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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,304 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Donald Kagan Narrator: Bill Wallace Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2010 ISBN: 9781455199884
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For almost three decades at the end of the fifth century BC the ancient world was torn apart in a conflict that was, within its historical context, as dramatic, divisive, and destructive as the great world wars of the twentieth century. The Peloponnesian War pitted Greek against Greek: the Athenians, with their glorious empire, rich legacy of democracy and political rights, and extraordinary cultural achievement, against the militaristic, oligarchic Spartan state. The result was a period of unprecedented brutality, one that violated even the rugged code that had previously governed Greek combat, and led to an enormous destruction of life and property, intensification of factional and class hostility, and a reversal of the trend toward democratic development. With these came a collapse in the habits, institutions, beliefs, and restraints that had long been the foundation of civilization.

Now Donald Kagan, one of the world’s most respected historians, has written a new account of the Peloponnesian War—a lively, readable narrative that offers a richly detailed portrait of a vanished world while honoring its timeless relevance. In chronicling the rise and fall of a great empire, The Peloponnesian War illuminates the interplay of intelligence and chance in human affairs, the role of great individuals and masses of people in determining the course of events, and the potential of leadership and the limits within which it must operate. Among the brilliant portraits of extraordinary statesmen are those of Pericles, the greatest among the Athenians and a man determined to pursue a policy of deterrence, and the charismatic, duplicitous Alcibiades. Kagan captures the dynamic of war in his thrilling re-creations of some of the most famous military campaigns of antiquity.

With its fresh examination of a pivotal moment of Western civilization, The Peloponnesian War is a magisterial work of historiography—a chronicle of a dark time whose lessons are especially resonant today.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A fresh, clear and fast-moving account…for general readers.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “The best account [of the Peloponnesian War] now available.”

    Los Angeles Times Book Review

  • “Kagan…describes his intention to offer both intellectual pleasure and a source of the wisdom so many have sought by studying this war. On both aims he succeeds admirably…The contemporary history written by Thucydides is the best source for this complex story, but not the only one, and much of the value of this work lies in Kagan’s brilliant contextualization of his ancient predecessor’s work. The volume’s ultimate worth, however, lies in the perceptive, magisterial judgment Kagan brings to his account of the war that ended the glory that was ancient Greece. Kagan gives us neither heroes and villains nor victors and victims. What infuses his pages is above all a sense of agency: men making and implementing decisions that seemed right at the time however they ended. Such lessons will not be lost on contemporary readers.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Drawing on incomparable knowledge as a classicist, international relations theorist and military historian, Donald Kagan…has devoted a single volume to guiding us through that epic of miscalculation, hubris, and strategic overreach, supplying supplemental observations and correctives to Thucydides’ classic History of the Peloponnesian War.”

    Washington Post

  • “Truly impressive, presenting a thorough, yet concise, erudite, yet accessible, narrative encompassing ancient Greece’s thirty-year Great War. His primary source is, of course, Thucydides’ epic history, but Kagan draws on Aristotle, Xenophon, and others to provide an objective, nuanced perspective on the military drama…It is to the author’s great credit that the war’s many characters and places are presented accessibly enough to feel relevant to modern events, two and a half millennia later. Don’t worry, Thucydides fans, the classic is safe. But Kagan’s history is excellent.”

    Booklist (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lorenz | 2/18/2014

    " a well-written account of the peloponnesian war, this book provides you with everything you want to know this period in history. It is fast-paced and never dull. It also has excellent maps that will allow you to see the grand scale of this conflict. My only comment is that all maps should have been put in one place, like at the start, so i wont be flipping around the book looking for a particular map. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 2/17/2014

    " easy reading and very informative; much easier to read than Livy "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anthony | 2/16/2014

    " Possibly the most enjoyable book I've ever read. Kagan's politics aside, he knows how to tell a story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt | 1/27/2014

    " Donald Kagan, one of the foremost scholars of Ancient Greek history, wrote a concise but thorough history of the Peloponnesian War for a general audience based off his four-volume academic masterpiece on the same subject. From the start Kagan brings the reader to the time period of the war with enough background information that someone not familiar at all with Ancient Greece will understand the circumstances of the beginning of the war from each side's viewpoint. Throughout the work, Kagan brings in a modern military and political view to help examine decisions of either side that the ancient sources' explain as social virtue or vice. This supplement to the ancient sources helps give a fuller view of the decisions of the Athenians, Spartans, and their respective allies. If you want to learn about Ancient Greek history beyond Marathon or Thermopylae, I fully recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vince | 1/11/2014

    " A straight forward account, told in very readable prose, centrally focused on the thirty years of conflict that torn Greek culture asunder. If you admire and love ancient Greek history, this is a must read. Lots of useful maps are included! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tom | 1/10/2014

    " A good book on all the chaos involved in even the best planned strategy, and it also ties together with all those greek plays you read in school, a lot of the playwrites were creating their plays while Sparta and Athens were competing with each other. Also interesting is the contrast between the two city-states, Athens a colonial democracy, and Sparta a monarchy without colonial ambitions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean | 1/4/2014

    " Fine history of the war; a condensed version of Kagan's magisterial multi-volume work. An excellent read for any lay student of ancient history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sweatherford | 12/15/2013

    " fascinating look at ancient greece, including early accounts of genocide. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Adelle | 11/28/2013

    " read as background material for Thucydides selection. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Briapedia | 10/20/2013

    " Great book, very interesting. It really got me to crave more information about that period in history. I actually do like it that he works in his opinions on actions rather than just trying to provide a timeline. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Colin | 8/30/2013

    " A truly magisterial account of the war(s). A heavy read, but worth it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim Maston | 5/31/2013

    " Great coverage of the war and easy on the eyes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John-paul Pagano | 5/24/2013

    " A useful accompaniment to Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War, this is a synthesis of Yale maven and neocon luminary Donald Kagan's four-volume summa on that conflict. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Catherine Austen | 10/30/2012

    " I loved this book - it`s chock full of details and exciting scenes, with outstanding characters and fascinating facts, all well told as a thrilling read. I liked this one more than most modern books on the topic. Just writing this makes me want to go read it again... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 A.K. | 10/19/2012

    " If you like history you will love this work. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Neal | 12/12/2011

    " ok I didnt have the time to wade through Thucidycles but Kagan's synopsis is lively and quick moving. Bottomline: the more things change the more they stay the same. Really a good primer on international relations. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Rude | 11/2/2011

    " A very good overview of Donald Kagan 5 books on the Peloponnesian War. Highly recommended "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Doug | 10/8/2011

    " Kagan is obviously a brilliant scholar, and I find his books very challenging to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Logan Marlowe | 9/18/2011

    " Really enjoyed this book. Kagan's history of the decades-long conflict between Athens and Sparta does not supplant Thucydides, but it is tops of the modern treatments. Objective (I'm not; I kept yelling at those arrogant Athenians for screwing things up!), great maps, a great read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doug Vanderweide | 7/21/2011

    " An extensive volume that explains the geopolitical relationships in Greece, and how -- in spite of all the encouragements to avoid war -- how Athens effectively mishandled its foreign relationships, and how its disastrous interest in Sicily (Syracuse) spelled its ultimate doom in the war. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anthony | 5/21/2011

    " Possibly the most enjoyable book I've ever read. Kagan's politics aside, he knows how to tell a story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Catherine | 5/15/2011

    " I loved this book - it`s chock full of details and exciting scenes, with outstanding characters and fascinating facts, all well told as a thrilling read. I liked this one more than most modern books on the topic. Just writing this makes me want to go read it again... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doug | 7/10/2010

    " An extensive volume that explains the geopolitical relationships in Greece, and how -- in spite of all the encouragements to avoid war -- how Athens effectively mishandled its foreign relationships, and how its disastrous interest in Sicily (Syracuse) spelled its ultimate doom in the war. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Logan | 2/9/2010

    " Really enjoyed this book. Kagan's history of the decades-long conflict between Athens and Sparta does not supplant Thucydides, but it is tops of the modern treatments. Objective (I'm not; I kept yelling at those arrogant Athenians for screwing things up!), great maps, a great read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eric | 1/30/2010

    " Fantastic narrative history of the Peloponnesian war. Written clearly and with a fast paced narrative. Excellent companion to Thucydides, fills out the picture and helps make his narrative more understandable. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Carol | 1/29/2010

    " Kagan is reputed to be a master of the Peloponnesian War. I found all 493 pages of fine print to be full of more minutia than my mind could keep track of. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 11/19/2009

    " A very good overview of Donald Kagan 5 books on the Peloponnesian War. Highly recommended "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom | 7/29/2009

    " interesting to read in light of Viet Nam - or Afghanistan...and equally distressing...
    Democracy can be perverted - whether by definition or by the action of democrats (note lower case "d") "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sweatherford | 7/7/2009

    " fascinating look at ancient greece, including early accounts of genocide. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Adelle | 6/20/2009

    " read as background material for Thucydides selection.

    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nick | 2/26/2009

    " A great companion piece to Thucydides. "

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About the Author

Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, the recipient of a National Humanities Medal for 2002, and one of the preeminent scholars of ancient Greek history.

About the Narrator

Bill Wallace has recorded hundreds of books for the National Library Service’s Talking Books Program for the blind and physically handicapped under the auspices of the Library of Congress. He won the Alexander Scourby Narrator of the Year Award for Nonfiction in 2001 and the Canadian Torgi Talking Book of the Year Award in 1996 and again in 2003. He was nominated for an Audie® Award in 1998.