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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The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan. For three decades in the fifth century B. Pelopoonnesian Peloponnesian War is a magisterial work of history written for general readers, offering a fresh examination of a pivotal moment in Western civilization. With a lively, readable narrative that conveys a richly detailed portrait of a vanished world while honoring its timeless relevance, The Peloponnesian War is a chronicle of the rise and fall of a great empire and of a dark time whose lessons still resonate today.

Paperbackpages. Published April 27th by Penguin Books first published CleonDemosthenesAlcibiadesPericlesAgis To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

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Lists with This Book. Apr 09, Daniel rated it really liked it Recommends it for: This book is rightly considered an historical masterpiece, but a few flaws kept me from thoroughly enjoying it.

Peloponndsian scholarship is pekoponnesian, as is his breadth of knowledge on the subject. His style is generally entertaining, with a very British style of dry humor that tend to make history books much more readable to a wide audience.

My main fault with the book is his ideological biases which are extremely transparent. For example, he is pro-democracy to the point of forgiving the assembly vo This book is rightly considered an historical masterpiece, but a few flaws kept me from thoroughly enjoying it.

For example, he is pro-democracy to the point of forgiving the assembly voting for heinous murders because they were “relatively” fair and forgiving for the time period. From reading his other works, I understand his love of modern democracy, however it is quite anachronistic to apply our modern notions of democracy to ancient Athens. Athens should not be given a moral carte blanche because they were a democracy and, coincidently, we are today governed by democratic principles.

At times, Kagan comes disturbingly close to rationalizing gross abuses by the Athenian democrats. A modern person should not praise the Athenians for being a waar, they should condemn them for being imperialists. Kagan takes pains to make the Spartans into incompetent villians.

Their victories are accidental and their losses require little explanation. Their leaders are faulted for being overwhelmingly conservative and not taking advantage of moments of Athenian weakness, yet, when a dynamic Spartan leader emerges-like Brasidas or Lysander- he is faulted as being a sinister imperialist. Peloponnesiab message is fairly clear: Imperialism is fine if it is used to install a puppet government which happens to be a democracy; Imperialism is a great evil if you use it to install oligarchic government.


This ideology is very familiar to modern neo-conservatives schooled in the “democracy peloppnnesian always right” mindset. Whether or not this idea is pelopponnesian today, imposing it on Greek society of years ago is, as I said above, anachronistic and totally wrong. View all 9 comments. Apr 14, William2 rated it really liked it Shelves: This book is wonderful because it takes Thucydides classic text–itself a wonder–and fills in the gaps, peoponnesian corrects the ancient text where necessary.

Thucydides is cited throughout in a manner reminiscent of the notation used to cite Biblical chapter and verse. In addition, Kagan refers to the writings of Plutarch, Xenophon, Diodorus, Socrates, Aristophanes, and peloponnedian, especially for the last seven years of the war, a period Thucydides does not cover.

Like any scholar worth his salt, Kagan is This book is wonderful because it takes Thucydides classic text–itself a wonder–and fills in the gaps, or corrects the ancient text where necessary.

Like any scholar worth his salt, Kagan is conversant with the scholarly consensus, with which he is for the most part in step, though he occasionally offers alternative scenarios.

The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan | : Books

Much of the book is simply riveting. Like when the Spartan general Brasidas retakes Amphipolis, or the naval battle fought late in the war for control of the Hellespont. Woven throughout is the longer story of the Athenian turncoat, Alcibiades.

Professor Kagan preceded this one-volume history with a four-volume history pwloponnesian the war that took him around 20 years to write. That 4-volume series is a much more detailed consideration of political motives and military strategy.

But with this single volume, Kagan was able to produce a fast-moving tale, full of incident and colorful description. I am not a great reader of military histories; most, in my experience, are a boring slog. But because of Kagan’s previous in-depth consideration of the same events, and the need to get the story told in a mere pages, the result is a taut, compressed narrative that moves briskly and bears the reader delightedly along.

Jan 26, Ed Abbott peloponnesisn it it was amazing. I liked this book. No, I am not a history professional. I picked it up because i wanted to know more about what happened.

Donald Kagan

I had skimmed reviews and seen the general approval of the book when it came out so i gave it a chance. I am glad I did. I read lots of programming books so i have – believe it or not, follow me here low tolerance for boredom. A low tolerance because if the information is not useful why am I reading it?

This book was great because it changed pelooonnesian mindset from “How is this us I liked this book. This book was great because it changed my mindset from “How is this useful to me?

I would catch myself coming up with arguments about what should or should not be done as if it were some set of current events.

Kagan’s The Peloponnesian War – AshbrookAshbrook

I am going to give Kagan the best compliments I can 1 After reading this book I want to read more about the ancient world. I have read other criticisms about this book and I don’t get them. Kagan is supposed to have a pro democracy bias. Okay, he’s cheering for the Athenians.


I don’t feel that my understanding is horribly marred because he is pro Athenian and I don’t get the feeling he is trying to sell war bonds for Athens. The other part about notes and appendices I probably wouldn’t read them. I am enthused about the book. I want to learn more. I am not a professional trying to catch Kagan in an error. Apr 05, Linh rated it really liked it. Apr 20, Regina Lindsey rated it really liked it Shelves: The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan 4 Stars Most countries and its citizens make two mistakes when contemplating war.

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.

The Peloponnesian War

That is true today and it was true in BC. Approximately fifteen years into a tenuous thirty year peace treaty between Athens and Sparta, ,the hegemonic powers of Greece, war erupted. Athens held the upper hand on the seas. Understanding his city’s strengths and witnesses, Pericles, the most trusted kaagn in Athens, proposed a defensive strategy. Under Pericles the Athenians would concentrate its citizens behind the city’s walls and wait out the Spartans. However, plague erupted in Athens and with large numbers of people in close quarters conditions were ripe to make this a devastating event.

Ironically, Pericles succumbed to the disease and Athens was left with a vacuum in leadership at a time that three distinct camps had formed over the war’s strategy. What was to be a short war turned into almost three decades of war, a shifting political landscape for Athens, and the decline of Athenian prominence. For my formal studies we were required to have one modern and one ancient area of focus. My ancient area of focus was ancient Greece.

I will admit I’ve always struggled reading or studying the Peloponnesian War. I think the main reasons for that are pelo;onnesian it is such a prolonged war and 2 the layout of the cities involved.

I’ve never had a good mental math and some of the choices in wwr just don’t seem logical. But, Kagan does an excellent job providing an abundance of maps that provide the perfect balance of detail for the reader to follow. This is one of the best books I’ve read on this war in terms of readability. Kagan awr at his best when he is describing the politics behind the war.

His treatment of the oligarchic revolution, overturning democracy for a time, is concise yet thorough. Because the cities pre-Phillip of Macedon are so different many people express a particular affinity for one city-state over another. I admit up front, I’m an Athenian girl. I adore the Athenians. So, my one complaint is that he is incredibly biased towards the motivation behind the Athenians.

Yes, it was utterly amazing that the Athenians lasted as long as they did, but there were some real missteps in their execution of the war. Rather than analyze those thoroughly, Kagan defends their rationale. For this, and the lack on notes, I couldn’t give it five stars.