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The History of the Peloponnesian War

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,410 Ratings  ·  499 Reviews
Thucydides' book is now entitled History of the Peloponnesian War. His entire contribution to history & historiography is contained in this dense history of the 27-year war between Athens & allies against Sparta & its allies. It breaks off near the end of the 21st year. Thucydides believed the war represented an event of unparalleled magnitude. He intended his ...more
Mass Market Paperback, Penguin Classics Edition, 648 pages
Published 1982 by Penguin Books (first published -411)
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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
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
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
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
Mar 11, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

May 12, 2011 Kenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2016 Lotz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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 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
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
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,
Steven Peterson
Dec 14, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 28, 2008 Stephy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nicholas Whyte
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
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
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
Austin Wimberly
Aug 22, 2014 Austin Wimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David Sarkies
Apr 28, 2015 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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,
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
Charles Gonzalez
Jan 02, 2016 Charles Gonzalez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The tragedy of this first great civil war was the exposure of the limitations of the Greek polis as the world around them changed and they remained stuck in the tribal and geopolitical structure of their archaic period. The editors epilogue nicely and succinctly captures the inevitable destruction of Greek democracy in the city state. It must have been painful for Thuycididies to watch the beginning of the end happen in real time, as Athen's fall was followed by that so Sparta and Thebes under t ...more
Zachary Taylor
Jun 13, 2015 Zachary Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
We classicists often talk about accessibility. Yes, one cannot truly appreciate Thucydides’s literary style, which is terribly complex, without the Greek in front of her, but The Peloponnesian War in its original Greek would take months for even a dedicated student hell-bent on an authentic experience with the text to plough through it. With The Landmark Thucydides, editor and unaffiliated scholar Robert B. Strassler makes a bold and unquestionably successful attempt to make the Athenian histori ...more
Elias Vasilis Kontaxakis
“Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

I’ll give my readers the same warning Thucydides does: this text is not for the faint hearted. It is not funny, or romantic, or even exciting (odd given how it’s a war story). It took me a year to read because of its difficulty and tedium. It’s the epitome of an ancient, arcane tome no one in our society has time for. Outside of military academies it is n
Czarny Pies
Nov 14, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone. It is a basic classic of Western Civilization
Recommended to Czarny by: Professor Keyes and Boake, U of T
Anyone who believes that democracy is a good idea has not read Thucydides' Peloponnesian War. Thucydides blamed the outbreak of the war and the unnecessary prolongation to Athens' democratic system. Unlike the neighbouring states in the Peloponnesian peninsula which were oligarchies of owners of large agriculture estates the affairs of Athens were controlled by merchants who dominated the elections.

As Athens acquired more client states in the region to facilitate its commercial activities, the s
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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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“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” 278 likes
“For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war."

[Funeral Oration of Pericles]”
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