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"I doubt seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and with deep convictions regarding certain of the basic international issues today who has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian War and the Fall of Athens."
- George C Marshall, 1947
"An, perhaps, my account will seem less pleasing to those who hear it because of its lack of fabulous tales, but if it be judged useful by those who seek an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be satisfied."
- Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
Donald Kagan, one of the preeminent Classical scholars of the last 50 years, who has spent most of his professional career writing and researching the Peloponnesian War has written a tight book exploring Thucydides as a historian, philosopher, and comparing the myth of the Man/Historian/Philosopher against the reality. Kagan investigates Thucydides motives, revisions to history, and opinions. It is an interesting biography of a historian combined with a light textual analysis of his book. It is a historical love not, with just a dash of realism and hint of criticism.
It is also, put in today's context, not a little bit ironic. Each time I've read about the Peloponnesian War I finish the book or article thinking of how Thucydides was an early master of real politick. I think about how Athens invading Scicilly strangely parallels the US preemptively invading Iraq, waging war against the "enemies of democracy" and the "axis of evil". I was going to make some snarky comment about how hard it must be for Donald Kagan, this historian of the brilliant and pragmatic historian/philosopher/general Thucydides, to share a name with Robert Kagan one of the neocons responsible for providing intellectual cover for the last couple decades of American Imperialism. Imagine my surprise to discover that Donald is John's father. Gods. What a Greek Drama there. I just can't decide if having Robert Kagan be Donald Kagan's son is more of a comedy, satire, or tragedy. Some lessons just don't get shared with sons I guess. Well, perhaps they do, but only when they are carved into marble.
14 of 22 people found this review helpful
For one who has read the four volumes of D. Kagan on the ppw this book is an extract of themes very familiar...Still, it is a good book and one very competently read.