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Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2004

    Great Men, Eventful Times

    A complex and layered tale, this one tracks the career of the ancient Athenian leader, Alcibiades, over the course of the 27 year struggle between Athens and Sparta for control of Hellas that was known as the Pelopennesian War. Based largely on Thucydides' History of the Pelopennesian War, Pressfield recounts the life and times of this charismatic and compelling kinsman of Pericles through the recollections of the man who was hired by Sparta to assassinate him. In this 'as told to' narrative, the killer, awaiting trial, tells his story to a man named Jason who he has asked to defend him. Awaiting his day in the courts of Athens, in the same prison where Socrates sits condemned to death, the assassin, Polemides, recalls his own career and the many times it crossed paths with the brilliant Alcibiades. In the course of his story we get an in-depth look at the ravages and viscissitudes of war as Athens pursued its struggle against the obdurate Spartans who controlled the Pelopennesian Greek heartland and had never been defeated on the battlefield. Like Alcibiades, the Athenians are bold, clever and energetic as they develop and fight for an overseas empire that makes them richer, and stronger militarily, than their stay-at-home Spartan cousins. Into this mix, after famine and plague have laid Athens low while under siege by the Spartans and their allies, Alcibiades steps. He convinces his mercurial countrymen to fund and support a war against the Greek colony of Syracuse in Sicily to the west, thereby outflanking the Spartans. But just as his campaign is getting off to a brilliant start, Alicbiades' enemies at home cause him to be recalled to face charges of sacrilege. Fearing the worst, he bolts to the Spartans. Without Alicibiades, the Syracusan adventure collapses. But Alcibiades soon runs afoul of the Spartan king, Agis, over an indiscretion with the king's wife, and must flee again, this time to Persia. Called home at last by his desperate countrymen, Alcibiades again takes charge of the war against Sparta, turning the tables on the Pelopennesian city-state in a remarkable series of brilliant military campaigns. But just as before, Alcibiades' enemies, fearing his growing success and dominance, conspire to bring him down. Bringing lawsuits and initiating investigations against him, they prompt the Athenian citizenry to finally turn against him by denying him continued funding for the war. After 11 months of continuous victories, Alcibiades sees the handwriting on the wall, realizing that he cannot outlast the Spartans (who are supported by a seemingly endless stream of Persian gold). And so he chucks it all again and quits the field for exile. Replacing him with a committee of generals (to prevent any one of them from becoming too preeminent), the Athenians continue their victories (albeit without Alcibiades' consistency and panache) until a freak storm, after one battle, claims the lives of thousands of their countrymen on the high seas. Recalled to face charges of negligence, those generals who cannot flee are tried, condemned to death and cruelly executed. Bereft of its best leadership and left with only second-stringers who are afraid to make a move for fear of being similarly condemned by the fickle Athenian populace, Athens at last goes down to defeat before the stolid and stubborn Spartans who are led by the scheming and relentless Lysander, a general who may be Alcibiades' only equal on the battlefield . . . and off. Alcibiades in exile dreams of a third comeback but the Spartans are set on preventing that. And so Polemides recalls his final charge, to find and slay the man he served with, and under, a man he had grown to both love and hate by turns. Alcibiades is building a third army of Thracian tribesmen in the north and it is there that Polemides initially goes to find him. This tale suffers from its complex narrative structure no less than from the complex series of events on which it is hung. S

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Steven Pressfield Does It Again

    Another great book by Mr. Pressfield. The characters leap off the pages, especially Polemides and Alcibiades. If you know at least a little of the history of the Peloponnesian War, it makes the book that much more enjoyable. The more you know of the history of Alcibiades, the more you can appreciate the book, and the way Mr. Pressfield is able to give life to someone who lived and died almost 2500 years ago.
    If you enjoy historical fiction, I strongly recommend picking up a couple of Steven Pressfield's book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2004

    Amazing when it sets in

    Steven Pressfield himself declared that Tides of War was his least critically acclaimed book as it is so different from Gates of Fire. While the latter had characters who were admirable except for the somewhat villain Polynikes. Yet Tides of War is a fascinating book. With Pressfield I have decided not to focus on the battles like the 8th grader. Instead it is the characters that make the book moving. Here you see Polemides struggle with the loss of the majority of his family. He slips into the world of prostitues and drinking to ignore his problems. To see this is amazing and probably the best part of the book. As mentioned before Alciabades wasn't supposed to be a likeable character and you cannot speculate on if he didn't exist the war would be over sooner. Alciabades slips from one group to the next to achieve fame but eventually he must accept that he is an outcast. This book is on par with Gates of Fire maybe possibly less as the characters there are more enjoyable however both create a feeling of sensation for days. However with Tides of War it took a few days if you really focus on it to see the conflicts Polemides has within himself. Highly recommended to all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2003

    Just as good as GATES OF FIRE

    I thought this book was just as good as Gates of Fire! Anyone who disagrees should read again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2002

    This is excellent reading

    As an old warhorse I can attest to the accuracy of Mr. Pressfield's insights. He is a superb author, with an uncanny ability to present historical fact in the venue of the novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2001

    Enjoyable, but not epic

    As a connoisseur of both ancient Greek history and historical fiction, I approached Mr. Pressfield's newest book with as much anticipation as I did his masterpiece, Gates of Fire. It is often unfair to draw comparisons between works, but I think Mr. Pressfield probably thought success with Thermopylae would extend to the Pelopennesus. I would say he hit the mark, but not strongly. Often I felt confused by his narrative flow, and, unlike the story of the 300, I felt that there were really no admirable characters this time around to make the story engaging. As a hero, Alcibiades was less like Achilles than he was like Gilgamesh...a misunderstood demigod walking amongst a scared and sometimes jealous community. Add this in with the fact that, instead of dealing with a time-focussed event like the Stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae , Pressfield's story must cover nearly three decades of important events, you can see where he might be led astray. Oftentimes it seemed as if Socrates' imminent execution was a bigger subplot, for instance, than Polemides'. Ah, well. I gave this four stars on

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2000

    Human character doesn't change from age to age

    The scope of this novel - nearly thirty years of warfare, at both land and sea - is daunting. Mr. Pressfield's attempt here to bring to life the men and women who lived through a world at war is not quite as successful as his other historical novel, 'Gates of Fire.' There, he was able to explain the motivations of his people in a more emotive manner. Here, the breadth of the story, in terms of time and geography, simply doesn't lend itself to the same concise style he used in 'Fire.' I didn't really follow the reasons compelling the shift in loyalties abundant throughout the novel. But I was struck at how 'modern' the story was. A charismatic leader, consumed by personal desires, both carnal and egotistical, causes the entirety of the known world to be consumed by warfare -- with absolute waste as the result. This book pointed up to me that human 'nature' is the same, no matter what age; and that all we can do to live up to our better selves is to honor what is true, recognize what is beautiful, protect what is innocent, and die with dignity.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

    Wyoming reader

    IF I COULD GET MY MONEY BACK I WOULD i just started this book and am bored tearless the names are hard to keep straight,very disjointed in the telling of the story. Will need to read a couple of times maybe to figure what the h!!! Is going on
    Very disapointed in this book and I love historical novels fiction or not if you are intrested in greek history skip this book

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    High Tides

    Tides of War is another wonderful story by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield is a fantastic author who creates full and enjoyable characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2004

    An 8th grader interested in ancient warfare

    I LOVED this book, it was so great. The only thing i would have changed is to have a little less political stuff and some more battles but it was very good. I love all ancient warfare and especially Greece and Rome so i read every book i come across on the subject. Some are ok, some i can't even finish, but some make my day every time I pick up the book; this was one of them i recommend this book to everyone interested in ancient times. Steven Pressfield is truly a very talented author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2004

    Great Storytelling

    Pressfield's novel on the Pelopponesian War between Athens and Sparta is great story telling. The triple narrative is reflective and recites the story of Polemides, Alcibiades' bodyguard and eventual assassin who seeks to tell the truth before being tried. The trial also coincides with the trial of Socrates and so the story has several interesting sub-plots. As with 'Gates of Fire' Pressfield is particularly brilliant in describing campaigns and battles. In this case, the details on the siege of Syracuse is brilliant. Since the theme focuses more on how Alcibiades' personal ambition and pursuit of Arete (excellence) fuels war for war's sake, I think that the multi-narrative technique Pressfield uses here is not as effective as in 'Gates of Fire'. A direct narrative from either Alcibiades or Polimedes would have placed more emphasis on the main characters, their motives, and how they evolved through the story. Polimedes' lawyer and other characters were not important and disctracted from the theme and plot. It is unfair to compare this work poorly in contrast with 'Gates of Fire'; the plot in this story revolves much more around political complexities and personal ambition than the rather direct 'Alamo' plot in 'Gates of Fire'. I think both novels are great in their own domains. A strongly recommend this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2001

    No One to Care About

    After loving 'Gates of Fire' more than any book I've read in years, I was looking forward so much to Pressfield's next book that I ordered 'Tides of War' in hardcover, thinking that this, too, would be a book to treasure forever. Instead, I couldn't even make myself finish the book and donated it to the public library. The dramatic and emotional intensity of 'Gates of Fire' was utterly absent. Characters were boring, unmemorable or downright unpleasant, not people I wanted to spend any time with... and the narrative was confusing and distant. I give it two stars for effort and in the hope that Pressfield will get back in touch with whatever muse inspired 'Gates of Fire.' It's hard to believe one man could write two such different books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2001

    Pressfield's Greek stories--fascinating accounts!

    The Golden Age of Athens certainly was not without its rust. In ¿Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War,¿ Steven Pressfield pulls no punches as he examines with surgeon¿s precision the affaires de guerre of Alcibiades. (Pressfield certainly established his historical credibility in fiction--if that¿s not an oxymoron!--in his earlier ¿Gates of Fire,¿ about the battle of Thermopylae, it itself being a debacle of sorts!) Told by Jason and Polemides, this is the story of Alcibiades, one of Athens¿ brilliant and incredibly gifted leaders during the Peloponnesian War. While Pressfield is no Thucidides when it comes to history, certainly he holds his own in historical fiction. This is a most readable account of the time, the place, and the personages involved, some fifty years following the Battle of Thermopylae. The author spares no details as he chronicles (far more graphic than the Greek historians did!) not only this complex leader but of the battles, the intrigues, the conflicts of and among the Greeks of the time. This classic tug of war between Athens of the Delian League and Sparta of the Peloponnesian League waged on and on, for some thirty years, and among the memorable events are some of the greatest debacles of war history coming at the time of Athenian drama--when such luminaries as Socrates, Sophocles, and Pericles--to name a few--were stellar. Alcibiades exemplifies, perhaps, the consummate politician--he possessed the vital qualifications to be a leader: he was handsome, eloquent, resourceful, daring, and brilliant. And equally effective as a general! Of course, all these qualities also served not only to haunt him, but were responsible for his own death--assassination by Polemides, ¿for the good of Athens,¿ of course. Without Alcibiades, alas, Athens lost the war, and, like Rip Van Winkle, the rest is history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2000

    High marks for the writing, Less for the reading

    Steven Pressfield is an excellent writer! Some of his sentences and paragraphs can make you stop and just plain admire how well he can write. Tides of War earns a 4 star rating for the writing but only 3 for the reading from me. It's worthwhile, for sure, but somewhat disappointing. The task of bringing a 27 year war to life is daunting, for sure, and, perhaps, for this reason, Mr. Pressfield had to choose too little of what he could depict in a novel of reasonable length . I turned to this book to learn more about the Peloponnesian War and though I did, I wanted to learn more and was not satisfied with what I did learn. The action sequences were good and, in some cases, great, but, there were not enough of them and/or not enough length for any one of them for this reader's taste. Alcibiades is a fascinating character, but, I also feel that the amount of print given his character is not enough for me to know him as vividly as I would have liked or as I expected. This book is worthwhile and worth a read so long as your expectations aren't very great/deep for the subject(s). More please, Mr. Pressfield, but take care to bite off a more chewably-sized subject and do it the justice you surely can with your skillful pen!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2000

    Good book, but too drawn out

    Covering 'thrice nine years' of war is a daunting task, and Tides of War fell just shy of the mark. It seems that the book focused more on the life and trials of Polemides, and the most interesting aspect of the book was following 'the men in the line' rather than Alcibiades himself, who seemed too shallow and selfish a character to merit being the protagonist of an otherwise good book. With the exception of the siege of Syracuse, the book lacked a lot of what made Gates of Fire such great reading, focusing so much detail on the events of fewer than ten years and literally bringing their characters to life. Following Polemides, the book did very well, one could not but empathize with someone who endured so much and watched his nation fall from the summit of its greatness in so short a time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2000

    Focus

    I had higher hopes for this fictional historical account of the Peloponnesian War. On the heels of the spellbinding Gates of Fire, I expected as much if not more from Pressfield's latest offering. I wanted to experience naval and land warfare from the perspective of the men fighting at the front, but unfortunately Pressfield gives us only glimpses of this type of narrative style. You are immersed for only a few pages and then whisked away to something else in the story. Tackling a 27 year war is just too lofty an undertaking in one book. Moving too fast, the reader is unable to find passion and liking to any of the characters. The main focus Alcibiades (an Athenian Hero and traitor) is a character of dubious qualities, unmatched on the battlefield his tragic flaws cripple the empire he is trying to build and heralds his banishment by his fellow Athenians. The novel dances from Trace to Lacedaemon to Athens and just never quite finds it's place on the scene. It certainly has it's moments and is enjoyable only if you revel in historical fiction, so I will grant Tides of War 3 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2000

    A Bland Book

    Tides of war was not nearly as good as Pressfield's last novel, Gates of Fire. The story was slow, the narration clumsy, and the characters were uninteresting. Focusing on a 27 year war in one book really didn't leave Pressfield any time to focus on individual events, thus the book had no depth. While Gates of Fire held my attention, I had to work doggedly just to finish this book. For his next book, maybe he should try another battle, like the Battle of Marathon, but an entire war needs more than one book. Moreover, this Alcibiades guy was a weak character to focus on. He never really did anything except stir the pot. The war would have been shorter if it hadn't been for him, so I never really could like him. I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    Alcibiades from a Distance

    Unlike the author's superb Gates of Fire this book does not have great dramatic tension or characters one cares about. Alcibiades, viewed from the outside, committing treason again and again, is fascinating but not the stuff of a tragic hero. There are several first person points of view that detract from the story. It's still a better than average read for those who like historical fiction. But if you were spellbound by Gates of Fire as I was, you may be in for a letdown.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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