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The Greco-Persian Wars:
Popular classicist Peter Green (author of Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.) offers an engrossing narrative of the wars between the Greeks and the Persians. This is real David-and-Goliath material, with the scrappy, feuding city-states of ancient Greece fending off a much larger aggressor. The conflicts themselves are a kind of struggle for the soul of Western civilization: "On the one side, the towering, autocratic figure of the Great King; on the other, the voluntary and imperfect discipline of proudly independent citizens." The Greeks surprisingly fare better in these encounters, and make themselves legends on the plains of Marathon (192 Greek casualties versus 6,400 Persians), during the heroic last stand at Thermopylae, and elsewhere.
The Greco-Persian Wars is full of wonderful stories featuring bravery, cowardice, and treachery. Unlike so many of his fellow historians, Green understands the importance of a dramatic narrative, sometimes employing novelistic techniques to relate what happened. It's not an overstatement to say that the course of Western history might have taken a strikingly unfamiliar turn if these battles had had different outcomes. Green is a natural storyteller, and The Greco-Persian Wars is a delight to read, even for readers who have no background or special interest in the classical world. --John J. Miller [via]