- 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: 112 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
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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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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
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Inherited monarchy among Hellenes was a long obsolete governance system. The differences between Spartan and Theban Oligarchy and Athenian Democracy was quite subtle. Governance was variously chosen by acclamation/elected by lot and representative of citizens in both.
One generation before the tale, the Hellenes were united to reveal the most aggressive, far outnumbered band of purpose driven warriors more than adequate to overcome adversity and expel the Xerxes tyrant driven Persian horde at Platea. Oligarchs and Democrats greatly outfought the tyrant state drones. Just below the surface of the new and mighty Hellene unity demonstrated resoundingly at Salamis and Platea dwelt the issue of the quality of decision speed and social order espoused by Spartans and Thebans as opposed to the free-wheeling chaos of Athenian style democracy, newly ascendant in its Golden Age under perpetually and publicly re-elected Pericles.
Hellenic Greece after Platea was the undisputed European power of the age and the team to join for keeping opportunistic tyrants of Carthage, Egypt and Persians from testing the unity. Hellene governance in its various flavors was self-attractive to geographies and peoples as the only option to tyrant overlords. The Hellenes had grown an empire, an influence sphere at minimum and was growing rapidly.
With the construction of the ostentatious Athens’s Acropolis monuments from the vast riches of the Athenian maritime colonial expansion and naval power, the tipping point with Thebes, Corinth, Sparta et al loosed the dragon. Athens for its part was flexing its new wealth among the Hellenes. Notions of inequality, covetousness and greed were stirred among the oligarchs. The ideological debate grew into a sort of 'racial' matter dividing the Dorics, Ionics, and Aeolics.
The otherwise sage Hellene city-state hegemons of Sparta, Thebes and Athens decided that they needed a short season of demonstrative belligerence for general Hellene consumption to clear the air ... a sort of Hellene family squabble. Politics, origins and ideology was as important among 5th century BC Hellene's as today. The season of belligerence exited control. What the Hellenes gave themselves was 30 years of Mediterranean wide war, death, genocide, destruction and the complete loss of a self-determination.
VDH delivers a riveting telling chaptered with 'political blocs and alliances', “Navy”, “Hoplites”, "Horses", “Walls”, "Siege", “Terror”. You can see why the classic Hoplite fight was made obsolete. We see the Athenian-style democracy defeated by the oligarchs only after they are forced to team with the hated Persians.
The final lesson for the student is that within the next generation, Sparta would be destroyed forever and the Hellenes reduced to other empires chattel until just over 100 years ago.
5-star must read.
Best of all, Hanson's book gives you a clear overview of events in this historic conflict with so much relevance today and makes it so much easier to encourage the reader to go back to finish the original. Hint: The most recent and most acclaimed version of the original is "The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War" by Robert B.Strassler