The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War Touchstone ed. Edition
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Donald Kagan author of On the Origins of War and Pericles of Athens This is the best book with which to start study of Thueydides and the Peloponnesian War.
Paul A. Rahne The Washington Times Without question, this is the finest edition of Thueydides history ever produced; It is a treasure.
The Boston Globe Thoroughly readable....Anyone interested in the culture of conflict -- political as well as military, contemporary as well as ancient -- can learn much from this durable work.
About the Author
- Item Weight : 2.41 pounds
- Paperback : 752 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0684827905
- Product Dimensions : 7.37 x 1.6 x 9.25 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-0684827902
- Publisher : Free Press; Touchstone ed. Edition (September 10, 1998)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #18,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As someone who read both editions (don’t ask), I much prefer the Cambridge version. It was translated and released in 2013, while the Landmark edition was translated in 1874. Landmark’s Victorian English is dense and difficult, while Cambridge uses simpler language and – most importantly – more sentence breaks. The extra periods help prevent your eyes from glazing over as your brain tries to remember what was going on five lines ago in the same sentence. (If you want more details on the differences between the Landmark and Cambridge editions, see my review of the Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) .)
I’m sure I would have given up on Thucydides had I been restricted to the Landmark edition, thus depriving me of a great adventure in politics, psychology, history, and war. Reading Thucydides really did change my life, and I encourage you to follow my footsteps down the easier path.
"The Peloponnesian War" needs these extras more than most. Thucydides jumps around in his narrative and uses place names that are unfamiliar to even learned classicists. The book ends with some short essays on relevant topics, such as Spartan institutions and trireme warfare. Thucydides is an altogether difficult author, but this edition makes him easily accessible without dumbing him down. Several prominent Greek historians have contributed to this series, which shows it is not only for students, but also for more serious readers. I recommend this edition of Thucydides above all others.
To illustrate my point, compare the translation used here to the one found in the Penguin Classics edition, translated by English novelist and classicist Rex Warner in the 1950s. The passages in question are from book three, wherein Athenians Cleon and Diodotus publicly debate whether or not the Mytilenians should be executed for their revolt. Both men go on a bit of a digression regarding the purpose of political debate. Here Diodotus justifies the need for reasoned, public debate to inform democratic decision making, and criticizes Cleon’s insinuation that political speakers and advisors are primarily motivated by self interest.
Here is the Crawley translation included in the Landmark edition:
‘As for the argument that speech ought not to be the exponent of action, the man who uses it must be either senseless or interested: senseless if he believes it possible to treat of the uncertain future through any other medium; interested if wishing to carry a disgraceful measure and doubting his ability to speak well in a bad cause, he thinks to frighten opponents and hearers by well-aimed calumny.’
Compared to Warner’s translation in the Penguin edition:
‘And anyone who maintains that words cannot be a guide for action must be either a fool or one with some personal interest at stake. He is a fool if he imagines that it is possible to deal with the uncertainties of the future by any other medium, and he is personally interested if his aim is to persuade you into some disgraceful action, and, knowing that he cannot make a good speech in a bad cause, he tries to frighten his opponent and his hearers by some good-sized pieces of misrepresentation.’
Later in the same speech compare Crawley:
‘The good citizen ought to triumph not by frightening his opponents but by beating them fairly in argument; and a wise city, without over-distinguishing its best advisers, will nevertheless not deprive them of their due, and, far from punishing an unlucky counselor, will not even regard him as disgraced. In this way successful orators would be least tempted to sacrifice their convictions for popularity, in the hope of still higher honours, and unsuccessful speakers to resort to the same popular arts in order to win over the multitude.’
‘The good citizen, instead of trying to terrify the oppression, ought to prove his case in fair argument; and a wise state, without giving special honours to its best counsellors, will certainly not deprive them of the honour they already enjoy; and when a man's advice is not taken, he should not even be disgraced, far less penalized. In this way successful speakers will be less likely to pursue further honours by speaking against their own convictions in order to make themselves popular, and unsuccessful speakers, too, will not struggle to win over the people by the same acts of flattery.’
I find Warner’s translation much clearer and easier to follow: compare the very dated sounding "speech ought not to be the exponent of action" to the more direct and modern "words cannot be a guide for action," as well as the nearly euphemistic "popular arts" to the single word "flattery." On several occasions while reading the Landmark edition I had to go over passages multiple times to discern exactly what was being said or relayed. It was worse for the long orations, which are particularly wordy.
As for Thucydides’s histories itself, we’re so very lucky that the text has survived to be read--and published--into our century. And though I do much prefer Herodotus, in part because of my own interest in the Achaemenid Empire and in part because it’s simply more fun to read, the political discussions and events of Thucydides, despite being 2500 years past, still bare a powerful and at times startling relevance to our modern world. I recommend reading Thucydides, just not this particular translation.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a very handy edition of Thucydides due to the great variety and good quality of the supporting materials. The appendices flesh out the Greek world, and the index makes things very easy to reference. The timeline is particularly nice, too. Although this book costs around 3x that of the Penguin, the extra material makes it worth it.
A quick note, since I have heard that there has been trouble with the binding of the paperback. I have the hardcover, and it stays together just fine.