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History of the Peloponnesian War

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3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  23,235 Ratings  ·  520 Reviews
Written four hundred years before the birth of Christ, this detailed contemporary account of the long life-and-death struggle between Athens and Sparta stands an excellent chance of fulfilling its author's ambitious claim. Thucydides himself (c.460-400 BC) was an Athenian and achieved the rank of general in the earlier stages of the war. He applied thereafter a passion for ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 648 pages
Published 1972 by Penguin Books (first published -411)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan-Maat
Towards the end of this book I had a flashback of watching an episode of Mastermind in the 80s, the contestant chosen the Spartan military as their specialist subject was asked being asked by Magnus Magnusson, the Icelandic Viking who swooped down from the north to Britain as a child to become a TV quiz host, why the Spartans had stopped their campaign on one particular occasion and went home. The correct answer was in response to an earthquake. Judging by Thucydides' history that could have bee ...more
Alcyone
Jan 10, 2009 Alcyone is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Favorite quote:
"The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest, but if it is judged worthy by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content.
In fine I have written my work not as an essay with which to win the applause of the moment but as a possession for all time." -Thucydides
Chris
Jan 19, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read Thucydides in college, using Rex Warner's translation in the Penguin edition. As a frosh with little background in ancient history and political science, I didn't have the proper perspective to realize Th.'s critical place in western historiography and political thought. As a junior, I re-read Th., this time in a course on ancient historians. At that point, having had modest exposure to Hobbes, Machiavelli, Burke, Clausewitz and the like, I was better equipped to appreciate Th.'s me ...more
Jim
Mar 11, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing
What I love about the best ancient Greek literature is how startlingly modern it could be. This is particularly true of Euripides (whom I regard as a 21st century dramatist) and The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. The accounts of the Corcycran revolution, the so-called Melian Dialogue (in which Athens shows itself to be somewhat less enlightened than reputed), and the utter disaster of the Sicilian Expedition can just as easily be taking place now in remote parts of the world.

The
...more
Kenny
May 12, 2011 Kenny rated it it was amazing
I need more stars! Thucydides is the man. In 1947, George Marshall "doubt[ed] seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and with deep convictions regarding certain of the basic issues today" without having read this book. The parallels between the Cold War and the Peloponnesian War as T. describes it are certainly striking. My two favorite sections of this book are the civil war in Corcyra, which T. describes as representative of many civil wars going on in the Aegean at the time--and w ...more
umberto
Feb 14, 2016 umberto rated it liked it
Shelves: ancient-history
Finally I could finish reading this book after many intervals of being content with what I knew, I didn’t claim I enjoyed all of eight-book Thucydides’s account. Compared to the other history classic of similar stature, Herodotus’s “The Histories” translated by Aubrey de Selincourt, I think, is more enjoyable and impressive regarding the world as viewed by the Greek historian in the fifth century B.C. Contrastively in a smaller scale, Thucydides has ambitiously depicted the twenty-seven year con ...more
Lotz
It has been said that Earthling civilization, so far, has created ten thousand wars, but only three intelligent commentaries on war—the commentaries of Thucydides, of Julius Caesar and of Winston Niles Rutherfoord.
—Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

Some years ago, I waded through the Barnes & Noble edition of Herodotus’ Histories. It was one of the most painful reading experiences of my life. I blame 95% of this on the translator (G.C. Macaulay), who broke new ground in dry, prolix, knott
...more
Karl H.
The Peloponnesian War was, to say the least, a challenging read for me. Thucydides is writing about a war that happened thousands of years ago, in a completely different culture, in an area where I don't know the geography, between a bunch of states that no longer exist. Oh yes, and there is no unified dating system at the time either. It’s also clear from reading the Peloponnesian War that Thucydides was an aspiring general, not an aspiring poet. One review I encountered while searching for a d ...more
Darwin8u
Jun 29, 2012 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2012
If you are going to read Thucydides, the Landmark version is the best place to start. I read this after I became a fan of Strassler's The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. For me, there is not much better than Thucydides' speeches. "The Funeral Oration of Pericles", "Diodotus to the Athenian Ecclesia", "Demosthenes to his troops at Pylos" & "Nicias before the last sea fight" are all some of the most interesting, moving and inspiring speeches and harangues EVER written.

Thucydides' HOPW (Lan
...more
Nate Huston
Aug 11, 2012 Nate Huston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fine. I nerded out on this one too. I really liked it. Might I suggest, however, that it is exceedingly beneficial (it was to me, at least) to take a look at Donald Kagan's lectures on the same subject. You can view them or download them at http://oyc.yale.edu/classics/clcv-205.... Lectures 18-21.

Anyhow, while the detail with which Thucydides recounts some of the battles can be tedious at times(though perhaps not to a military historian), the subject matter dealt with is timeless. Pericles's fun
...more
Laura
May 01, 2015 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
'My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last for ever,' Thucydides

Ancient Greek historian Thucydides' spellbinding first-hand account chronicles the devastating 27-year-long war between Athens and Sparta during the 5th century BC. It was a life-and-death struggle that reshaped the face of ancient Greece and pitted Athenian democracy against brutal Spartan militarism.

Thucydides himself was an Athenian
...more
Clif Hostetler
Jan 25, 2010 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Thucydides sounds surprisingly modern for a writer who lived 2,400 years ago. He provides a record of over 21 years in strict chronological order and describes the interests of the two sides with more objective fairness than can be expected today from modern journalists (especially the TV kind). He mentions in the middle of the book that he spent 20 years away from Athens in exile, so that may explain why he can describe the non-Athenian view with such poignancy.

"I lived through the whole of it,
...more
Steven Peterson
Dec 14, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
This is one of the early classic "histories" written. Of course, Herodotus had written his "History" before. But his acceptance of the role of gods in history renders Thucydides' hard-headed accounts of the Greek internecine warfare a further advance in historiography. Thus, we begin to experience something like a real history in this volume (and that does not denigrate the real contributions of Herodotus).

This is a nice volume. The Introduction by M. I. Finley sets the stage; the translation b
...more
Erik Graff
Mar 29, 2013 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Harold Kintner
Shelves: history
For over three years I was a history major at Grinnell College. In the junior year only one course requirement remained, historiography, a course taught by only one faculty member. That was fine by me until we got to Augustine's City of God which, at the time, I thought was absolutely crazy and unreadable (I've since read it). Having almost completed the requirements for a religion degree as well by then, I switched majors and graduated on schedule.

Although Augustine was unsupportable, I very mu
...more
Stephy
Apr 28, 2008 Stephy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes good stories
Recommended to Stephy by: I guess my Father did
I learned that I already knew the stories. I found this abandoned at the Willie Street Food Co-op in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1985. I hadn't done unpacking yet, all the books were in boxes, I was desperate. I took it home. The introduction was boring and went on forever. I skipped most of it and got on to book one, where things immediately became interesting, as I recognized stories my father told us as children, when we went for long walks, or car rides together.

Today, rereading it once again, th
...more
Nicholas Whyte
Mar 19, 2011 Nicholas Whyte rated it liked it
This is a classic work of history, about the war between Athens and Sparta in the 430s and 420s BC. I'm not terribly interested in the war itself, or the geographical details (though I would have liked it if my Penguin edition had put useful maps in the text closer to the descriptions of events taking place on obscure islands); I hoped to find out from reading it the extent to which Thucydides' reputation as the first proper historian is justifiable.

What I found was rather different to what I ex
...more
Gardner
May 08, 2007 Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first great history book. In addition, there are spectacular passages like the Melian Conference where the Athenian envoy states:

For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences- either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us- and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Laceda
...more
Yann
Jul 20, 2011 Yann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Je m'étais cassé les dents dessus une première fois car trop obscur. Une seconde fois, juste à la suite de "L'enquete" d'Hérodote d'Halicarnasse, le plaisir a vraiment été au rendez-vous. Comme "le prince", on n'en sort pas indemne.
Dylan Grant
This has been, without question, the hardest book I have ever had to read in my life. It is also the most difficult book I have ever had to review in my life.

As I proceed into writing my review of this book, let me just say that I have nothing but reverence for it's author. Thucydides's intellectual tenacity and vigour, his originality, his dedication to his project, his ambition, and his ability to apply his life experience make him worthy of infinite admiration. All of the flaws in this book
...more
Austin Wimberly
Aug 22, 2014 Austin Wimberly rated it it was amazing
I read this book as part of my on-going pursuit to fill in the yawning gaps in my classical education through sheer autodidacticism. I have to say that I found Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War riveting.

There are so many things to recommend this work, but I'll limit myself to just a few:

1.This is arguably the earliest example of "history as scholastic endeavor" or "scientific approach to history" that we have in the Western canon. In this regard, Thucydides' lucidity is front and cent
...more
David Sarkies
Apr 28, 2015 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History buffs
Recommended to David by: My university
Shelves: history
The story of a military disaster
20 July 2010

I really liked this book, but then I generally really like books that deal with ancient history and are a retelling of events that were beyond our lifetimes, such as this one. This book, though incomplete (namely because the author died before he could finish it) tells of a war between the rival Greek city states of Athens and Sparta. I could (and would like to) write a thesis on this book, but I will stick to my main theme, and that is the invasion o
...more
Jeremy
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished the whole thing. It's quite a piece, and I highly recommend the Landmark edition which comes with maps and tables that greatly aid in the enormous task of parsing all of these old places and names into a coherent military campaign. While I do admire Thucydides direct, strictly empirical style, there's so much less of the kooky local flavor here which made Herodotus so rich, as a result it can be slow and ponderous at times. That being said, the speeches and dialogues Thucydides ...more
JJ
Dec 09, 2015 JJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page turner; I even forced the kids to read to me while I drove. This resulted in a history lesson, some googling of the Greek language, and a long conversation over Thucydides' use of the words "specious pretext" together -- one kid felt it equated to a double negative.
Anyway, Archidamus asks, "What then is to be our war?" --- and so should we.
Matt Pelikan
Apr 02, 2016 Matt Pelikan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are reasons a book survives as long as this one has! The events it recounts, from a volatile and important stage in the development of western culture, are fascinating, and the historical figures that appear here are complex, interesting, and well rendered. Thucydides himself, a player (and not an insignificant one) in some of the events he describes, is a terrific guide: insightful, balanced, humane, and even humorous at times. Reading this book, you simply feel like you're in the presenc ...more
Alexander Rolfe
Jun 08, 2016 Alexander Rolfe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting book! I liked it very much. It was hard to follow at times, but this edition helps a lot. The many appendices at the end are well worth reading, and as pithy as the main work.

Daniel Carr
A very good read, though I did find it hard to keep patience with the details of Ionian rebellions against Athens towards the end. I'd recommend to anyone looking to see one of the first very comprehensive attempts at writing a history, and one of the engaging parts of reading the book is considering how Thucydides went about assembling events and details.

The best parts from a narrative perspective are the Athenian victories against Sparta in the middle of the war, culminating in taking Pylos,
...more
Jon Norimann
Aug 07, 2016 Jon Norimann rated it it was amazing
One criteria for saying a book is good is if its ahead of its time. Of all books in existence this may be the book most ahead of its time. Reading this detailed description of a war between the city states of Sparta and Athnes it is unbelievable it was written about 2500 years ago. A modern historian describing a current war given similar sources would not do much different. Additionally it is among the best primers on classic Greece, the foundation of modern society.

History of the Peloponnesia
...more
(9 3/4) Gerasimos
Apr 26, 2013 (9 3/4) Gerasimos rated it really liked it
We read this in school in Ancient Greek. One of the masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature.
Jeni Enjaian
May 31, 2015 Jeni Enjaian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, history, greece
This was a much welcomed change of pace from the dragging, "classic" fiction I have been reading lately. As an amateur historian this book is fascinating to study for its historiography rather than its historicity. There are far too many names to follow (without detailed charting) the course of the war exactly. This boon reads more like reality than the Iliad-as it should-but has touches typical of the time such as the inclusion of entire (partisan) speeches.
For all history lovers as well as tho
...more
Wade
Jul 11, 2016 Wade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I slowly worked my way through this behemoth over the course of two months, it is much dryer than The Iliad (duh), but is also much more intriguing. I have been most interested in the ways that this 2400 (ish) year old book connects so directly to our current society. Obviously there are major differences, since civil war was such a way of life for the Greeks (irony?), but the things that they fought over and the issues they debated, and their fears and their hopes are all still echoing around t ...more
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Which edition? 2 3 Sep 09, 2016 01:04PM  
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957
Thucydides (c. 460 B.C. – c. 395 B.C.) (Greek Θουκυδίδης, Thoukydídēs) was a Greek historian and author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which recounts the 5th century B.C. war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 B.C. Thucydides has been dubbed the father of "scientific history" due to his strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis in terms of cause and effect without refere ...more
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