• The History of the Peloponnesian War

  • By: Thucydides
  • Narrated by: Mike Rogers
  • Length: 22 hrs and 36 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The rivalry between two of the dominant city states of Ancient Greece, Athens and Sparta, erupted into a war lasting nearly 30 years and was to have a dramatic effect on the balance of power in the area. Between 431 and 404 BCE, the two cities battled it out on land and sea, aided by their alliances with neighbouring states: Athens’ Delian League vigorously opposed Sparta’s Peloponnesian League in a conflict which effectively involved the whole region. 

Thucydides, in his role as an Athenian general, saw the war from close quarters, and his famous account of it, The History of the Peloponnesian War, is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding early histories. He observes in considerable detail the way in which the fortunes of war swung one way and then another. Sparta was known for its vigorous martial training, expert especially in land battles and Athens, very much a centre of high culture and known for successful sea battles - the combination proved crucial in defeating the Persian invasion 50 years earlier. Thucydides explains what happened when these two proud states came to war. Conflict became inevitable when Sparta became increasingly concerned with the growing power and dominance of the Athenian empire in the region. 

This is essentially a military history - tactics and armoury are much in evidence - though it is replete with other important details including portraits and speeches of key figures such as Pericles (the funeral oration given to mark the dead in the first year of the war) and the controversial Athenian general Alcibiades. But Thucydides also describes the destructive effect of war on ordinary citizens, the atrocities committed by both sides, disease, the effect of rain and storms, the influence of power blocs, military overconfidence and political decisions made well behind the battle fronts which interfered with the progress and success of the war. 

He recounts the disastrous Sicilian Expedition where a strong Athenian force was virtually destroyed at Syracuse. Thucydides’ History, divided into eight books, ends abruptly in 410 BCE, six years before the conclusion of hostilities, suggesting his death. It is unlikely he ever saw the final defeat of Athens by Sparta in a naval battle, the destruction of the walls of Athens and the ultimate victory of the Peloponnesian League. Nevertheless, his History remains a vivid portrayal of a vicious and unrelenting war lasting nearly three decades between neighbouring rivals. Presented here in the classical translation by Benjamin Jowett, it is read with engaging immediacy by Mike Rogers.

Public Domain (P)2019 Ukemi Productions Ltd
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Full frontal of war, politics, diplomacy, destruction, plunder

Naval and ground battles; the art of war. Political ideology: Oligarchy vs Democracy. Envoys, diplomats, truces, treaties. Building alliances, marking enemies. Spying and propaganda. Burnt earth destruction. Mass killings and genocide. Taxation, tributes, extortion, and plunder to the victor to supply the money to support the military’s execution of a long and obstinate war covering the Aegean and most of the Mediterranean Sea. The enslavement of the losers. Executing generals and political enemies. Yes, Thucydides’s The History of the Peloponnesian War has all this and more. And Benjamin Jowett provides a clear and modern translation (that could do with some minor clarity). Mike Rogers also gives a powerful narration of this challenging read (so much better than the bombastic Charlton Griffin performance). As a whole, The Peloponnesian War in this volume is, with kindle or hard copy and Audible, a compatible Union.

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An Incomplete Collection of Speeches

My grasp of ancient Greek history is vague at best, so I am using audible's collection of stories from that era to educate myself. I started with Herodutus's Histories and then proceeded to this title. Here are a few things I wish I had know:
One, while the Peloponnesian Wars lasted for 30 years, this book only covers the first 21. It isnt the author's fault that he presumably died before he could complete his work, but it does end abruptly, which is jarring. Also, Thucydides was Athenian, and his bias, while understandable, is readily apparent through most of the story.
Second, at least 60% of this book is speeches given to persuade factions to join an alliance, break an alliance, overthrow a government, or strive for success in battle. So be prepared for more oratory than a recitation of events.
Third, I know I didn't retain a lot of the information in this story. To really grasp it you would need large maps of the country at the time, and some old school felt boards with cities and prominent people printed on cards so you could move them every time an alliance changed.

I still know more than I did when I started, and forcing myself not to zone out during some of the speeches was good mental discipline practice. The narrator had a pleasant voice.

Takeaway: The Greeks of this period would fight each other over anything, saw no dichotomy between calling themselves lovers of freedom while enslaving people, changed alliances with the weather, and were extremely prejudiced about whether one was Dorian or Ionian. I can see why their gifts of oratory are still known today, but I was relieved when I could check this book off as "Complete".

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