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Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University. His four-volume History of the Peloponnesian War is the leading scholarly work on the subject. He is also the author of many books on ancient and modern topics.
Kagan spent decades crafting his four-volume History of the Peloponnesian War, and while it is imbued with scholarship, it is nevertheless a daunting work. With that in mind, he has written a much shorter version that nevertheless hardly suffers from comparison. In a style at once readable and pithy, Kagan (classics & history, Yale) makes fifth-century B.C.E. Greece comprehensible to all readers. Focusing on the leaders of Athens and Sparta, which contributes mightily to the flow of the text, he composes a noteworthy history of these two cities and their 30-year struggle. The division of the work's seven parts into 37 chapters and further into nearly 200 subheadings gives it a chronological and subject orientation that makes it eminently usable. Further, Kagan's sumptuous style will enthrall readers who had not imagined that they would find the topic so absorbing. This work will surely be welcomed by any library where the four-volume set seemed to be more than users demanded. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Beginning in 1978, Kagan's publication of the four-volume History of the Peloponnesian War established him as the leading authority on that seminal period in Greek history. Despite its accessible writing style, however, the work's formidable length tended to restrict its audience to the academic community. This single volume, based on the original's scholarship but incorporating significant new dimensions, is intended for the educated general reader. Kagan, a chaired professor of classics and history at Yale, describes his intention to offer both intellectual pleasure and a source of the wisdom so many have sought by studying this war. On both aims he succeeds admirably. The war between the Athenian Empire and the Spartan Alliance, fought in the last half of the 5th century B.C., was tragedy. Fifty years earlier, the united Greek states had defeated the Persian Empire and inaugurated an era of growth and achievement seldom matched and never surpassed. The Peloponnesian War, however, inaugurated a period of brutality and destruction unprecedented in the Greek world. Like the Great War in 1914-1918, participants recognized even while the fighting went on that things were changing utterly. The contemporary history written by Thucydides is the best source for this complex story, but not the only one, and much of the value of this work lies in Kagan's brilliant contextualization of his ancient predecessor's work. The volume's ultimate worth, however, lies in the perceptive, magisterial judgment Kagan brings to his account of the war that ended the glory that was ancient Greece. Kagan gives us neither heroes and villains nor victors and victims. What infuses his pages is above all a sense of agency: men making and implementing decisions that seemed right at the time however they ended. Such lessons will not be lost on contemporary readers, who can discuss them with the author on his six-city tour. (On sale May 12) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Lucid, erudite . . . ambitious . . . [by] ONE OF THE MOST RENOWNED CLASSICAL SCHOLARS OF THIS CENTURY . . . Mr. Kagan's undertaking is valuable and compelling because it distills so much history into so clear and transparent a liquid." "A PARTICULARLY TIMELY MASTERPIECE . . . brilliantly examines the origins of four major conflicts." The best account [of the Peloponnesian War] now available. ("Los Angeles Times Book Review") A fresh, clear and fast-moving account... for general readers. ("The New York Times Book Review") Drawing on incomparable knowledge as a classicist, international relations theorist and military historian, Donald Kagan... has devoted a single volume to guiding us through that epic of miscalculation, hubris and strategic overreach, supplying supplemental observations and correctives to Thucydides? classic History of the Peloponnesian War. ("The Washington Post") "The best account [of the Peloponnesian War] now available." --Los Angeles Times Book Review"A fresh, clear and fast-moving account... for general readers." --The New York Times Book Review"Drawing on incomparable knowledge as a classicist, international relations theorist and military historian, Donald Kagan... has devoted a single volume to guiding us through that epic of miscalculation, hubris and strategic overreach, supplyingsupplemental observations and correctives to Thucydides' classic History of the Peloponnesian War." --The Washington Post