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A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

4.4 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400060955
ISBN-10: 1400060958
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hanson (Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece, etc.) presents an elegant, lucidly written analysis of the 27-year civil war, a "colossal absurdity," that ended in Athens's 5th-century B.C. loss to Sparta and the depletion of centuries of material and intellectual wealth. Hanson deftly chronicles these destructive decades, from the conflict's roots (e.g., the fundamental mutual suspicion between Athens and Sparta) to its legacy (the evolution of the nature of war to something "more deadly, amorphous, and concerned with the ends rather than the ethical means"). Hanson considers the war's economic aspects and the ruinous plague that struck Athens before delving into his discussion of warfare. He offers a tour de force analysis of hoplite (or infantry) combat, guerrilla tactics, siege operations and sea battles in the Aegean. Though landlocked Sparta ultimately brought down Athens's once-great naval fleet and replaced democracy with oligarchy by 404 B.C., Hanson complicates the received notion of a lost Hellenic Golden Age. Throughout this trenchant military and cultural history, he draws parallels between the Peloponnesian War and modern-day conflicts from WWII to the Cold War and Vietnam. Across the centuries, these are lessons worth remembering. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

By the standards of modern mass warfare, the Peloponnesian War, which ravaged Greece for 27 years, was a small-scale affair. The military forces were relatively small, and the weapons seem primitive. But by the standards of the classical Greek world, this conflict was massive and devastating. Hanson is a classicist and military historian, and his concise and stirring account of the war lacks the comprehensive scope of Donald Kagan's definitive work, The Peloponnesian War (2003). However, as a strictly military account, Hanson has written a first-rate chronicle, capturing the intensity and savagery of ancient warfare and conveying how ordinary warriors must have experienced it. Hanson has a gift for explaining both strategic objectives and relatively complicated tactical maneuvers in terms easily understandable by laymen. In his portrayals of some of the key players, Hanson provides interesting insights, especially concerning some rather obscure but important figures. For general readers and history buffs who hope to gain a solid understanding of this seminal and tragic conflict, this is an ideal. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060958
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060955
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Greek and Director of the Classics Program at California State University, Fresno. He is the author or editor of many books, including Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (with John Heath, Free Press, 1998), and The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999). In 1992 he was named the most outstanding undergraduate teacher of classics in the nation.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dr. Hanson has taken this well studied war and approached it from a a very interesting perspective. Rather than the standard chronologic retelling (done recently and well by Donald Kagan), Hanson delves into the facets of the conflict such as ships, seiges, horses etc. to craft a readable and stimulating exegesis of the twenty-seven year bloodbath. I say readable because his writing is fluid and almost conversational. You almost feel as though your in a lecture hall. My only criticism (which doesn't cost the book a star) refers to the quality of the maps ...they don't seem to add very much to the text other than simply showing where the various cities or islands are located. Personally, I prefer the tactical maps and would have liked to see more of them, especially for episode such as Mantinea , Delium, and the late naval battles. That aside, this was a wonderful experience. I hope Dr. Hanson will someday do the same for the Punic or other Roman wars.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a graduate degree in studies relating to this period, I have read Thucydides, and I have studied ancient Greek, so the subject matter of Hanson's book is not unfamiliar to me. I found it engaging, thoughtful, and absolutely brilliant. I especially liked his skill in relating events of the times to concepts and concerns the modern reader can relate to, as well as his ability to flesh out the personalities of the participants. He personally tested some of his theories and attempts to define ancient Greek expressions, e.g., how hard is it to "lay waste" to an orchard and what might this phrase actually have meant, and he describes first hand the terrain on which some battles were fought. He also offers interesting discoveries relating to numbers of things--I had no idea that so few of the battles fought were hoplite engagements, nor did I know that all of the generals suffered in some way for their efforts. I've always found that counting things can be very useful, and Hanson used arithmetic very effectively to make interesting points. I thought that all of his insights were fresh and went a long way to bring reality and common sense to the text. I liked the inclusion of the Greek words he is translating. I also liked the organization of the book into different ways of examining the war rather than a simple chronological exegesis or the sort of timeline that is always to me rather boring. In addition, Hanson writes in an engaging, clear manner. I learned a great deal from this book and think it is simply brilliant.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Victor David Hanson is the famous classicist who has soared to the top of the best seller non-fiction charts with outstanding

historical works! I have never read a Hanson work without being informed about the way war in all its nefarious aspects has influenced the course of Western civilization from the Greeks to the present day of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this new seminal work Dr. Hanson provides a modern examination of the Peloponessian war (the first major Civil War in World History) between democratic and empire expanding Athens in Attica and the militaristic oligarchic society of Sparta in

southern Greece. Throughout these pages the author quotes the classical writer Thucydides whose book on the Peloponessian War

fought in the 5th ca. B.C. is told from the perspective of an Athenian general officer. Thucydides was skeptical of human nature and critical of warfare so he is still pertinent today!

Instead of a blow by blow account of the horrific lengthy war the author focuses on the major factors in the conflict with

chapters devoted to such subjects as:

Walls-the importance of siege warfare

Horses-how mounted Syracuse calvary forces destroyed the Athenian invaders on Sicily.

Plague-a brilliant discussion of how plague ravaged Athens during the war.

Ships-the crucial importance of sea power chronicling how landlocked Sparta developed a powerful naval force which defeated the vaunted Athenian navy and won the war.

Land-how crop destruction and fire destroyed the lives of many

bucolic farmers.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Hanson is one of the most readable military- political writers.. He is able to see the whole picture and thus to relate what he sees with a special kind of clarity. In an interview he gave to FrontPageCom. he spoke about a certain parallel between Athens of that time, and the United States of today. In both places it is severe domestic criticism that undermines seriously the war effort. It seems to me that Hanson is very much concerned about the precedent of Democracy losing. He believes that a democratic nation must have a strategy for winning the war, and not for simply carrying it on indefinitely.

I suspect however that the great enjoyment of this book does not relate to the parallels between past and present, but rather to the dramatic, tragic story of the Pelopennesian War as analyzed in this work.

Because of his depth of knowledge, enthusiasm for his subject the parallels and implications he draws from the Athens-Sparta war to other wars, are by and large convincing.

It seems to me that if there is one book President Bush should be reading these days. It is this one.
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