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Published in England in 1955 and reprinted there in 1965, this is a historical novel about Alcibiades (450-404 B.C.), the Athenian politician and general. Green's dense, informative novel is both a personal history and a social one--as he says, Alcibiades' life coincides beautifully with the zenith and fall of Athens. Alcibiades, the ward of Pericles, was a notoriously profligate youths and for this reason his private excesses were well-documented by the comic poets. The history related by this book takes in the Peloponnesian War (the battle at Pylos, the ill-fated Sicilian campaign), the plague in 430 B.C. in Athens, the oligarchic take-over in Athens, its reversal, the defeat of Athens at the hands of Sparta. Alcibiades, first a brash and modish young man, becomes a general, but is exiled for allegedly profaning the Sacred Mysteries. For over ten years he wanders, embittered, and scheming, planning with Sparta against Athens, playing off Persia against both cities. He is reinstated in Athens briefly and is murdered by the Persians in 404 B.C. Since the history, particularly Alcibiades' part in it, is predominantly military, Green concentrates on governmental intrigue and diplomacy, military strategy, and the actual battles. Although the novel is sometimes a little stiff, a little sluggish, Green's scholarship gives his book an air of authenticity, and solidity, that is often lacking in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1967
Publisher: Doubleday