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Extended Audio Sample The Peloponnesian War, by Donald Kagan Click for printable size audiobook cover
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:
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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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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