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A war like no other : how the Athenians and…
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A war like no other : how the Athenians and Spartans fought the… (urspr publ 2005; utgåvan 2006)

av Victor Davis Hanson

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
896518,257 (3.77)14
From the Publisher: 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.… (mer)
Medlem:neopeius
Titel:A war like no other : how the Athenians and Spartans fought the Peloponnesian War
Författare:Victor Davis Hanson
Info:New York : Random House, 2006, ©2005.
Samlingar:Book, Ditt bibliotek
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A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War av Victor Davis Hanson (2005)

Senast inlagd avprivat bibliotek, rcaf, Triple347, bujeya, DebbieBaker27, DavidCPA, lorenzo.naletto
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Summary: An account of the Peloponnesian War tracing the history, the politics, the strategies, key figures, battles, and how the war was fought.

The war went on for twenty-seven years toward the end of the fifth century BC. One of the first great works of history by Thucydides chronicled the battle. Both Athens and Sparta experienced horrendous losses culminating in the near total destruction of the once-great Athenian naval power at Aegospotami in 405.

Victor Davis Hanson, a noted classical scholar, renders an account both of the history of the war but also who fought it and how they fought. The two principle powers were quite different. Sparta was an oligarchy, Athens a democracy. Sparta had a more powerful land army. Athens was a sea power with a protected port and good walls allowing them to endure siege as well as project their power. To begin, Sparta invaded every year or two overland, ravaging the countryside but exhausting itself while the population of Attica sheltered in Athens. Very few Athenians died in battle but the city was eviscerated by plague resulting from crowded and unhygienic conditions. Meanwhile the Athenian navy raided the coastal cities of Sparta. They fought ten years to a draw ending with the temporary Peace of Nicias.

The peace lasted until 415 when Athens decided to mount an attack on Sicily, a Spartan ally, stirred up by charismatic general Alcibiades. A diffident landing followed by an inconclusive siege gave time for Syracuse to arm and be reinforced. In 413 they defeated Athens navy and then chased down the land forces for a crushing defeat. Still Athens rebuilt while Sparta, aided by Alcibiades, who had changed sides, and material help from Persia, finally built a navy to rival what was left of the Athenian navy. They fought a series of battles in Ionia culminating in the utter defeat at Aegospotami in 405, and Athens surrender to Sparta, led by Lysander.

War has always been gruesome. Hanson describes the particular gruesomeness of war in this time, whether it was destruction by fire or the ravages of disease, which took Athens singular leader Pericles. War unravels any war ethic. Hanson chronicles the killing of civilians and captives, especially in later stages of the war. He considers the hoplites and the vulnerabilities of their armor to thrusts to the groin and neck, and lightly armored fighters with spears or armors. Hoplites were mostly fitted to fight other hoplites, and often suffered relatively light losses. They need mounted forces to protect their flanks. The lack of horses was a key factor in the defeat at Syracuse. Siege warfare had not yet been mastered. Siege towers and catapults emerged after these wars. Mostly, they built siege walls, rams, and tried to penetrate walls and gates with rams.

Ultimately the war hinged on the trireme, the three-tiered rowing vessel. The impasse between the two powers ended when Alcibiades, rejected by Athens, persuaded the Spartans that only by becoming a sea power could they defeat Athens. The defeat at Syracuse pointed the way. The trireme depended mostly on slaves, up to 200 per vessel in three banks of rowers. A rammed trireme could quickly sink with the likely death of all. This happened to 170 of 180 triremes of the Athenians at Aegospotami.

The fall of Athens resulted from a variety of unforeseen errors. Pericles was an unparalleled leader, but with no able successor. Alcibiades was brilliant but never trusted, and often absent at key moments. The Sicilian venture spelled the beginning of the end, depleting both manpower and treasury. The Athenians ignored Alicibiades, once again on their side, exposing themselves to surprise attack at Aegospotami.

Hanson traces the errors that arise from both hubris and the “fog of war.” These wars, like many were filled with folly. The protracted conflict inevitably deteriorated to greater and greater brutality. Mediocre leadership cost the lives of thousands. The inadequacies of the technology of war led to innovation and more effective ways of killing. Alliances end up feeding the allies. Eventually both Persia and Thebes become the real threat.

It all began with the decision of Sparta to challenge the growth of Athenian power. A venture intended to last a few months turned into a 27 year conflict. Such are often the illusions of war. Hanson uses the lens of one protracted war to challenge us to ask the same questions about war in our own day. ( )
  BobonBooks | Jul 7, 2021 |
For a layperson like myself this was an easy-to-read and fascinating introduction to the Peloponnesian War. Unorthodox in its approach, it was not strictly chronological. As the subtitle indicates, it tells HOW the two enemies fought this war. The title is taken from Thucydides, the historian, who wrote extensively on the war. He called it a "war like no other." Each chapter treated a theme: Why the war was fought; the Spartan ultimately unsuccessful scorched earth policy in Attica; outbreak and extent of disease; hoplite warfare; growing importance of horses and cavalry in warfare; naval warfare, then the author's conclusions. I liked the analogies the author drew between incidents then and in subsequent warfare through the years. I was introduced to new names of military and naval leaders such as Brasidas; Archidamus; Nicias. I didn't realize the extent of Alcibiades' treachery. The man was certainly the quintessential amoral opportunist! Now I've learned about the ruthless Lysander, who finally defeated the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami [Goat Rivers]. For an expert in ancient Greek history, this book might be simplistic but it filled the bill excellently for me. Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Nov 29, 2014 |
A very pleasant read for a scholarly work. I wish the end notes had been foot notes though. ( )
  e1da | Oct 6, 2009 |
This is a really superb and readable account of one of the most important and fascinating wars of all time. Much like Barry Strauss, at his best Hanson can elucidate the complex historical issues involved and yet write simply enough for the average educated reader interested in the topic yet not possessing a specialist knowledge.

This Greek civil war, between Athens and her allies and Sparta and her allies, lasted 27 years, from 431 to 404 B.C., and ended with the capitulation of Athens and its occupation by Sparta. Its interest for Victor Davis Hanson is in comparing Athens to the United States. At the outset of the war, Athens was the richest city in the world and, within Greece, the sole superpower, with an omnipotent navy. Athens was also a democracy, anxious to export her political system and way of life throughout the Greek world, if necessary by force. The war was fought because Sparta, a military oligarchy, feared Athenian imperialism and cultural dominance, and persuaded other Greek cities to join with it in an attempt to cut Athens down to size. Hanson sees the United States as sharing Athenian hubris and inviting nemesis by trying to export democracy to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that Hanson himself supports American policy gives his book an ironic twist.

Hanson compares the conflict to World War I as a tragic and needless event that had nothing inevitable about it and might have been avoided by wiser counsels, and that exacted a huge human price from the participants. The fact that this was a civil war fought between belligerents who shared a common language and (to some extent) culture, added an extra dimension of bitterness. In the American Civil War, Hanson notes, 600,000 Union and Confederate troops died from combat or disease, that is 1 in 50 of a population of 32 million. But Athens, in the Sicilian expedition alone in the years 415-413 B.C., lost one in 25 of the people of her entire empire. The cost of this one campaign was four times what it took to build the Parthenon. Hundreds of triremes were sunk, normally with all their crews, as Hanson explains in a fascinating chapter on sea warfare. He says that, to keep 100 triremes at sea for a month required as much money as to stage in Athens a thousand tragedies, three times the number of plays written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in their entire careers combined.

Hanson rightly dwells on the cultural cost of the war because the fifth century B.C. was the golden age of Athenian culture. Not only were great statesmen like Pericles involved in the war, but so were writers and philosophers. Socrates had doubts about the wisdom of the war but, Hanson says, "those worries were not enough to prevent him from fighting heroically in her cause in his potbellied middle age." Euripedes criticized Athenian atrocities but still wanted Athens to win. Aristophanes, the great comic genius, denounced the folly of the war but remained patriotic. The war took a heavy toll on the Athenian political and military elite: a majority were killed or executed on campaign, died of wounds, or (like Pericles) of the plague that swept through overcrowded Athens, or were exiled for failure. It is hard to think of anyone, on either side, who "had a good war." The war seems to have ended forever that splendid Athenian self-confidence that was behind her extraordinary achievements in the fifth century B.C. It was "never glad confident morning again."
  gmicksmith | Jun 7, 2009 |
This work provides some difficulties in evaluating, mainly because it is somewhat difficult to figure out exactly what it is. It is not a narrative of the Peloponnesian War. Nor is it an examination of either the causes or long-term results of the War. It is not a piece of social commentary as these portions of the work are brief, shallow, generally worthless and easily ignored. More than anything, it is an effort by the author to provide the reader with something of a sense and feel for the War, as well as some discussion of how various aspects of warfare were conducted during this period.

Rather than provide a chronology of the various battles and campaigns, Hanson divides his work into a discussion of various aspects of warfare, such as sieges, land battles, warfare at sea, etc. Each chapter then becomes a mix of narrative discussion of battles and how that aspect of battle changed over time, as well as a more detailed look at just how this aspect of warfare was conducted. The chapter headings provide fairly clear indications of what aspect of warfare is to be discussed.

Once we break this work down to that level, it becomes easier to assess. Hanson writes well. His prose is lively and flowing and his style is nearly conversational. At times he wanders off in what seem to be tangents and quite frequently the chapter discussions seem not to clearly follow any discernable pattern. An excellent example of this somewhat erratic writing style comes in Chapter 6, Walls, which discusses siege warfare. He opens the chapter with a discussion of Platea and tells how a small number of Thebans advanced to the city in hopes of working their way inside to attack the democratic leaders in order to hand the city over to the larger force the following day. At this time the narrative breaks off as Hanson provides us with 5 paragraphs discussing Platea and how its strategic situation between Athens and Thebes - but far closer to Thebes, places the city in a precarious position. Then Hanson abruptly returns to his narrative discussing how events unfolded once the advance party entered the city.

This is fairly consistent throughout this work - that Hanson will deviate from the flow of his discussion into what reads very like a tangent. Generally this occurs just long enough - 500-1000 words - for a reader to become disconnected from the prior discussion, at which point Hanson returns to it. This causes the work to often read as disorganized and can be confusing. More consistency would have been far better - in the case of Platea, discussing the strategic situation of the city to open the chapter, followed by an unbroken narrative, would have made this much more readable.

However, once a reader has worked his or her way through these difficulties, the work contains some excellent information. The discussions on just how various aspects of warfare were conducted is very informative, particularly the contrasts showing how these tactics altered over time. Particularly telling is his discussion of how much more vicious warfare became characterized by a decrease in mercy shown to the defeated, an increase in massacres of civilians, etc. In particular, I felt the Chapter titled, "Ships," devoted to marine warfare, was particularly good. In each of these chapters a great deal of information is provided, not just on the overall usage of these aspects of war, but on the characteristics and skills of the individual hoplite, rower, etc. I do feel some value would have been added with some illustrations and more maps, however this is an excellent aspect of this work.

This is not one of those works which I would call, "valuable for the casual reader and student of Greek History alike." On the contrary, it breaks little new ground and the somewhat disorganized presentation will likely be very frustrating for those with an in-depth knowledge of the Peloponnesian War. However for someone who is new to the subject I believe it would be quite good. Hanson writes with a lively and engaging style and his detailed descriptions are quite understandable. However even for the newcomer I wouldn't read it as a stand-alone volume. Find yourself a good narrative of the Wars, such as Kagan, get a copy of Thucydides and settle down for a very informative and enjoyable read. ( )
1 rösta cemanuel | Oct 21, 2008 |
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In April 404 BC the Spartan admiral Lysander finally led his vast armada of ships, crammed with some 30,000 jubilant seamen, into the hated port of Athens at the Piraeus to finish the Pelopennesian War.
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From the Publisher: 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.

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