Victor Davis Hanson, A War Like No Other

VDH Cover

Victor Davis Hanson, A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, Random House, 2005.

A gift from my parents, this book covers events that I should know better than I do, given my background as a history major. Alas, I ducked the classics, and stuck with modern American history, especially when taught properly, as it was by Jack “Politics, Diplomacy, and War” Chatfield. [He’s sure to be the basis of his own post at some point, so I’ll stop there (other Chatfield groupies will surely recognize how hard that is for me.)] This book does focus in large part on Thucydides, and his ground breaking efforts to chronicle what was the world war of his time. I learned a variety of things in this book – the amazing scale of the war, the surprising length and ferocity of the conflict, the durability of an olive tree, the seasonal limitations of fielding an army in an era of such modest logistics, and the changing nature of warfare as the participants goals and capabilities changed over time. Modest, seasonal armed demonstrations gave way to prolonged sieges, and strict societal divisions fell aside, shifting the actual risk of death from an elite few to the population at large. Hanson is a very forceful, compelling author, and he brings dignity and humanity to events that happened in a world so far removed as to be unimaginable. Highly recommended.

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