Saturday, 5 May 2012

Book Review: History of the Peloponnesian War

I just this morning finished reading Thucydides “History of the Peloponnesian War” and I have to say I was blown away by how good it was.  I know very little about the Peloponnesian war which probably increased my enjoyment since I didn’t know what was coming next.  All the twists and turns throughout the course of the war made it seem more like a vast paced novel than ancient history.  I did have some knowledge of the general outcome of the war but was fascinated by the many campaigns which occurred thorough out it.  The action at Pylos in particular seems like something Hollywood would make up.  For anyone interested even slightly interested in history it is a book I would highly recommend.
I read a 1954 translation by Rex Warner, who I felt did a good job updated the language used although I felt he sometimes went a little too far using common metaphorical terms that seemed to not fit in with the rest of the writing.  But overall I was impressed and found it very easy to read for something over 2000 years old.  The main complaint modern readers might have is that Thucydides spends a lot of time recording speeches in detail and not a lot of time on the actual battles.  While these often give insight into the feelings of the combatants, just as often they seem to be repetitive speeches about how one side wronged the other and how their soldiers are inferior to ours.  On the other hand important battles are given a short description of the forces involved, the outcome, and a list of casualties.  He is however writing a history of the entire war so I understand why he can’t elaborate on every battle. 
Compared to the other ancient history I have read Cesar’s “Gallic Wars”, I much preferred Thucydides.  I feel the writing in more descriptive and more balanced.  Once again it is a fantastic book which I highly recommend.  Even better History of the Peloponnesian War is available for free on eBook so there is no excuse for not reading it.  My biggest critique is that I wish there had of been more...

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