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5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Pelopennesian War, August 2, 2000
By 
Captain Cook (Leeward to the Sandwich Islands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Diodorus Siculus: The Library of History, Volume V, Books 12.41-13 (Loeb Classical Library No. 384) (Hardcover)
Plutarch tends to be moralistic and tangential. Thucydides slows down his narrative with an abundance of detail and set speeches. If you want a good, straightforward "rumpty tumpty" presentation of exciting and dramatic historical events, then Diodorus is your man. He doesn't shy away either from describing violence and brutality when necessary. Although Plutarch's characterization and Thucydides's clarity are beyond compare, Diodorus's history can compete because its sweep is so much grander.
This volume from the Loeb Classical Library, Greek on one page, English on the other, covers the period 431 BC to 405 BC. This, of course, is the period of the Pelopennesian War and so, in a sense, Diodorus's history is clashing head-to-head with that of Thucydides. In the event it stands up quite well. Although Thucydides presents a much better account of events in Greece, Diodorus edges him in his account of the Athenian expedition against Syracuse. He also finishes the war whereas the history of Thucydides breaks off in the year 411.
The most important event of the so-called Pelopennesian War happened very far from the Pelopennese. This was the Athenian attempt to capture Syracuse, which, although well planned and supported, ended in disaster. After initial victories, the Athenians just failed to wall off the city, then a run of bad luck saw them reduced to fighting for their survival until another fleet and army arrived to reinforce them. This sudden advantage, however, was thrown away in a single night by a confused attack in the dark on the heights above the city. After this, still confident in the strength of their 'invincible armada,' the Athenians saw even this, their last hope, whittled away in a series of naval battles. When there was still hope of escaping with their remaining ships, their superstitious commander, Nicias, delayed the attempt because of an eclipse of the Moon. This allowed the Syracusans to finally trap and destroy their would-be conquerors.
Following these exciting events, the drama of the book is maintained by Athen's attempt to survive the onslaught of its enemies. For a while the brilliant political and military talents of Alcibiades succeed in reviving Athenian power, but following his undeserved exile, the Athenian fleet is decisively defeated and Athens is helpless.
Diodorus rounds off events in Sicily by describing Carthage's response to the Syracusan victory - a massive invasion of Western Sicily - and the advantage taken of these events by the Syracusan general Dionysius, who used this emergency to seize power and set up his famous dictatorship.
As Always with Loeb editions, each page is dated in the side margin so that the chronology of events is always clear. Also, this volume comes with two maps showing the area around Syracuse in detail.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Universal History of the Ancient World, March 29, 2013
By 
Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Diodorus Siculus: The Library of History, Volume V, Books 12.41-13 (Loeb Classical Library No. 384) (Hardcover)
Since there are so many of these darn things the review shall be divided into three sections. First, a brief description of the Loeb series of books and their advantages/disadvantages. Second shall be my thoughts on the author himself, his accuracy, as well as his style and the style of his translator. This is of course only my opinion and should be treated as such. The final part shall review what this particular book actually covers.

The Loeb series date back to the turn of the last century. They are designed for people with at least some knowledge of Greek or Latin. They are a sort of compromise between a straight English translation and an annotated copy of the original text. On the left page is printed the text in Greek or Latin depending on the language of the writer and on the right side is the text in English. For somebody who knows even a little Greek or Latin these texts are invaluable. You can try to read the text in the original language knowing that you can correct yourself by looking on the next page or you can read the text in translation and check the translation with the original for more detail. While some of the translations are excellent mostly they are merely serviceable since they are designed more as an aid to translation rather than a translation in themselves. Most of them follow the Greek or Latin very closely. These books are also very small, maybe just over a quarter the size of your average hardcover book. This means that you'll need to buy more than just one book to read a complete work. They are also somewhat pricey considering their size. The Loeb Collection is very large but most of the more famous works can be found in better (and cheaper) translations elsewhere. If you want to read a rarer book or read one in the original language then you can't do better than the Loeb Editions.

Diodorus' Library of History takes up twelve volumes in the Loeb series. Diodorus was a Sicilian who wrote a universal history sometime in the first century BC. His work covers both Roman and Greek history and is useful for providing a general Mediterranean view of classical history. Diodorus' work is generally derided for its use of myth and for shamelessly reproducing exactly what was printed in his sources. The first part however is where we get much of our information about Greek myths while the second is made more bearable by the fact that he is exceptionally scrupulous about recording what those sources are. Since most of these sources have been lost over time Diodorus' account is invaluable in piecing together what they said. This isn't to completely dismiss his flaws since he quite often misinterprets his sources or muddles the timeline. But while there are better sources for much of his material covering the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, for the section covering the Hellenistic period Diodorus is our primary source. Unfortunately even his work is incomplete. Out of an original 40 books only books 1-5 and 11-20 survive intact. The rest exist only in fragments. Diodorus covers a lot of ground from the period before the Trojan War to Julius Caesar's Gallic campaigns. For that reason his book is divided into three sections. The first section (books 1-6) cover the carious myths in a historical way and are divided geographically. The second section (7-17) offers a history of the world from the Trojan War to the death of Alexander the Great. The third section (18-40) covers world history from the early Hellenistic kingdoms through to the campaign of Julius Caesar. Regrettably, most of that last section is missing. The division of the volumes in the Loeb series is rather atrocious. Why they split books in two I'll never know. While many have criticized Diodorus for being inaccurate, nobody has accused him of being dull. He's worth a read even if he's often of little use.

Starting with this volume the text is whole again. This book covers the entirety of the Peloponnesian War in one volume. It hardly needs saying that this period is covered in rather better detail by Thucydides, although it is interesting to see what differences Diodorus records when using alternate sources. As always he remains useful for providing what was an alternate view to the standard tradition. While he may be less accurate than Thucydides he does provide context for the events in question and is rather more succinct. He is also rather better at recording Sicilian history since that was, after all, his home.
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Diodorus Siculus: The Library of History, Volume V, Books 12.41-13 (Loeb Classical Library No. 384)
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