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The Archidamian War (A New History of the Peloponnesian War) Paperback – January 18, 1990

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Product Details

  • Series: A New History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (January 18, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801497140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801497148
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The Archidamian War remains sober, judicious, and comprehensive. There is nothing else like it available in English—certainly nothing that takes all the modern scholarship into account. . . . But perhaps the most valuable achievement of the book is its carefully reasoned demolition of Thucydides's view—warmly embraced by too many scholars—that Pericles's war strategy was justifiable."—Peter Green, Times Literary Supplement

"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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Richard La Fianza on August 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
By the rank,subject, and age of this book, I doubt many, if anyone, will read this review. Thus, if you are reading these words, you are probably one of the few who already enjoys reading about ancient history and are just trying to decide which book in this area you will read next. If this is you, read this book.
Personally I knew some things, but not much about this war. Kagan discusses, in detail, the views of three of four historians on the causes and origins of the war, how the war could of been avoided, and how it was fought. What is maddening is that he often repeats what two or three people say, and then tells you why they are are wrong.
If you are not familiar with the war, this approach can be confusing. However, if you have time or already familiar with the "Archidamian War", this book is very satisfying. After reading this book, you will have a clearer understanding about the war and the people who fought it.
Personally, I am a political junkie. I found myself so fascinated with the stunning details about the passions and politics of these people that they seemed as clear and as relevent to me as any story in the news today.
This is Kagan's gift. With marvelous use of analogies plucked from every time and corner of history, he shows how Thuclyides was right, events repeat themselves. The form is always a little different, but often almost the same as some past drama. This 2500 years old war is relevent today, not just for drama or historians, but for both moderen politicians and military stratigists. If we choose to listen.
My only concern for this book is that, with the gaps in the records, much of Kagan work is as much fiction as history.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I agree with Mr. Lafianza's review except for his criticism. At first the analysis may be annoying, but one should quickly see its benefits. By looking at several different explanations and pointing out their failings, Kagan reiterates his main themes, strengthens his own point, underlines the importance of certain events, and makes understanding these events clearer for the layman by slowly moving through the events and never going so fast that a given situation does not make sense.
The book is wonderful and if the subject interests you, there is none better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Review posted on on 8 March 2012

This is the second volume of Donald Kagan and it is just as great as the Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (a term that reflects the Athenian point of view of Thucydides. It covers the first ten years of the conflict (431 to 421), the so-called Archidamian War, after the name of the Spartan king who lead the early campaigns.

The book begins with an excellent chapter on plans and resources, and discusses to what extent each side's strategy delivered the expected results within the expected timeframe. Sparta's aims - "to liberate Greece" - meant the destruction of Athens' Empire by restoring the autonomy of its Greek subject states, but also the destruction of the Athenian fleet and of the Long Walls by which Athens could protct itself from Sparta's army, escape its retribution and inflict its own damage. Kagan makes clear that Athens' war aims - as defined by Pericles - were not to destroy either Sparta or its alliance but rather to hold out for long enough and inflict sufficient damage on Sparta and its allies so as to wear them down and convince them to make pace and maintain the status quo.

As such, the ten-year conflict, which essentially ended as a draw, has sometimes been seen as a qualified strategic victory for Athens. Throughout the book, however, Kagan makes the point that this is incorrect. Both sides underestimated the ennemy, many things that happened were largely unexpected and both sides' initial strategies failed.

Moreover, initially, both Archidamos and Pericles seem to have rather reluctant to vigorously prosecute the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Unmoved Mover on November 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
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 second 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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