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History of the Peloponnesian War

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  28,483 ratings  ·  752 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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Towards the end of this book I had a flashback of watching an episode of Mastermind in the 80s, the contestant had 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 gone home. The correct answer was that this was in response to an earthquake. Judging by Thucydides' history ...more
Jan 10, 2009 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 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 ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you ever wanted to tackle Thucydides, this is the way to do it. It's beautifully laid out, with helpful maps and other material. The reading experience is profoundly moving, not really for the style but for the sheer weight of human folly on display. This should be required reading for politicians of all stripes.
Mar 03, 2010 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.

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
Elie F
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Courage in the face of reality ultimately distinguishes such natures as Thucydides and Plato: Plato is a coward in the face of reality--consequently he flees into the ideal; Thucydides has himself under control--consequently he retains control over things. ------Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably 4.5 stars due to Thucydides dry narrative but an awesome read. Political stupidity has not changed.
Roy 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, knotty
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: ancient-history
3.5 stars

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
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cajonera
This book is impossible to review but I still wanted to give my opinion on this as I try to do with every outstanding book I come across. I mean impossible because this book is the cornerstone for different disciplines, mainly History and International Relations. This is no surprise as Thucydides was intending to provide a historic account of the greatest war of his time, the war between Sparta and Athens while not focusing on any superstitious beliefs. Being the first historian, he set about ...more

Description: '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.

May 12, 2011 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 ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classicals fans history addicts
Shelves: classics
The Peloponnesian War is something that historicly interests me the most from the ancient greek history, so this book was something that I've read with ease. In addition the writing is quite understandable and easy to follow.
But none of these allowed either wealth with its prospect of future enjoyment to unnerve his spirit, or poverty with its hope of a day of freedom and riches to tempt him to shrink from danger. No, holding that vengeance upon their enemies was more to be desired than any personal blessings, and reckoning this to be the most glorious of hazards, they joyfully determined to accept the risk, to make sure of their vengeance and to let their wishes wait; and while committing to hope the uncertainty of
Erik Graff
Sep 08, 2008 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
Dani Rose
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not quite as fun to read as Herodotus' eccentric Histories, but still an important primary source. I could get through it quite well with my limited knowledge of Greek history and the Peloponnesian War, but I would recommend brushing up for context. Also the Jowlett translation from 1881 (which can be found on Perseus online) is the clearest and easiest to follow.
Bogdan Raț
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clif Hostetler
Jan 05, 2010 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
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-greece
Tremendously important book, from a historical point of view. But to be honest: Thucydides brings a boring story: he just gives a sequence of facts; no dramatic depth, no psychological dimension in the speeches, emphasis on the military events.
I also was a bit disappointed by his so-called objectivity: Book 1 is slightly anti-Athenian (imperialism), book 2 light pro-Athenian (Pericles). In comparison with Herodotus for me Thucydides is a little step back, because at least Herodotus gave
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘Spartan dogs!, Turkish Taffy’, I’ve always wanted to use that line from Woody Allen’s Japanese redubbed into English movie ‘What’s Up Tiger Lilly’. Now the Spartan’s really aren’t dogs and taffy and Turkey have nothing to do with this book, but this book ranks as one of the greatest books ever written, and it’s clear that the Spartan’s were more than just laconic warriors and Athenians might have been lovers of wisdom but were also lovers of hegemonic domination.

It is not necessary to
An Idler
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic achievement of history and common grace wisdom.

Thucydides is famous for his unornamented style, but it's far from dull. The Peloponnesian War brims with drama, grandeur, tragedy, horror, and heroism. It's not without the occasional longueur - Homer nods, and Thucydides metaphorically naps during pages of diplomatic maneuvering and abortive revolts. That's a small price to pay for the astounding orations (the Funeral Oration, but also the Melian Dialogue and a dozen others),
Nate Huston
Aug 06, 2012 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
Catherine Berry
Let it first be said, in reference to that discipline involving the examination of events which, though passed, may have relevance to, or lessons for, the current era, or even perhaps future eras, that it is my primary interest and avocation to extend my own understanding of the various persons -- statesmen, generals, men of wealth and influence, and others -- who contributed to the origin and who shaped the outcome of these events; and also, when I may reasonably do so, to draw whatever general ...more
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a valuable historical source this is! It has to be placed a little higher even than historians like Tacitus and Livy (who probably had a better idea of what they were doing, given that that they were working as historians in an exisiting field, rather than pretty much creating the field as they went along). There's something quite strange reading about these events from the perspective of someone who doesn't simply want to record history, but also to mention their own part in making it. I ...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 ...more
One on the reading bucket list down. A must for the ancient world. Sparta versus Athens. Post Thermopylae history is primarily known because of Thucydides. I am still amazed that this history made it to us over the centuries. I am very happy I picked this one up and finally finished it off.
Steven Peterson
Jun 08, 2009 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
Apr 24, 2015 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
Christopher Backa
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator could have been better but the book is interesting
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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 ...more
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