence structure, ancient geography, obscure and dated cultural references, and difficult chronology. I do not recommend reading Thucydides cover to cover, the book is simply too complex for your average reader.
I enjoyed many parts of the book, but was constantly lost and unsure of what was happening.
That being said, this book is pure gold for historians and those who are passionate about Greek history.
I learned a lot about the ancient Greeks, and learned a lot.
For example, my perception of Sparta has completely changed. I no longer see Sparta as an alien civilization entirely predicated on war, but instead see them as much more human and 3-dimensional. The Spartans weren’t blind to the reality of the world they lived in, and were careful only to engage in conflicts that they thought they could win. They are diplomatic, cunning, and retreat in battle just like everyone else.
I also get a different picture of Athens. Instead of a noble, and democratic republic I get the picture of a corrupt and decadent oligarchy. Athens subjugates and abuses its allies, and cannot be trusted to uphold its end of the bargain.
Most interestingly was the depiction of negotiation and dialogs between the various factions. The most famous is the Melian Dialog, but there numerous others. Negotiations have changed remarkably little in the 2500 years since the events of the Peloponnesian War. Everything from the wording of treaties to the bargains that are cut could be pulled right out of any other conflict.
Overall, there is a lot of interesting stuff here, enough to keep me interested enough to finish the entire book. However, I found it to be very difficult to read, and this wasn’t the most pleasant or engaging book. I recommend just reading the cliff notes.
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