History of the Peloponnesian War – Book I


Achraf Baznani
source Wikiart

I swore I would never do this again ……. After being completely drained by my The Histories posts, I made a pact with myself NOT to do the same with Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.  After all, how much brain power can one person have?  But my post for the book is getting longer and longer and longer, and honestly I’m getting more engaged with Thucydides’ narrative, somewhat dry though it may be.  I was admittedly bored until about halfway through, but now it has suddenly become interesting and I’m eager to keep reading.  So, with some renewed energy and in an effort not to overwhelm everyone (including myself!) with an hideously long book review, I’ve decided to take the plunge and travel book by book.  Most of the reviews won’t be as long as Herodotus, in fact, some will be rather short.  I’m certain everyone is sighing in relief!

So without further ado, Book I of History of the Peloponnesian War:

History of the Peloponnesian War


Peloponnesian War Alliances
source Wikipedia

Book I:  Think of two brothers embroiled in an enormous disagreement, trust and unity quickly eroding to jealousy, self-importance and suspicion.  Athens incenses Corinth by placing their fleet so they are unable to attack Corcyra and then they woo Potidaea, a colony of Corinth. Now Corinth is livid and appeals to Sparta with their grievances.

I quite liked this comparison between the two nations, Athens and Sparta, offered by the Corinthians:

“….. you will encounter in the Athenians, how widely, how absolutely different from yourselves.  The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you {Sparta} have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough.  Again, they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine; your wont is to attempt less than is justified by your power, to mistrust even what is sanctioned by your judgment, and to fancy that from danger there is no release.  Further, there is promptitude on their side against procrastination on yours; they are never at home, you are most disinclined to leave it, for they hope by their absence to extend their acquisitions, you fear by your advance to endanger what you have left behind.  They are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse.Their bodies they spend ungrudgingly in their country’s cause; their intellect they jealously husband to be employed in her service …… To describe their character is a word, one might truly say they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.”

Theatre of Ancient Sparta
source Wikipedia

While the Spartan delegation counsels war with Athens, their king, Archidamus, cautions that they must build their alliance and gather resources as the war must prove to be long and arduous.  Thence, we hear of a number of alliances and misalliances involving both states plus further introductions to a more crafty Themistokles and an arrogant and violent Pausanias, that appears to be in direct contrast to his portrayal by Herodotus.  Pausanias, inflated by his successes in the Persian Wars, attempts to solidify his power by courting Persia’s regard and is eventually questioned by Sparta.  Tricked into revealing his crimes, he flees to the temple where he is confined and ultimately perishes of starvation.  Likewise, Themistokles is an anathema in Athens, and to preserve himself, pursues the favour of the Persian king, now Artaxerxes, is appointed governor by him and eventually dies. However, the Spartans vote for war, encouraged and praised by the shrewd Corinthians, and Athens vows to defend herself, inspired by the stirring speeches of Pericles.  All-out war seems imminent, but it doesn’t happen just yet.


0 thoughts on “History of the Peloponnesian War – Book I

  1. I am truly inspired by your completion of this book. It's like hearing someone did the marathon and now you know you can do it too.

    I am finishing up Atlas Shrugged which I might put in the same category as far as marathons go, although there is a lot to glean from it. I'm wondering how I'm going to put it in a succinct blog review.

    Then perhaps I'll pick up ol' Thucydides.

  2. Thanks, Sharon! And I'm amazed at the number and breadth of books that you read! It is a marathon but surprisingly I have more energy at the end. I am appalled at the stupidity and short-sightedness of man though. It seems people are never happy unless they are destroying and causing strife. I am glad I read Herodotus before this one!

  3. Perfect format:intro,2 paragraphs + quote that impressed you!
    I am following your progress and backround Herodotes is very helpful, I agree. This summer I'm listening to Great Courses ' The Greek and Persian Wars' (Audible.com) narrated by J. R. Hale. At least as I listen I know the places in Iona (islands, costal cities etc) and Greece where the battles failed or succeded! Take care…use your brain power wisely!

  4. remain i awe of your ambition; after reading O's latest on good/bad books, i realize i fall into that category; still, it's a gas to read your posts on such severely difficult literature… tx a lot for taking us commenters along…

  5. So funny …. at first I swore I would never read this again, and now I want to. So short summaries work well for a revisit. Now if it was The Faerie Queene, I'd want to put everything down because it is highly likely that I would not want to even think of it again! 😉 Now I've reminded myself that I need to get back to it. Sigh!

  6. 🙂 The history books are interesting but they just take a little perseverance. And time …. lots of time some of them ….. At times it seems like an insurmountable task but it's taught me that reading a little regularly, eventually gets you through them.

  7. Well, I must admit, The Faerie Queene has handcuffed me but otherwise, my mammoth reads have not been too bad. I am glad that someone other than me is benefitting from my posts. Thanks for reading them! 🙂

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