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The Greco-Persian Wars Paperback – October 15, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Popular classicist Peter Green (author of Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.) offers an engrossing narrative of the wars between the Greeks and the Persians. This is real David-and-Goliath material, with the scrappy, feuding city-states of ancient Greece fending off a much larger aggressor. The conflicts themselves are a kind of struggle for the soul of Western civilization: "On the one side, the towering, autocratic figure of the Great King; on the other, the voluntary and imperfect discipline of proudly independent citizens." The Greeks surprisingly fare better in these encounters, and make themselves legends on the plains of Marathon (192 Greek casualties versus 6,400 Persians), during the heroic last stand at Thermopylae, and elsewhere.

The Greco-Persian Wars is full of wonderful stories featuring bravery, cowardice, and treachery. Unlike so many of his fellow historians, Green understands the importance of a dramatic narrative, sometimes employing novelistic techniques to relate what happened. It's not an overstatement to say that the course of Western history might have taken a strikingly unfamiliar turn if these battles had had different outcomes. Green is a natural storyteller, and The Greco-Persian Wars is a delight to read, even for readers who have no background or special interest in the classical world. --John J. Miller

From The New Yorker

"A work of notable vividness. . . . Mr. Green does far more than explicate the battles. . . . He offers a modern reader a chance to truly understand the ancients on both sides as live human beings, not marble busts or figures on a bas-relief." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Revised edition (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520203135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520203136
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Greco-Persian Wars reads like a novel, but presents its' thesis in a most thorough, analytical manner. Green is, perhaps, the most easily read scholar on ancient Greece which is evident in this effort as well as his "Alexander of Macedon". The Greco-Persian Wars masterfully recounts Xerxes' march through Greece, the heroic battle of Thermopylae, the miraculous Greek naval victory at Salamis, and the subsequent withdrawal of Persian forces. Interwoven among this narrative is excellent insight into the political machinations present among the vying city-states of Greece.
Green resurrects Themistocles, in all his martial splendor, from the elitist dismissals of Herodotus, to show that Themistocles' naval genius and personal courage saved the day despite the intense and ongoing city-state rivalries and a monied and powerful Athenian majority which preferred a Marathon-like ground engagement. The Greco-Persian Wars, despite its' generic title, is an outstanding tale of heroism, bravery, and perserverence that deserves the attention of any history connoisseur. Read this book. It is outstanding!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was mid-August in 490 BC in a place called Marathon. The Athenians had just registered a stunning victory over the invading Persian troops. Athens did it largely by themselves without Spartan help. As they celebrated their victory an Athenian general, Themistocles, may have been the only Athenian to realize the Persians would be back and the next time Athens would need help.
Peter Green does a superb job in assimilating the well-documented wars between Greece and Persia early in the Fifth Century BC. Relying on the ancient writings of Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch and others, Green analyzes every situation during this period. We know not just names, places and dates but how strategy unfolded and a careful analysis that the leaders had to evaluate. War became like a chess game of position, analysis of the strengths and weakness of all positions, and a bit of guile. The stakes were high. Persia had the mightiest empire ever created. Greece wasn't even a nation, but a collection of city-states, often at war with each other. The Persian threat would force Greeks to come together as a nation. Could they do it? Green takes us through the trials and travails of this effort. Many Greek city-states collaborated with the Persians. In fact, the whole of northern and central Greece did. In many cases ousted leaders sought Persian help to get back to power; they may have been at war with other city-states; or they may simply have chosen earth and water to death and destruction.
The Athenians and Spartans would have to overcome their differences to get rid of the Persian menace from Greece. At times they would work together but generally as soon as the immediate threat was over they would go their separate ways again.
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Format: Hardcover
When reading some historians of ancient Greece and Rome, you get the sense that they are impatient with those fool ancient writers. Peter Green, in this eminently entertaining and solidly-researched history of the campaigns of Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea, treats Herodotus, Plutarch, Thucydides and the rest as equals, giving them respect where merited and skepticism where necessary. Green, for some years a resident of Greece, is not afraid to use more current history (political and military) to cast light upon events and motivations of the past. Where he has a good theory, he says so; where he just doesn't know, he also says so. One aspect of academic writing endemic to ancient history is the criticism of other authors. Green, thankfully, puts most of his in the notes. In doing so, he keeps the story of the wars moving along, allowing the reader to appreciate the effect of local politics on the course of both Greek and Persian strategy. Unhesitantingly recommended to anyone with an interest in ancient Greek or military history, and to students of national strategy.
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Format: Paperback
This is quite simply THE book to read to thoroughly understand the conflict between Classical Greece and Imperial Persia. It rivals Kagan's "The Peloponnesian War" in depth and detail. And while not quite the break neck read of Holland's "Persian Fire" it compensates with an eminently readable style and makes Cartledges's "Thermopylae" look anemic and cadaverous even given the significantly more limited scope of the latter's work.

Green does an exceptional job of comparing and contrasting the ancient sources of information on the period, Herodotus, Plutarch, Aeschylus etc. and weaves them together with the modern scholarship of Burn and Pritchett etc. while injecting his own theories to provide a narrative that brings both the players and their times vividly to life.

Green takes Herodotus to task for bias and obvious propagandistic nonsense early and often and with common sense and logic corrects many of the more egregious errors of the primary sources, in particular the size of Xerxes army, specifically the probable confusion between chiliarchs (commander of 1,000 men) and myriarchs (commander of 10,000 men). Using Munro and Maurice among others he corrects the likely decimal error in Herodotus's calculation of the size of Xerxes army. Reducing it from a phantasmagorical 1.7 million men to more credible 170,000 infantry with another 40,000 cavalry, quisling Greeks and miscellaneous others.

Add in no small amount of irreverent levity and you have the perfect tract on what Thomas Cahill (How the Irish Saved Civilization) refers to as a "hinge" of history.

In two words, BUY IT!
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