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Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Song of Wrath tells the story of Classical Athens’ victorious 10 Years’ War (431–421) against grim Sparta—the 1st decade of the terrible Peloponnesian War that turned the Golden Age of Greece to lead. Historian J.E. Lendon presents a sweeping tale of pitched battles by land & sea, sieges, sacks, raids, & deeds of cruelty & guile—along with courageous acts of me ...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Basic Books (NY) (first published January 1st 2010)
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James Murphy
Hybris is the Greek word. A claim to rank and to worth thought not deserved or not yet earned. The concept as it concerned the Greeks went back at least as far as Achilles and Agamemnon in the opening lines of Iliad. By the time of the mid-400s BC its influence on rank had become the most important determinate of power among the Greek city-states. As J. E. Lendon informs us in Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins, it was the primary cause of the war.

The Peloponnesian War between Sparta a
William Carey
The Greeks present an unequalled temptation to cheap ventriloquism, so tantalizing the apparent similarities between their world and ours. How easy to slither into the back of a Demosthenes or Epitadas and wave his long-dead hand to our modern tune. The ancients then wheeze and stammer our own thoughts back at us, and we nod and guffaw in turn. In stark contrast, the historian's art is to amplify the tenuous voice of antiquity without distorting it, so that ancient voices make themselves heard a ...more
Lauren Albert
Lendon has a hobby horse and he rides it pretty hard. Now, don't get me wrong, he has an interesting thesis (interesting especially because it is based on his understanding of the cultures involved). He should have just let the story speak for itself after laying out his argument at the beginning. It is a shame that the book becomes so repetitious. Now, perhaps the repetitiousness is due to his theory being controversial (i.e. defensiveness about it against critics)? I don't know the field enoug ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 15, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: classical history fans
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: history
This is a very well written, albeit tendentious, review of the first half (431-421) of what we call 'The Peloponnesian War', a struggle between Athens, and its allies and subjects, against Sparta, and its allies and subjectx, which ended with a final Athenian defeat approximately seventeen years later. Of course it's much, much more complicated than that, subsidiary conflicts being all over the place and such truces and alliances (even one between Athens and Sparta following 421) as there were b ...more
J. E. Lendon's history of the Peloponnesian War differs from the usual treatments in two ways: First, instead of tackling the entire 27-year period, he (after pointing out that the "Peloponnesian War" is really four different wars traditionally grouped together) only covers the first ten years, from the outbreak of hostilities to the treaty between Athens and Sparta in 421 BC (he calls this the Ten Years War, whereas others call it the Archidamian War). And second, he challenges the traditional ...more
Lendon wrote this book for people who know nothing about the Peloponnesian War as well as those who can quote Thucydides at will. I'm definitely in the former camp. I knew of a Peloponnesian War, that it involved the Greeks, and I had some vague idea that the Spartans won eventually. Apart from that, nothing.

The book jacket will give you a summary of Lendon's thesis. Suffice it to say, I found it convincing - he really does drive his argument home, and the perhaps necessary repetition and (over
Lacks the narrative drive and telling details of popular history, while not as dry and ponderous as academic history. Is it popular academic? Lendon does demonstrate the unflagging commitment to a thesis that marks academic history - in this case, the leading role that a kind of sports-league ranking played in governing the outlook and behaviour of classical Greece. Actions (and inactions) that seem puzzling to a modern mind accustomed to materialism and real politic become clear under the logic ...more
Lendon provides a different perspective on the Peloponnesian War, one that explicitly challenges Thucydides' explanation. In my (decidedly unknowledgeble) opinion, Lendon's argument that the war (particularly the Ten Years' War, which is the only part of the war he covers in detail) is best explained as a contest over status adds to my understanding of the war and the motives of the actors. However, I am not convinced that it is the primary explanation for the war - I still find Donald Kagan's a ...more
If anyone has any interest at all in the Peloponnesian War, then delve into the story by Thucydides of this epic war: Song of Wrath; whether or not the reader is wholly convinced of Lendon's arguments, the reader will come away with an enhanced understanding of what happened back in the fifth century BC. Sided with maps, an in-depth glossary, authors notes, suggestions for further reading and an extensive appendix, notes and bibliography.
A seasoned historian may not like the arguments made by L
'Aussie Rick'
This was an excellent and very readable account of the first ten years of warfare between Athens and Sparta during the Peloponnesian War. The author discusses the role of honour, hubris, and rank and how those concepts mattered to the Ancient Greeks to the point of dictating strategy in the military and diplomatic field.

In 385 pages of text the book offers a great story of these first years of this conflict and was easy to read with numerous maps to assist placing the area of conflict discussed
Lendon is obviously the most brilliant (and subtly controversial) scholar on Greek warfare, with his theory of cultural determinism taking the front and center role from the usual star of the show, the structuralism and "realism" of Thucydides (power struggles are the summum causus belli-- ok I mixed up my dead languages there) rather than Lendon's VALUES and rank and pride. The premise is plausible, but man does Lendon beat a dead horse in this one. He proves his point and then proves it way to ...more
Attempting to understand the ancient Greeks is harder than it seems. From a distance, they look reasonable; up close, they possessed an unhealthy dose of the irrational in their destructive competitiveness. Lendon writes clearly and interestingly about the ancient world, as he did in "Ghosts and Soldiers."
Oscar Serna
A great read. I like how the author actually try to understand Greeks' worldview, instead of imposing our modern mindset on them. A grim worldview Greeks had but unsurprising considering when they were living.
Yosef Kuperman
This is literally the best History I've read in years. It had a sublime sense of humor and a brilliant approach to the subject.
Johnny Korianitis
An epic history on the clash between Sparta and Athens and on war in Greek society during the Classical Age.
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