Bret James Stewart's Reviews > Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy

Lords of the Sea by John R. Hale
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it was amazing

This is definitely one of the best history books I have ever read. Hale does a wonderful job with this book. First off, the cover art is attractive. The Greek atop the dolphin, red-orange on a black background, is both intriguing and aesthetically pleasing. The text font and size is easy to read, attractive, and the layout is great. The interior illustrations serve to really bring the material to life. The book is laudable for its chronology, glossary, index, and notes on sources. Further, Hale’s writing style is very approachable. He describes things in a literary manner, applying a narrative style in some of the book that reads like a novel yet teaches the material/ideas Hale wants to convey. My big gripe with many non-fiction authors, especially of history and science, is that they provide the material in a boring fashion, absolutely sucking the life out of information that should be interesting. Hale has no problems in this area.

The book itself deals with the naval history of Athens from 483 B.C. to 322 B.C. This period is interesting in itself, with the contextual setting as fascinating (to me, personally) as the naval history. This naval history is niche-oriented, but the inclusion of the overall setting makes it of interest to anyone who seeks more knowledge about ancient history as well as to the naval buffs. This book does include some treatment of the Persian War and the wars of Alexander the Great. He includes the philosophers, as he should, since they had such an impact on the zeitgeist of the time and into our own time. He includes a chapter about Atlantis, which I found very interesting, in general as well as in regard to his argument that the story is a negative metaphor for the Athenian naval and imperial entity. Although others have proposed this before, this is the first time I encountered it, and I found it quite intriguing.

This book is wonderful for classicists, historians, those with nautical hearts, and anyone interested in the Athenian tradition of philosophy, military, and literature. I purchased this book as a role-playing game aid to help me with naval combat and related things regarding war galleys and triremes. Hale is one of the few authors able to maintain the balancing act of creating a book that is approachable enough to the lay reader and extensive enough for scholars. The annotated bibliography section serves as a wish list. I would give Lords of the Sea more than five stars if I could.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 28, 2015 – Shelved

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