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

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Overview

Brilliant at war, a master of politics, and a charismatic lover, Alcibiades was Athens’ favorite son and the city’s greatest general.

A prodigal follower of Socrates, he embodied both the best and the worst of the Golden Age of Greece. A commander on both land and sea, he led his armies to victory after victory.

But like the heroes in a great Greek tragedy, he was a victim of his own pride, arrogance, excess, and ambition. Accused of crimes ...

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

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Overview

Brilliant at war, a master of politics, and a charismatic lover, Alcibiades was Athens’ favorite son and the city’s greatest general.

A prodigal follower of Socrates, he embodied both the best and the worst of the Golden Age of Greece. A commander on both land and sea, he led his armies to victory after victory.

But like the heroes in a great Greek tragedy, he was a victim of his own pride, arrogance, excess, and ambition. Accused of crimes against the state, he was banished from his beloved Athens, only to take up arms in the service of his former enemies.

For nearly three decades, Greece burned with war and Alcibiades helped bring victories to both sides — and ended up trusted by neither.

Narrated from death row by Alcibiades’ bodyguard and assassin, a man whose own love and loathing for his former commander mirrors the mixed emotions felt by all Athens, Tides of War tells an epic saga of an extraordinary century, a war that changed history, and a complex leader who seduced a nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Pressfield’s battlefield scenes rank with the most convincing ever written.”
USA Today

“Pressfield serves up not just hair-raising battle scenes ... But many moments of valor and cowardice, lust and bawdy humor.... Even more impressively, he delivers a nuanced portrait of ancient athens.”
Esquire

“Unabashedly brilliant, epic, intelligent, and moving.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Pressfield’s attention to historic detail is exquisite.... This novel will remain with the reader long after the final chapter is finished.”
Library Journal

“Astounding, historically accurate tale ... Pressfield is a master storyteller, especially adept in his graphic and embracing descriptions of the land and naval battles, political intrigues and colorful personalities, which come together in an intense and credible portrait of war-torn Greece.”
Publishers Weekly

Esquire
Pressfield serves up not just hair-raising battle scenes ... But many moments of valor and cowardice, lust and bawdy humor.... Even more impressively, he delivers a nuanced portrait of ancient athens.
USA Today
Pressfield’s battlefield scenes rank with the most convincing ever written.
USA Today
Pressfield’s battlefield scenes rank with the most convincing ever written.
Esquire
Pressfield serves up not just hair-raising battle scenes...but many moments of valor and cowardice, lust and bawdy humor. Even more impressively, he delivers a nuanced portrait of ancient Athens.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Perhaps the Peloponnesian War, which lasted 27 years and featured an epic list of people and places, just doesn't lend itself to the six-hour audio format, for not even renowned Shakespearean actor Jacobi's reading gives this novel the sense of personal drama it requires. Pressfield (Gates of Fire) focuses his story on Alcibiades, the legendary hero whose strength, beauty and courage embodied ancient Greek ideals. An Athenian trained in Sparta, Alcibiades appears divinely well suited to feed his country's hunger for military victories. But democracy in its nascent stage being no less tainted than in its current manifestation, Alcibiades is feared for his popularity and ultimately exiled on a trumped-up charge. Once in the camp of Athens's enemies, he proves as unmatchable a foe as he could have been a champion. Unfortunately, the pace of this recording, as necessitated by the breadth of events covered in its relatively short length, lends it all the emotional depth of a textbook. And unless listeners have studied their ancient Greek geography, they will find themselves rewinding often to try to keep up with the movements of all the ships and forces. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 13). (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
The battle of Thermopylae doesn't sound like best seller material, but Pressfield made it work in Gates of Fire. Here he moves on to Greek military leader Alcibiades (c.450-404 BCE). Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553381399
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 426
  • Sales rank: 246,008
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Pressfield is author of the international bestseller Gates of Fire, an epic novel of the battle of Thermopylae, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

I

My Grandfather Jason

My grandfather, Jason the son of Alexicles of the district of Alopece, died just before sunset on the fourteenth day of Boedromion, one year past, two months prior to his ninety-second birthday. He was the last of that informal but fiercely devoted circle of comrades and friends who attended the philosopher Socrates.

The span of my grandfather’s years ran from the imperial days of Pericles, the construction of the Parthenon and Erechtheum, through the Great Plague, the rise and fall of Alcibiades, and the full tenure of that calamitous twenty-seven-year conflagration called in our city the Spartan War and known throughout greater Greece, as recorded by the historian Thucydides, as the Peloponnesian War.

As a young man my grandfather served as a sail lieutenant at Sybota, Potidaea, and Scione and later in the East as a trierarch and squadron commander at the battles of Bitch’s Tomb, Abydos (for which he was awarded the prize of valor and incidentally lost an eye and the use of his right leg), and the Arginousai Islands. As a private citizen he spoke out in the Assembly, alone save Euryptolemus and Axiochus, against the mob in defense of the Ten Generals. In his years he buried two wives and eleven children. He served his city from her peak of preeminence, mistress of two hundred tributary states, to the hour of her vanquishment at the hands of her most inclement foes. In short he was a man who not only witnessed but participated in most of the significant events of the modern era and who knew personally many of its principal actors.

In the waning seasons of my grandfather’s life, when his vigor began to fail and he could move about only with the aid of a companion’s arm, I took to visiting him daily. There appears ever one among a family, the physicians testify, whose disposition invites and upon whom falls the duty to succor its elderly and infirm members.

To me this was never a chore. Not only did I hold my grandfather in the loftiest esteem, but I delighted in his society with an intensity that frequently bordered upon the ecstatic. I could listen to him talk for hours and, I fear, tired him more severely than charity served with my inquiries and importunities.

To me he was like one of our hardy Attic vines, assaulted season after season by the invader’s torch and ax, blistered by summer sun, frost-jacketed in winter, yet unkillable, ever-enduring, drawing strength from deep within the earth to yield up despite all privations or perhaps because of them the sweetest and most mellifluent of wines. I felt keenly that with his passing an era would close, not alone of Athens’ greatness but of a caliber of man with whom we contemporary specimens stood no longer familiar, nor to whose standard of virtue we could hope to obtain.

The loss to typhus of my own dear son, aged two and a half, earlier in that season, had altered every aspect of my being. Nowhere could I discover consolation save in the company of my grandfather. That fragile purchase we mortals hold upon existence, the fleeting nature of our hours beneath the sun, stood vividly upon my heart; only with him could I find footing upon some stony but stabler soil.

My regimen upon those mornings was to rise before dawn and, summoning my dog Sentinel (or, more accurately, responding to his summons), ride down to the port along the Carriage Road, returning through the foothills to our family’s mains at Holm Oak Hill. The early hours were a balm to me. From the high road one could see the naval crews already at drill in the harbor. We passed other gentlemen upon the track to their estates, saluted athletes training along the roads, and greeted the young cavalrymen at their exercises in the hills. Upon completion of the morning’s business of the farm, I stabled my mount and proceeded on foot, alone save Sentinel, up the sere olive-dotted slope to my grandfather’s cottage.

I brought him his lunch. We would talk in the shade of the overlook porch, or sometimes simply sit, side by side, with Sentinel reclining on the cool stones between us, saying nothing.

“Memory is a queer goddess, whose gifts metamorphose with the passage of the years,” my grandfather observed upon one such afternoon. “One cannot call to mind that which occurred an hour past, yet summon events seventy years gone, as if they were unfolding here and now.”

I interrogated him, often ruthlessly I fear, upon these distant holdings of his heart. Perhaps for his part he welcomed the eager ear of youth, for once launched upon a tale he would pursue its passage, like the tireless campaigner he was, in detail to its close. In his day the scribe’s art had not yet triumphed; the faculty of memory stood unatrophied. Men could recite extended passages from the Iliad and Odyssey, quote stanzas of a hundred hymns, and relate passage and verse of the tragedy attended days previous.

More vivid still stood my grandfather’s recollection of men. He remembered not alone friends and heroes but slaves and horses and dogs, even trees and vines which had graven impress upon his heart. He could summon the memory of some antique sweetheart, seventy-five years gone, and resurrect her mirage in colors so immediate that one seemed to behold her before him, yet youthful and lovely, in the flesh.

I inquired of my grandfather once, whom of all the men he had known he adjudged most exceptional.

“Noblest,” he replied without hesitation, “Socrates. Boldest and most brilliant, Alcibiades. Bravest, Thrasybulus, the Brick. Wickedest, Anytus.”

Impulse prompted a corollary query. “Was there one whom memory has driven deepest? One to whom you find your thoughts returning?”

At this my grandfather drew up. How odd that I should ask, he replied, for yes, there was one man who had, for cause to which he could not give name, been of late much upon his mind. This individual, my grandfather declared, stood not among the ranks of the celebrated or the renowned; he was neither admiral nor archon, nor would his name be found memorialized among the archives, save as a dark and self-condemned footnote.

“Of all I knew, this man could not but be called the most haunted. He was an aristocrat of the district of Acharnae. I helped to defend him once, on trial for his life.”

I was intrigued at once and pressed my grandfather to elaborate. He smiled, declaring that to launch upon this enterprise may take many hours, for the events of the man’s tale transpired over decades and covered on land and sea most of the known world. Such prospect, far from daunting me, made me the more eager to hear. Please, I entreated; the day is well spent, but let us at least make a beginning.

“You’re a greedy whelp, aren’t you?”

“To hear you speak, Grandfather, the greediest.”

He smiled. Let us start, then, and see where the tale takes us.

“In those days,” my grandfather began, “that class of professional rhetorician and specialist in affairs of the courts had not yet arisen. On trial a man spoke in his own defense. If he wished, however, he might appoint an associate — a father or uncle, perhaps a friend or gentleman of influence — to assist in preparing his case.

“By letter from prison this man solicited me. This was odd, as I shared no personal acquaintance with the fellow. He and I had served simultaneously in several theaters of war and had held positions of responsibility in conjunction with the younger Pericles, son of the great Pericles and Aspasia, whom both of us were privileged to call friend; this, however, was far from uncommon in those days and could in nowise be construed as constituting a bond. Further this individual was, to say the least, notorious. Though an officer of acknowledged valor and long and distinguished service to the state, he had entered Athens at her hour of capitulation not only beneath the banner of the Spartan foe but clad in her mantle of scarlet. I believed, and told him so, that one guilty of such infamy must suffer the supreme penalty, nor could I contribute in any way to such a criminal’s exoneration.

“The man persisted nonetheless. I visited him in his cell and listened to his story. Though at that time Socrates himself had been convicted and sentenced to death, and in fact resided awaiting execution within the walls of the same prison, and to his aid I must before all attend, not to mention the affairs of my own family, I agreed to assist the man in the preparation of his defense. I did so not because I believed he could be acquitted or deserved to be (he himself readily ratified his own inculpation), but because I felt the publication of his history must be accomplished, if only before a jury, to hold the mirror up to the democracy which, by its conviction of the noblest citizen it had ever produced, my master Socrates, had evinced such wickedness as to crown and consummate its own self-immolation.”

My grandfather held silent for long moments. One could see his eye turn inward and his heart summon the memory of this individual and the tone and tenor of that time.

“What was the man’s name, Grandfather?”

“Polemides the son of Nicolaus.”

I recalled the name vaguely but could not place it in quarter or context.

“He was the man,” my grandfather prompted, “who assassinated Alcibiades.”

II

Murder in Melissa

The assassination party [my grandfather continued] was led by two nobles of Persia acting under orders of the Great King’s governor of Phrygia. They proceeded by ship from Abydos on the Hellespont to the stronghold in Thrace to which Alcibiades had repaired in his final exile, whence, discovering their prey absconded, the party pursued him back across the straits to Asia. The Persians were accompanied by three Peers of Sparta whose chief, Endius, had been Alcibiades’ guest-friend and intimate since boyhood. These had been appointed by the home government, not to participate in the murder, but to serve as witnesses, to confirm with their own eyes the extinction of this man, the last left alive whom they still feared. Such was Alcibiades’ renown for escape and resurrection that many believed he could cheat even that final magistrate, Death.

A professional assassin, Telamon of Arcadia, accompanied the party, along with some half dozen henchmen of his selection, to plan and execute the action. His confederate was the Athenian Polemides.

Polemides had been a friend of Alcibiades. He had served as captain of marines throughout Alcibiades’ spectacular sequence of victories in the Hellespontine War, had acted as his bodyguard when the conqueror returned in glory to Athens, and had stood upon his right hand when Alcibiades restored the procession by land in celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries. I recall vividly his appearance, at Samos, upon Alcibiades’ recall from exile to the fleet. The moment was incendiary, with twenty thousand sailors, marines, and heavy infantry, distraught for their own fate and the survival of their country, enveloping the mole they called Little Choma as the longboat touched and Polemides stepped off, shielding his charge from the mob which seemed as ripe to stone as salute him. I studied Alcibiades’ expression; nothing could have been clearer than that he trusted the man at his shoulder absolutely with his life.

It was this Polemides’ duty now, some seven years subsequent, to draw the victim out and with his cohort, the assassin Telamon, perform the slaughter. For this his fee was a talent of silver from the treasury of Persia.

Of all this the man informed me, concealing nothing, within the first minutes of our initial interview. He did so, he stated, to ensure that I — whose family shared bonds of marriage with the Alcmaeonids, Alcibiades’ family on his mother’s side, and myself through my devotion to Socrates, whose link to Alcibiades was well known — would know the worst at once and could pull out, if I wished.

The actual indictment against the man made no citation of Alcibiades.

Polemides was charged in the death of a boatswain of the fleet named Philemon, who had been murdered some few years prior in a brothel brawl at Samos. A second impeachment was preferred against him, that of treason. It was under this rubric, clearly, that the jurors would read that more consequential slaying. Such obliquity was not uncommon in those days; yet its indirection was compounded by the specific statute under which his accusers had brought him to trial.

Polemides had been arraigned neither under a writ of eisangelia, the standard indictment for treason, nor a dike phonou, a straight charge of homicide, both of which would have permitted him to elect voluntary exile, sparing his life. Rather he had been denounced (by a pair of known rogues, brothers and stooges of acknowledged foes of the democracy) under an endeixis kakourgias, a far more general category of “wrongdoing.” This struck one at first as preposterous, the issue of prosecutors ignorant of the law. Further reflection, however, revealed its cunning. Under this category of indictment, the accused may not only be imprisoned before and throughout trial, without option of voluntary exile, but denied bail as well. The death penalty still obtained, and the trial would take place, not before the Council or Areopagus, but a common people’s court, where such terms as “traitor” and “friend of Sparta” could be counted upon to inflame the jurors’ ire. Clearly Polemides’ accusers wanted him dead, by the right hand or the left. As far as one could predict, they would get their wish. For all those who hated Alcibiades and blamed him for the fall of our nation, yet many still loved him. These would raise no remonstrance to the execution of the man who had betrayed and slain their champion. Still, Polemides observed, his accusers were, he was certain, of the opposite party — those who had conspired with their country’s enemies, seeking to purchase their own preservation at the price of their nation’s ruin.

As to the man Polemides himself, his appearance was both striking and singular, dark-eyed, of slightly less than average height, extremely thick-muscled, and, though well past forty years, as lean through the middle as a schoolboy. His beard was the color of iron, and his skin despite imprisonment retained the dark copper of one who has spent much of his life at sea. Scars of fire, spear, and sword crisscrossed the flesh of his arms, legs, and back. Upon his brow, though bleached by exposure to the elements, stood vivid the koppa slave brand of the Syracusans, token of that captivity endured by survivors of the Sicilian calamity and emblematic of unspeakable suffering.

Did I abhor him? I was prepared to. Yet in the flesh his clarity of thought and expression, his candor and utter want of self-exoneration, disarmed my prejudice. His crimes notwithstanding, the man appeared to my imagination much as might have Odysseus, stepping forth from the songs of Homer. Nor did he comport himself in the brutish or insolent manner of the soldier for hire; on the contrary his demeanor and self-presentation were those of a gentleman. What wine he had, he proffered at once and insisted upon vacating for his guest the solitary stool his cell possessed, pillowing it for my comfort with the fleece he used to bundle the chamber’s single bare pallet.

Throughout that initial interview he performed as we spoke various calisthenics intended to maintain fitness despite confinement. He could place his heel upon the wall above his head and, standing flat on the other sole, set his forehead with ease upon his elevated shin. Once when I brought him some eggs, he placed one within the cage of his fist and, extending his arm, challenged me either to prize his fingers apart or crush the egg. I tried, employing all my strength, and failed, as he grinned at me mischievously the while.

I never felt afraid with the man or of him. In fact as the days progressed I came to embrace a profound sympathy for the fellow, despite his numerous criminal deeds and lack of repentance therefor. His name, Polemides, as you know, means “child of war.” But he was not a child of just any war, rather one unprecedented in scale and duration and distinguished beyond all previous conflicts by its debasement of that code of honor, justice, and voluntary restraint by whose tenets all prior strife among Hellenes had been conducted. It was indeed this war, the first modern war, which forged our narrator’s destiny and directed it to its end. He began as a soldier and ended as an assassin. How was I any different? Who may disaffirm that I or any other did not enact in the shadows of our private hearts, by commission or omission, that same dark history played out in daylight by our countryman Polemides?

He was, like me, a product of our time. As to the harbor, high road and low follow their several courses along the shore, so his path had paralleled my own and that of the main of our contemporaries, only passing through different country.

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Customer Reviews

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( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • 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 January 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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