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Tides of War Paperback – August 28, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (August 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553381393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553381399
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After chronicling the Spartan stand at Thermopylae in his audacious Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield once again proves that it's all Greek to him. In Tides of War, he tells the tale of Athenian soldier extraordinaire Alcibiades. Despite the vaunted claims for Periclean democracy, he is undoubtedly first among equals--a great warrior and an impressive physical specimen to boot: "The beauty of his person easily won over those previously disposed, and disarmed even those who abhorred his character and conduct." He is also a formidable orator, whose stump speeches are paradoxically heightened by what some might consider an impediment:
Even his lisp worked in Alcibiades' favor. It was a flaw; it made him human. It took the curse off his otherwise godlike self-presentation and made one, despite all misgivings, like the fellow.
This tale of arms and the man requires two narrators. One, Jason, is an aging noble who serves as a sort of recording angel of the Athenian golden age. The other, Polymides, was long Alcibiades' right-hand man, yet is now imprisoned for his murder.

As they were in his previous novel, Pressfield's battle scenes are extraordinarily vivid and visceral. This time, however, many of these elemental clashes take place on water. "As far as sight could carry, the sea stood curtained with smoke and paved with warcraft. Immediately left, a battleship had rammed one of the vessels in the wall; all three of her banks were backing water furiously, to extract and ram again, while across the breach screamed storms of stones, darts, and brands of such density that the air appeared solid with steel and flame."

In addition to his gift for rendering patriotic gore, the author excels at quieter but no less deadly forms of combat. As Alcibiades' star rises and falls and rises again, we are escorted directly into the snakepit of Athenian realpolitik. Bathing us in the details of a distant era, Pressfield is largely convincing. But it must be said that his diction exhibits a sometimes comical variegation, sliding from Homeric rhetoric to tough-guy speak to the sort of casual Anglicisms we might expect from Evelyn Waugh's far-from-bright young things. No matter. Tides of War conquers by sheer storytelling prowess, reminding us that war was--and is--a highly addictive version of hell. --Darya Silver --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Perhaps the Peloponnesian War, which lasted 27 years and featured an epic list of people and places, just doesn't lend itself to the six-hour audio format, for not even renowned Shakespearean actor Jacobi's reading gives this novel the sense of personal drama it requires. Pressfield (Gates of Fire) focuses his story on Alcibiades, the legendary hero whose strength, beauty and courage embodied ancient Greek ideals. An Athenian trained in Sparta, Alcibiades appears divinely well suited to feed his country's hunger for military victories. But democracy in its nascent stage being no less tainted than in its current manifestation, Alcibiades is feared for his popularity and ultimately exiled on a trumped-up charge. Once in the camp of Athens's enemies, he proves as unmatchable a foe as he could have been a champion. Unfortunately, the pace of this recording, as necessitated by the breadth of events covered in its relatively short length, lends it all the emotional depth of a textbook. And unless listeners have studied their ancient Greek geography, they will find themselves rewinding often to try to keep up with the movements of all the ships and forces. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 13). (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Steven Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Do the Work and The Warrior Ethos.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter.

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Authentic Swing.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book to anyone that reads historical fiction.
M. D. Thomas
Unfortunately the things which I liked so much in that book are largely missing in this one.
Richard Rinn
Yes, yes, we know Pressfield's great at battle detail and historically accurate story lines.
Richard R. Carlton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

211 of 264 people found the following review helpful By Newt Gingrich THE on May 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a much more complex and demanding novel than his brilliant and fast moving Gates of Fire (reviewed March 28, 2000). This is also a very sobering novel for any American who assumes that our economic prosperity, our international position of unchallenged leadership and the stability of our political institutions are safe and unchallengeable. Pressfield's novel carries Athens from a position of stunning power and wealth just before the beginning of the Peloponnesian War to its defeat and subjugation to the Spartans after 29 years of conflict.
Athens was so powerful and so wealthy that it could survive a plague that may have killed one-third of its population (brought on probably by the need to crowd inside the city's walls to avoid the Spartan Army) and it could fight off Sparta, most of Greece and the Persians for decades. Pressfield makes vivid the decay of Athenian democracy into a bloodthirsty system of revenge and brutality that helps us better understand our own founding fathers' fears of mob rule, tyranny and direct democracy. He uses the life of Alcibiades, a brilliant general and politician whose victories were undermined by his enemies, as a thread that holds together a generation of war and pain.
This is a slightly demanding book to read but it will profoundly trouble anyone who worries about the human propensity to repeat history rather than learn from it. There is much in this work for any American to think about.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on July 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Yes, yes, we know Pressfield's great at battle detail and historically accurate story lines. More important in this work is the brilliant choice of character (Alcibiades) and the narrative technique of using two narrators (Jason & Polemides). Then the plot thickens.....Socrates shares the jail with Polemides and enters the script as well......Jason & Polemides have their own tangled web to unweave......this is a great novel that rises far above the thunder of the battle to enter the realm of a psychological analysis of democracy, theocracy, and a slew of both the finest and basest of human motivations.
This one wins on all levels.....Pressfield is cementing a beautiful reputation on these works.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By K. Freeman on October 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am very fond of Pressfield's work --both Gates of Fire and The Last Amazon -- but this novel, in my opinion, represents a bumpy spot.
Pressfield likes to use framing devices, and he generally makes them work well, but here they become confusing. The voices of Polemides, the narrator to whom Polemides tells his story, and at least one other character are used, and they're indistinguishable. This means that characterization, never a huge Pressfield strength, is lacking, and it adds a degree of confusion.
Pressfield, in this novel, had a vastly complex historical situation to work with. It's hard to criticize the plot for the many turns and twists, for the fact that the reader loses track of who's on what side, what Alcibiades' current standing is, and who Polemides is working for, when the reality was just about that chaotic. What it means, though, is that the essential narrative thread tends to get lost. Long expositions of political minutia and philosophy slow the text considerably. Alcibiades, rather than an incredibly charismatic troublemaker, comes across as a blowhard whenever he opens his mouth (or pen) in this novel. It's hard to see how he bamboozled so many people.
Pressfield's great strength is the representation of battle, and that does appear here with the Syracuse campaign. As ever, he combines elevated diction with soldier slang to create a unique and gripping tone. Though this book did not work well for me, I believe in the author and feel that he is among the most interesting historical fiction writers currently publishing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Peloponnesian Wars have an enduring intrigue, framing as they did the rise of the golden age in Greek arts, architecture, philosophy and science. The rivalry of Athens and Sparta lasted roughly 100 years, commencing in 490 BC with Athens's military consolidation in the victory at Marathon and ending in 404 BC with the defeat of its armada at Aegospotami. It has come to symbolize the competing agencies and ideals in warfare between nations to this day. The first wars to emerge from the mists of mythology to objective analysis and record, they were described in written chronicles by Herodotus and Thucydides. This heralded the transition from the oral, mystical tradition of Homer's heroic poetry to the 'modern' era which formed the bedrock of Greco Roman and then Western civilizations. Into this galaxy of events came the pivotal figure of Alcibiades, who anchors Pressfield's book. He was a student and foil of Socrates in Plato's dialogues, a military leader for Athens, Sparta and Persia; respectively playing agent-provocateur against former allegiances. He lived for conquest and to usurp the established order. Blessed with eloquence, bravery, passion and overarching ambition, he stamped his imprint on history, as much for self glorification as political necessity.
Pressfield's book is expansive in scope rather than penetrating. The perspective is colloquial and personal, which skirts the labyrinth of Athenian politics of the time. He has, though, effectively used some of the techniques Thucydides employed in presenting rhetorical argument to elucidate the underpinnings and objectives of the wars, with a modern accessibility. The lush, descriptive writing provides a sweep which tends to engulf the characters in the current of events.
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