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Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins Paperback – September 4, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031436
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an exceptionally well-written account of the first 10 years of the Peloponnesian War (431–421 B.C.E.), University of Virginia historian Lendon (Soldiers and Ghosts) brings the Greek city-states to life. Crediting Thucydides with the humanizing of military history, Lendon emphasizes the extraordinary importance of worth or glory to the typical Greek and casts the long, bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta in the light of the concepts of honor and hubris. Political differences, characterized by the "democracy" of Athens and her sea-borne commercial supremacy in Attica, and by the stern militarism of Sparta, which ensured her dominance in Laconia and the Peloponnesian peninsula, inevitably resulted in war. In dramatic fashion, battles of conquest were waged from Boeotia to the Gulf of Corinth, and to Laconia and Attica themselves. Mutual exhaustion and disillusionment with allies led to a remarkable peace treaty that was soon broken. An excellent story, this account is further strengthened by the frequent use of maps and illustrations. But more information on the social and economic realities of the time would have been helpful. Illus. (Nov.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Jeremy Black, author of War: A Short History
“Honor and shaming are key themes in Lendon’s accomplished account of the first ten years of the Peloponnesian War. A major work of history, this well-written study provides important insights on the classical world that Lendon ably extents to contemporary international relations.”

Edward N. Luttwak, author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire
“J.E. Lendon must disagree with Thucydides, the greatest of historians, to tell his own dramatic story of the Ten Years’ War while still relying on him for his facts. J.E. Lendon’s learned enthusiasm pulls it off—and many a reader will relish this book.”

Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University
“J.E. Lendon’s polemology of ancient Greece recognizes no bounds—or equals. Honor is a major theme of his new finely researched and inimitably styled analysis of the Ten Years’ War (431-421 BCE) fought between Sparta and Athens and their respective allies, and honor is due to its never less than engaging author.”\
 
Barry Strauss, author of The Spartacus War and Professor of History at Cornell University
“Ancient military history is hot these days. Song of Wrath is the latest book to show the value of a great story, told with skill by a talented historian and gifted writer armed with a powerful idea. It is learned, readable, and passionate.”
Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University and author of Thucydides: The Reinvention of History
“J.E. Lendon has written a lively, learned and fascinating account and interpretation of the coming of the Peloponnesian War and the first ten years of the fighting.  In Song of Wrath he explains the course of events as emerging chiefly from the values of the ancient Greeks, who cherished rank, honor and vengeance more than is recognized by modern experts in international relations and war.”
 
Tom Holland, author of Rubicon
“Beautifully written and unfailingly informative: scholarship has rarely conveyed such a sense of visceral excitement.”
 
Adrian Goldsworthy, author of Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra
“Well written and insightful. In Song of Wrath, J.E. Lendon discusses not simply how the Athenians and Spartans fought, but how they thought. This book demonstrates that a good story can also be good history.”
 
Dennis Showalter, Professor of History at Colorado College
“This provocative and persuasive analysis of the Peloponnesian War’s first ten years shifts focus from the ‘realist’ aspects of the conflict’s causes and conduct. Lendon stresses instead the centrality of honor, time, manifested by reciprocal acts of destruction and revenge. Humiliation, not conquest, was the primary war aim—an aim so vague it made expanding the war easier than making peace.”
 
Publishers Weekly
“In an exceptionally well-written account of the first 10 years of the Peloponnesian War (431–421 B.C.E.), University of Virginia historian Lendon brings the Greek city-states to life. Crediting Thucydides with the humanizing of military history, Lendon emphasizes the extraordinary importance of worth or glory to the typical Greek and casts the long, bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta in the light of the concepts of honor and hubris.”
 
Library Journal
“Weaving together cultural and military history, Lendon details the events of the Peloponnesian War’s first decade (431-421 B.C.E.) with language that is (as was his intention) more evocative of Herodotus’s epic-poetical style than the dryer intellectual approach of Thucydides.”
 
The Greek Star
“A fast-paced military history that places readers in the heart of battle, Song of Wrath is essential reading for anyone interested in one of the momentous wars in world history.”
 
The Hellenic Voice
“Historian J.E. Lendon presents a tale of pitched battles by land and sea, sieges, sacks, raids, and deeds of cruelty and guile – along with courageous acts of mercy, surprising charity, austere restraint, and arrogant resistance. Recounting the rise of democratic Athens to great-power status, and the resulting fury of authoritarian Sparta, Greece’s traditional leader, Lendon portrays the causes and strategy of the war as a duel over national honor, a series of acts of revenge.”
 
TucsonCitizen.com
“This is a panoramic narrative that spans the epoch from the Persian Wars in 479 BC to the resolution of the Ten Years War in 421 BC. The diplomatic maneuvers, big-picture strategies, and even the bloodshed on the battlefield itself are all revealed to bring into focus this blood chapter in Greek history.”

Choice
“Lendon’s rejection of Thucydides’ assumptions and ‘logic’ and his analysis of ‘face’ and ‘standing’ in this indecisive war on Hellenic hegemony challenge current scholarly consensus. Everyone can profit from Lendon’s polemical but thoroughly documented contrarian thesis exploring Thucydides, classical diplomacy, and peculiar protocols of ancient warfare…. Highly recommended.”

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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J.E. Lendon's "Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins" is such a book.
Bruce Trinque
For anyone with an interest in ancient Greek warfare, this book is simply a must read.
Historian
He has a clear, yet personable style and a taste for entertaining descriptions.
Arch Stanton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Once in a while you encounter an extraordinary book that truly affects the way you look at the world. J.E. Lendon's "Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins" is such a book.

Before reading "Song of Wrath" I thought I knew a fair amount about the Peloponnesian War. Kagan's tremendous four-volume history, Hanson's "A War Like No Other", and "The Landmark Thucydides" all have permanent places on my too-crowded bookshelves. But Lendon's new volume has revolutionized my understanding of events. He argues strongly and persuasively that the war had its origins in a very Greek competition for status, the perceived ranking of city-states against one another. And that most of the campaigns of that war, particularly those of the "Archidamian War" - the first ten years of the Peloponnesian War - were primarily dictated by the desire to impact status rather than directly erode the enemy's power to wage war effectively. Suddenly, events are illuminated in an intensely revealing light, a light not without relevance to world events long after the age of the hoplites.

Moreover, Lendon presents his detailed analysis in a witty narrative, not infrequently with a wryly cocked eyebrow. And he has a gift for vivid imagery to really drive home his points. "Song of Wrath" is far from the stereotypical dry academic study one might expect from a Professor of History. Kudos both to Dr. Lendon and to his editor who understood the value of such writing.

If anyone has any interest at all in the Peloponnesian War, then "Song of Wrath" must be read. Whether or not the reader comes away wholly convinced of Lendon's arguments, understanding of what happened back in the fifth century BC cannot help being enhanced.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. Kehler on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've read the author's other books, and if anything this one is more interesting and engrossing than the previous two. Lendon's thesis is that psycho-social -- for lack of a better expression -- factors like "worth", ranking, honour, status, "face" and esteem, etc., played a more central role in motivating agents to act in the classical Greek (and Roman) world than we typically acknowledge. Moreover, he holds that even today, these factors motivate agents and states, as well as "aggrieved" non-state actors, more than we frequently care to realize. Thucydides' treatment of the opening chapter of the great Athenian-Spartan wars is tackled well by Lendon who argues that Thucydides' infamous argument that the Spartans went to war because they feared the dynamic Athenians' power is wrong or at least incomplete. Rather, to understand the origins of the conflict, we must look at such "simple" -- and, incidentally, favoured in antiquity -- explanations as revenge, competition for honour-based esteem, martial primacy, and jockeying over rank. In the course of treating this material, Lendon gives the reader a terrific tour of ancient Greek culture and cultural practices, as well as an exciting overview of the 5th century.

He writes exceptionally clearly and deftly, explaining nicely along the way such key Greek concepts as hubris, tim' (honour) and metis, The book is most entertaining to amateur/armchair historians like myself. Whole swatches of Greek history become clearer, now that some of the motivations of Greek agents are explained. Greek history -- particularly warfare and military history -- comes to resemble Greek tragedy, in that "bloody" and "bloody-minded" motives are central, rather than just calculative or bloodless ones. Very highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michelle L Poehnelt on May 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Okay you ancient Greeks freaks, we have a new star! J.E. Lendon's Song of Wrath is simply excellent! I've read 'em all: Kagan, Hanson, Cartledge, Holland, ancient, old and new authors; anything and everything about ancient Greece, I've read it! I can say, without reservation, that Lendon is one of our top historians on things ancient in the Roman and Greek worlds. He is as thoughtful as any author, doesn't drag on with some topics (think Hanson here), isn't over the top with his story telling (wink, wink, Mr. Holland), but combines beautiful story-telling with a deep understanding of his topic. You may not fully agree with his arguments (I personally think that he places way too much emphasis on the the idea of "rank" as to why the war of Spartan aggression dragged on for so long), but his arguments are well worth serious consideration. Read this book!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Bedell on December 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Song of Wrath J.E. Lendon takes an anthropological approach to the first ten years of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides, the war's great chronicler, is often read as a guide to the kind of thinking we call "realist," in which relations between states are entirely determined by power and the fear of power. But such an account leaves many things that happened in the war without explanation. Lendon shows that considering the war as an expression of ancient Greek culture explains most of them, and I found his interpretation completely convincing. Only by seeing the war as the ancient Greeks saw it can we understand why they did what they did. Song of Wrath is also beautifully written, in a strong and original style. Lendon is a superb storyteller and he makes us feel the excitement of the war's dramatic events - saboteurs waiting tensely in the dark for the signal to strike, hoplites watching nervously as opposing armies approach, sailors struggling to control their sleek triremes in seas as dangerous as the rams of enemy ships. In Lendon's hands the lulls between the battles are equally exciting, since he fills them with marvelous details of Greek history, religion, and historical geography. Song of Wrath is both entertaining and enlightening at a very high level.
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