by Donald Kagan
New York: Viking Press, 2003. Pp. xxx, 511.
Maps, sources, index. $29.95. ISBN:0-670-03221-3
In The Peloponnesian War Donald Kagan, a very distinguished classicist and the author of the monumental four volume History of the Peloponnesian War (1971-1988), who has of late become a prominent champion of Western culture and the importance of lessons from Classical Antiquity to the modern world, has produced an immensely valuable work.
The Peloponnesian War is not a mere abridgement of Kagan’s earlier, highly scholarly effort. Although based on that work, the new volume is a remarkable new synthesis intended for the non-specialist, that in some cases comes to conclusions different from those in the earlier effort. The new work tells the story of the greatest war in Greek antiquity for the educated reader who is perhaps not very familiar with ancient history. At the same time accurate, detailed, and analytic, The Peloponnesian War is also – perhaps most importantly – clear and readable, rife with surprisingly fresh insights and conclusions that may surprise even the reader well-versed in the period.
A work full of valuable lessons for the modern age, from the politics and dangers of coalition warfare to the unintended consequences of good ideas, and is definitely worth reading.