Strauss’s reconstruction of the events of naval and classical history overflows with detail and writerly attention to a...




First-rate military and political history, focusing on a critically important battle of the ancient past.

By 480 b.c., writes Strauss (History & Classics/Cornell Univ.; Rowing Against the Current, 1999), newly democratic Athens had emerged as the preeminent naval power in the eastern Mediterranean; reports Herodotus, whose words resound through Strauss’s pages, “When the Athenians lived under a tyranny they were no better at war than any of their neighbors, but after they got rid of the tyrants they were the first by far.” Small wonder that Xerxes, the famed ruler of the Persian Empire, determined that Athens had to be crushed first if his forces were to advance into mainland Greece. Well aware of Xerxes’ intentions, Athenian military leader Themistocles urged his fellow citizens to take the defense of the city onto the seas. In early September, the city now evacuated, the Persians arrived and captured the Acropolis after a brief siege, then were lured into sea battle at the Straits of Salamis, where a Greek force of 271 warships sailed against a Persian fleet nearly three times as strong—and made up not only of Persians, but also of Greeks from other regions. The Persians, Strauss writes, “knew that the Greeks did well in war only when united, so Persia’s job was to divide them.” They were largely successful in doing so, but the successful resistance of the Athenians at Salamis helped inspire other Greeks to revolt against Xerxes, even though the Athenians, as Strauss writes, “knew that in spite of the damage they had inflicted on Persia’s ships, the majority of the enemy’s triremes had escaped.” Xerxes went on to other conquests elsewhere. By an irony of history, Themistocles, miffed because the Athenians did not prize him sufficiently, eventually went over to the Persian side, serving as “an administrator in the Persian provinces and a vassal of Xerxes’ son, the Great King Artaxerxes I.”

Strauss’s reconstruction of the events of naval and classical history overflows with detail and writerly attention to a grand story.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4450-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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