A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 0812969707

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

One of our most provocative military historians, Victor Davis Hanson has given us painstakingly researched and pathbreaking accounts of wars ranging from classical antiquity to the twenty-first century. Now he juxtaposes an ancient conflict with our most urgent modern concerns to create his most engrossing work to date, A War Like No Other.

Over the course of a generation, the Hellenic city-states of Athens and Sparta fought a bloody conflict that resulted in the collapse of Athens and the end of its golden age. Thucydides wrote the standard history of the Peloponnesian War, which has given readers throughout the ages a vivid and authoritative narrative. But Hanson offers readers something new: a complete chronological account that reflects the political background of the time, the strategic thinking of the combatants, the misery of battle in multifaceted theaters, and important insight into how these events echo in the present.

Hanson compellingly portrays the ways Athens and Sparta fought on land and sea, in city and countryside, and details their employment of the full scope of conventional and nonconventional tactics, from sieges to targeted assassinations, torture, and terrorism. He also assesses the crucial roles played by warriors such as Pericles and Lysander, artists, among them Aristophanes, and thinkers including Sophocles and Plato.

Hanson’s perceptive analysis of events and personalities raises many thought-provoking questions: Were Athens and Sparta like America and Russia, two superpowers battling to the death? Is the Peloponnesian War echoed in the endless, frustrating conflicts of Vietnam, Northern Ireland, and the current Middle East? Or was it more like America’s own Civil War, a brutal rift that rent the fabric of a glorious society, or even this century’s “red state—blue state” schism between liberals and conservatives, a cultural war that manifestly controls military policies? Hanson daringly brings the facts to life and unearths the often surprising ways in which the past informs the present.

Brilliantly researched, dynamically written, A War Like No Other is like no other history of this important war.

From the Hardcover edition.

















But mostly they were waiting for the requested horsemen from Athens. Eight months at Catana were essentially lost. From Athens at last came 250 experienced riders, 30 mounted archers, and 300 talents to purchase horses from Segesta and Catana. The fact remained that the Athenians had essentially accomplished nothing since the prior summer. Through inaction they had emboldened the Syracusans and very soon also their old Peloponnesian enemies on the Greek mainland. Nevertheless, with the arrival of

a few other Spartan allies counted only a little over 100 ships, less than half the size of the active Athenian imperial fleet. What triremes the Peloponnesians had existed only because of recent breakneck Corinthian efforts at naval construction to match the fleet of its rival Corcyra, but there was little accumulated capital to ensure that even a 100-ship armada could be deployed for very long. Warriors in heavy armor perched on tossing decks and powered by bought rowers were not Sparta’s idea

the ways in which maritime states of the “worse” people enjoy advantages: sea powers can govern the importation of products of other states; they can raid and then leave far more easily than infantry forces and have considerable more range in operations; their fleets guarantee more commerce; and they are familiar with a far greater diversity of peoples. For the complex nature of the revolution of 411 at Athens, start with Lintott, Violence, 135–55. 50. Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.2.14–15. After the

theory could win over an entire state to their side. The Athenian general Eurymedon, remember, who commanded the second Athenian fleet of 60 ships, watched the killing proceed even though he had some 12,000 seamen and 500 hoplites under his command who could have easily restored order. And Corcyra was to experience more killing and stasis for years; in 410 another 1,500 people were killed, seventeen years after the initial outbreak. Still, not a single important ally of Sparta—Megara, Corinth,

break, he might turn around what was left of its nine-foot length to employ the reverse end, which was outfitted with a bronze spike, sometimes called a “lizarder” (saurotêr). Some hoplites stumbled and fell, only to be stomped on by oncoming infantry who slammed their upraised spears downward, the butt spike providing the coup de grâce as it smashed through the unfortunate man’s backplate into his chest or stomach. A small iron sword was carried in case the spear was lost altogether. Vase

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