Peloponnesian War: Athens, Sparta and the Struggle for Greece

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The Peloponnesian War, the epic struggle between Athens and Sparta, occupies a vital part in military history because of the enormous military and political changes it inspired. In this brilliant book, Sir Nigel Bagnall sets out to analyze and clarify the war, describing in compelling detail the events that led up to it. His meticulous attention to historical context offers a refreshing contrast to traditional accounts.

The conflict lasted from 431 to 404 B.C., until the ...

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Overview

The Peloponnesian War, the epic struggle between Athens and Sparta, occupies a vital part in military history because of the enormous military and political changes it inspired. In this brilliant book, Sir Nigel Bagnall sets out to analyze and clarify the war, describing in compelling detail the events that led up to it. His meticulous attention to historical context offers a refreshing contrast to traditional accounts.

The conflict lasted from 431 to 404 B.C., until the confederation led by Sparta finally conquered Athens and her allies. Bagnall dissects the complex relationship between the two states and closely studies their political conduct in the run-up to war, offering a riveting account of the strategy and tactics involved.

He also outlines its innovations and lessons, which would have enormous military repercussions for future generations. These include the importance of having clear politico-strategic objectives, the interplay of maritime and land operations, and the problems of achieving cohesion in an alliance in which all the participants see themselves as fellow citizens.

The Peloponnesian War is an important book that shines new light on an always relevant subject.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Students and enthusiasts of ancient Greece and military history will welcome this excellent perspective on a watershed event." —-Publishers Weekly

British Praise for The Peloponnesian War

"One of the best books on this complicated conflict."

—-Good Book Guide

"Bagnall's analysis . . . [has] powerful contemporary resonances."

—-The Independent

Praise for The Punic Wars

"A fine work of military history and a lucid guide to the subject."

—-New York Sun

"[Bagnall's] expertise finds fruitful application in his examination of the Punic Wars. . . . Ancient-history buffs . . . will be eager for Bagnall's concise and elegant insights."

—-Booklist

"Offers a clear and well-organized military history."

—-Publishers Weekly

"A fine piece of military and political history . . . a clear and convincing account of what happened."

—-Economist

"A serious and well-informed book on the wars between Rome and Carthage. Gives much food for reflection."

—-Spectator (UK)

Library Journal
The Peloponnesian War, a pivotal period in history, benefits from the late military historian Sir Nigel Bagnall's analysis of the strategy and tactics used by Greek city-states Sparta and Athens in their 27-year-long conflict (431-04 B.C.E.). Bagnall (The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean), who passed away in 2002, had been the British army's chief of the general staff until his retirement. In his final work, he brings a military perspective to the colossal struggle between the two powers, whose opposing strengths, though distinct, made them such a match for each other. He also makes comparisons to familiar 20th-century figures and conflicts that will aid reader understanding. The politics and social background to the conflict are not neglected, however, with such key characters as Pericles of Athens well fleshed out by the author. Bagnall provides a historical survey section with good reference material for readers who may struggle to keep track of which side the city-states in Greece allied themselves with during the war. Well written and researched, with maps of the campaign theaters and a list of principal characters, this work is recommended for larger public and all academic library collections. Sean Michael Fleming, Lebanon P. L., NH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Methodical account of the historic battle between Athens and Sparta that also examines the conflict's origins and its effects on future military regimes. Bagnall's pages strain under a wealth of information as the late British soldier and scholar (1927-2002) strives to detail every facet of the Peloponnesian War. He begins his companion piece to The Punic Wars (1990) by indicating that the book is laid out in much the same way as its predecessor. Various maps delineate the regions affected; a subsequent brief overview sketches the major characters involved. But brevity isn't really this author's forte, so the background material is followed by an assiduously researched chapter ("An Historical Survey") that conveys a welter of information about the various areas. Bagnall carefully builds up to the outbreak of war in 431 b.c. by examining how the Athenian lust for power and supremacy ultimately led to the conflict, then lets loose with his lengthy account of the war in "The Central Theatre." As battles occasionally occur on small yet significant islands, some cross-referencing to the author's earlier accounts of various places and characters may be necessary for the casual reader, although Bagnall always takes the time to examine how figures such as Athenian generals Pericles and Demosthenes fared in the midst of the war. It endured for an incredible 27 years-albeit with a six-year truce known as the Peace of Nicias, which began in 421 b.c.-every one of them recounted here in dry, heavily academic prose. The author doesn't spend much time looking at the far-reaching effects the Spartans' victory had on the globe, instead choosing to retool his epilogue from The Punic Wars tobriefly examine how military procedures were irrevocably changed by the war. Likely to appeal only to military history buffs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312342159
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/25/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Sir Nigel Bagnall was born in India in 1927. He joined the British Army in 1945 and served in Palestine, Malaya, Borneo, the Canal Zone, Cyprus, Singapore, and Germany. He ended his distinguished military career as chief of the General Staff in London, and went on to become an honorary fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He died in 2002.

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Table of Contents

1 The Greeks and their background 45
2 The Persians and their background 68
3 The expeditions of Mardonius and Darius 493-490 B.C. 76
4 Xerxes invades 480 B.C. 84
5 The inter-war years 480-431 B.C. 112
6 The central theatre 431-423 B.C. 131
7 The overseas theatres 431-423 B.C. 167
8 An unquiet peace 421-415 B.C. 183
9 The expedition to Sicily 415 B.C. 201
10 Gylippus turns the tide 414-413 B.C. 224
11 Persian intervention and political unrest in Athens 413-411 B.C. 252
12 The struggle for the Hellespont and the fall of Athens 411-404 B.C. 279
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2006

    Hreat history book

    This is an insightful meticulous look at a key pivotal moment in history, the twenty-seven year (with some interim periods of peace during the period) war between democratic Athens and totalitarian Sparta for supremacy of the Mediterranean. The work can stand alone but appears to be a wonderful companion piece to Nigel Bagnall¿s Punic War treatise and not as coffee table book ends, but as an insightful pair that armchair historians will appreciate. Though aimed at military historical aficionados, the late Mr. Bagnall goes into immense at times excruciating (at least to this reviewer) detail of what happened and to a degree why. For instance, readers get a microscopic look at how the Sparta blockade worked to cut off Athenian supply lines in spite of the latter having naval superiority. Most interesting is the lessons learned from this Greek tragedy that apply today as the Athenian democratic leaders forced the confrontation in an attempt to insure the dominance in the region against their rival (much different than what is taught in school). Clearly targeting a specific audience, the PELOPONNESIAN WAR is a well written dissertation on a critical relevant period that impacted the western world we know today. P Harriet Klausner

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