9780007115051 / 0007115059

The Peloponnesian War: Athens and Sparta in Savage Conflict 431-404 BC


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Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2003



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About the book:

The Stalingrad of the ancient world, this is an accessible, brutal and vivid history of the greatest and bloodiest war of ancient Greece. The author concentrates on the human cost of this first cataclysmic clash of two great empires, its unprecedented cruelty and the resulting utter destruction of Athenian civilisation. The Peloponnesian War, fought 2500 years ago between oligarchic Sparta and democratic Athens for control of Greece, is brought to life in this study. Kagan demonstrates the relevance of this cataclysmic event to modern times in all its horror and savagery. As two uncompromising empires fight a war of survival from diametrically opposing political, social and cultural positions, the seemingly invincible glory of Athens crumbles in tragedy. Athenian culture and politics was unmatched in originality and fertility, and is still regarded as one of the peak achievements of Western civilisation. Dramatic poets such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes raised tragedy and comedy to a level never surpassed; architects and sculptors were at work on the Acropolis; natural philosophers like Anaxagoras and Democritus were exploring the physical world and philosophers like Socrates were dissecting the realm of human affairs. All this was lost to this bloody conflict. Unprecedented cruelty and brutality marked this war, as anger, frustration and vengeance replaced established codes of behaviour. Bands of marauders murdered innocent children, entire cities were obliterated, men were killed, and women and children were sold as slaves. With such violence came a collapse of the habits, institutions, beliefs and restraints that were the pillars of civilised life. In this work, Kagan illustrates his ability to interpret these events as a part of the universality of human experience. His expertise in both the ancient world and the wars of the 20th century gives a vivid portrait of this pivotal war which has shaped the world as we know it.

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