Howarth, who's churned out a good deal of pop history (Sovereign of the Seas, 1974; Waterloo, 1968), takes an opera buffa view of the Greek War of Independence, including the role of Byron, the would-be freedom fighter. The Greeks fleeced him from the moment he disembarked at Missolonghi in his gorgeous scarlet tunic right up to the time of his unheroic death. Howarth paints a gaudy, blood-splattered tableau of brigands, thieves, corsairs, and pirates indiscriminately looting, burning, and killing--each other, as well as the Turkish, Egyptian, and Albanian foe. He states flat out that the Greeks themselves had no concept of an independent nation-state; the war was made by romantic foreign Philhellenes, unemployed Napoleonic soldiers, poets, and riffraff who flocked to Greece pursuing their own fantasies. It's not an implausible interpretation, though Howarth's exaggerated debunking makes his book one-dimensional. The real problem is that his forte is swashbuckling drama, not history. On that level, it's intermittently entertaining.