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Thermopylae: The Battle For The West Paperback – March 30, 2004

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Ancient Warfare, Vol VII, Issue 5

“Accessible to a wider audience.”

About the Author

Ernie Bradford served in the Royal Navy during World War II. His many books include The Great Siege, Ulysses Found, The Shield and the Sword, Paul the Traveler, and The Sultan's Admiral.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813603
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 145 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on December 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E. has usually been relegated by modern historians to being nothing more than a "symbolic gesture" of Greek resolve during the Persian war. Although it WAS that, it was also much, much more.
The importance of this present book is that it sets the matter straight. The sub-title of the work is in no way an exaggeration. The 300 Spartans + the allies who held the pass @ Thermopylae protected the Greek fleet at Artemesium and bought time for the armada to mobilize at Salamis. The importance of this cannot be over-stated.
In this treatise, Ernle Bradford takes us back to that long-ago period of world history. Much more than being simply an extrapolation of Book VII of Herodotus' HISTORIES, here is a study that offers a superb look at the weapons, armor, ships, tactics and logistical difficulties of both the Greeks and Persians. The attention Bradford pays to the minutest details of the classical historians allows him to reason out conclusions that may not have been evident upon a first-reading.
Beyond Thermopylae, Bradford also has brief discussions of both Salamis and Platea. The over-all thrust of the book, however, is to put into context just how pivotal Thermopylae actually was in reference to these other, more well known battles.
While the parallels that he draws between the Persian war and World War II are occasionally a bit strained, it must be remembered that it is a typical method employed by military historians to draw comparisons and contrasts between ancient conflicts and those of his own day. As Bradford fought in WWII himself, it is natural that he should use it as a frame-of-reference for how he perceives warfare throughout the ages.
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113 of 124 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bradford's "Thermopylae" is actually a history of the second invasion of Greece by the Persian Empire. It is more the story of the Athenian fleet and the major Greek proponent of a combined sea and land strategy, Themistocles, than it is of the Spartan and Thespian hoplites who sacrificed themselves at the Hot Gates. The text is engaging, and I was surprised at hopw quickly I went through this book. However, I found myself bothered by several things. First, the author continually warns about drawing modern parallels with the way ancients thought, but constantly uses modern parallels (including the worn-out and inaccurate comparison of Sparta to Nazi Germany). Second, his sources are all secondary (including translations as secondary sources), so the auuthority of the book is questionable. Third, he is decidedly pro-Athenian despite the title of the book and continuous warnings about his major source's (Herodotus) biases. What all this leads to is a story of how Athens defeated the Persians. One might just get the feeling that the Spartans and Thermopylae were quite unnecessary to the Athenian victory. I'm not an expert on ancient Greece, but somehow I don't think that Leonidas and the 300 Spartans (and their Thespian allies) would have been memorialized and remembered for 2500 years if their sacrifice was irrelevant. Bottom this if you want a good, quick read on the second Greco-Persian War. If you want a good read about Thermopylae alone, read the novel "Gates of Fire."
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Alexander on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book as a good overview of the Greek & Persian conflict in the 5th Century BC. The text is easy to read, and the author provided some personal interjections that often (but not always) were thought-provoking. Bradford's more even-handed approach to the 'Great King' Xeres and his campaign (e.g., the meticulous preparation by the Persians) is a welcome change from the overly pro-Athenian historical record.
The title of this book is rather misleading as coverage of the actual battle of Thermopylae is only a small portion of the narrative (though it is oft referred to). The constant bickering of the Greek City States is highlighted (perhaps once too often), and the concise background setting to the battles is handled quite well.
After perusing this book, it will be abundantly clear why the underdog Greek Hoplite was able to defeat the numerically superior Persians (and their allies) in battle - outstanding leadership, logistics advantages, cunning tactics, and superior weaponry.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By E.S. Kraay on April 14, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Somewhere in my youth, I became hooked on ancient Greek History after catching the "300 Spartans" matinee (I think Richard Elam was Leonidas). Several years ago, I read Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire." I found it fascinating and consider it today, the best book I have ever read. I just finished Bradford's "Thermopylae: Battle for the West." Mesmerizing! An absolutely perfect, non-fiction companion to "Gates of Fire." Thermopylae actually occurs about halfway through the book. Bradford does a brilliant job of setting the stage by giving the reader the events, politics, personalities, strategies, etc. that led up to the battle. He finishes his book by taking the reader through the key engagements (like Salamis and Plataea) that conclude this crossroads in history. If you enjoy ancient history (particularly ancient, military history), this is a book for you. It's an easy read through 250 pages packed with details and incidents that are sure to capture your interest.
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