The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War

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The first volume of Donald Kagan's acclaimed four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War offers a new evaluation of the origins and causes of the conflict, based on evidence produced by modern scholarship and on a careful reconsideration of the ancient texts. He focuses his study on the question: Was the war inevitable, or could it have been avoided?

Kagan takes issue with Thucydides' view that the war was inevitable, that the rise of the Athenian Empire in a world with an existing rival power made a clash between the two a certainty. Asserting instead that the origin of the war "cannot, without serious distortion, be treated in isolation from the internal history of the states involved," Kagan traces the connections between domestic politics, constitutional organization, and foreign affairs. He further examines the evidence to see what decisions were made that led to war, at each point asking whether a different decision would have been possible.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Kagan's book is based on complete control of both the ancient evidence and modern scholarship."—Choice

"Kagan's book is a contribution of considerable distinction, scrupulously fair, carefully argued, and lucidly written. And, what is more, it is persuasive. . . . Kagan sets out the story in detail and with acumen. The case has been adumbrated before—but never presented with such thoroughness."—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"A profound analysis of the relation of strategy to politics, a sympathetic but searching critique of Thucydides' masterpiece, and a trenchant assessment of the voluminous modern literature on the war."—Bernard Knox, The Atlantic Monthly (reviewing the four-volume series)

"The temptation to acclaim Kagan's four volumes as the foremost work of history produced in North America in the twentieth century is vivid. . . . Here is an achievement that not only honors the criteria of dispassion and of unstinting scruple which mark the best of modern historicism but honors its readers. To read Kagan's 'History of the Peloponnesian War' at the present hour is to be almost unbearably tested."—George Steiner, The New Yorker (reviewing the four-volume series)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801495564
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1989
  • Series: A New History of the Peloponnesian War Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 1,003,086
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University.

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Table of Contents


Part One: The Alliance System and the Division of the Greek World
1. The Spartan Alliance
2. The Origins of the Athenian Empire
3. Sparta after the Persian War
4. Athens after the Persian War

Part Two: The First Peloponnesian War
5. The War in Greece
6. The Crisis in the Aegean
7. The End of the War

Part Three: The Years of Peace
8. Athenian Politics: The Victory of Pericles
9. Athens and the West: The Foundation of Thurii
10. The Samian Rebellion
11. The Consolidation of the Empire
12. Athenian Politics on the Eve of the War

Part Four: The Final Crisis
13. Epidamnus
14. Corcyra
15. Megara
16. Potidaea
17. Sparta
18. Athens

Part Five: Conclusions
19. The Causes of the War
20. Thucydides and the Inevitability of the War

A. The Willingness of the Members of the Delian League to Accept Athenian Leadership
B. The Historicity of Diodoms' Account of the Spartan Assembly in 475
C. Chronology of Events between ca. 470–453
D. Reconstruction of the Athenian Tribute Lists
E. The Papyrus Decree
F. The Foundation of Thurii
G. Athenian Actions in the West between the Wars
H. Athenian Treatment of Byzantium
I. The Date of Pericles' Pontic Expedition
J. The Site and Date of Brea
K. The Date of the Battle of Potidaea

General Index
Index of Ancient Authors and Inscriptions
Index of Modern Authors

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