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The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition (A New History of the Peloponnesian War) [Kindle Edition]

Donald Kagan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Why did the Peace of Nicias fail to reconcile Athens and Sparta? In the third volume of his landmark four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War, Donald Kagan examines the years between the signing of the peace treaty and the destruction of the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 413 B.C. The principal figure in the narrative is the Athenian politician and general Nicias, whose policies shaped the treaty and whose military strategies played a major role in the attack against Sicily.

Editorial Reviews


"Kagan brings new insight into the natures of Agis II and Gylippus, Nicias and Alciabiades, and they come alive as never before."—The Classical Outlook

"This is a solid piece of scholarship, a readable, consistent, and understandable account of a difficult period in Greek history, and rife with astute and provocative observations on Thucydides."—The Historian

"A profound analysis of the relation of strategy to politics, a sympathetic but searching critique of Thucydides' masterpiece, and a trenchant assessment of the voluminous modern literature on the war."—Bernard Knox, The Atlantic Monthly (reviewing the four-volume series)

"The temptation to acclaim Kagan's four volumes as the foremost work of history produced in North America in the twentieth century is vivid. . . . Here is an achievement that not only honors the criteria of dispassion and of unstinting scruple which mark the best of modern historicism but honors its readers. To read Kagan's 'History of the Peloponnesian War' at the present hour is to be almost unbearably tested."-George Steiner, The New Yorker (reviewing the four-volume series)

About the Author

Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1568 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (January 14, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B18SSZY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,499 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is the third volume of Donald Kagan's tetralogy on the Peloponnesian war, and it focuses on the period ranging from BCE 421 and the so-called peace of Nicias to BCE 413 and the utter destruction of the Athenian expedition against Syracuse. Kagan justitifies his treatment of this periiod by stating that "the epriod is further unified by its central character, Niceas (the leading Athenian politician and general over this period) whose policy dominated the first part, whose leadership dominated the second, and whose personality, talents, and flaws were so important for the shape and outcome of both."

The first part, which makes up about a third of the book, is titled "The Unraveling of the Peace". It shows that the two sides mainly made peace because they were exhausted, because the leading advocate for war on each side had been killed in the same battle and because Athens wanted to restore its financial resources whereas Sparta wanted to recover their elite Spartans taken a few years before at Sphacteria and ensure their supremacy in the Peloponnese at a time when their treaty with Argos - their main rival there - was just about to expire. As usual, Kagan is at his best when presenting, discussing and confronting the motivations and objectives of both sides and showing how unsurprising it was that what was portrayed as a 50 year peace was formally broken after 8 years only because it was a peace that Sparta, at least, had no real intention in keeping since it had no intention to execute one of its main clauses - the return of Amphopolis to the Athenians. By BCE 413, and because of Athens' Sicilian expedition, this peace was only formal.

The second part of the book, by far the largest, tells the story of the Athens' doomed Sicilian expedition against Syracuse.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Summary of a Difficult Subject August 18, 2014
The third of four volumes in the history of the Peloponnesian War really needs to be read in sequence, after the second volume on the Archidamian War. It covers a fairly short period of eight years from 421 to 413 BC which contained the Peace of Nicias and the disastrous (to the Athenians) Sicilian Expedition against Syracuse. Kagan's book has two themes.

The first theme is the Peace of Nicias and its failure. This was an unsatisfactory peace of exhaustion, whose terms were relatively favourable to Athens, but which were never implemented. Sparta refused to hand back to Athenian control its former tributary of Amphipolis and several of Sparta's Peloponnesian allies rejected the peace terms. The Athenians also broke the terms of the treaty by making alliances with Argos, Mantinea, and Elis. It is clear that there were Athenians and Spartans who wanted peace, but others who did not, and the early failure of both sides to fulfill their treaty obligations created distrust which made a gradual slide into outright war inevitable. The diplomatic and political manoeuvrings in this period were complex, but Kagan creates a clear path through these, explaining them thoroughly.

The second theme is the Sicilian Expedition, a wholly unnecessary intervention by Athens in Sicilian affairs motivated by greed. This part of the book probably reads better as it has a single focus, rather than the variety of events that led to the loss of the peace. Kagan describes the tragedy of the expedition, where Athens came near to an undeserved success but ultimately lost a whole fleet and its men in the disaster. It is difficult not to feel for the Athenians, even if they were the aggressor, so complete was their catastrophe.

The book also revolves around two leading Athenians.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kagan's Inexhaustible Guide to the Peloponnesian War November 13, 2006
The Peloponnesian War, along with the myriad feuds that latched on to the central conflict between Sparta and Athens in the latter half of the fifth century BCE, can be an exhausting subject. The civil and international politics involved in fostering and perpetuating the war rival even today's most complex conflicts.

In this, the third of four volumes on the subject, Kagan skillfully presents, comments on, and refutes the hypotheses presented by history and historians, while still managing a very approachable narrative. These books come in and out of circulation, so best to get ahold of them while they're available. Again, Kagan's work is superb

For the historian, or avid history buff (however you might self-identify), these works are a necessary addition to your library. The more casual reader might, however, consider purchasing Kagan's abridged work entitled simply "The Peloponnesian War." It includes the main thrust of the narrative, but with markedly less analysis of the political motivations included in these volumes.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic without rival March 8, 2011
Kagan has a genius for narrating the facts but making them come alive. This work really gets to the core of the conflict, and his ability to explain and enlighten makes this lively history of the first rank. I cannot recommend Kagan too highly!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional!! February 8, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Professor Kagan's history of the Peloponnesian War is simply extraordinary; and this third volume does not disappoint. Very glad to have all four volumes in exceptional condition!!!
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