Methodical account of the historic battle between Athens and Sparta that also examines the conflict’s origins and its effects on future military regimes.
Bagnall’s pages strain under a wealth of information as the late British soldier and scholar (1927–2002) strives to detail every facet of the Peloponnesian War. He begins his companion piece to The Punic Wars (1990) by indicating that the book is laid out in much the same way as its predecessor. Various maps delineate the regions affected; a subsequent brief overview sketches the major characters involved. But brevity isn’t really this author’s forte, so the background material is followed by an assiduously researched chapter (“An Historical Survey”) that conveys a welter of information about the various areas. Bagnall carefully builds up to the outbreak of war in 431 b.c. by examining how the Athenian lust for power and supremacy ultimately led to the conflict, then lets loose with his lengthy account of the war in “The Central Theatre.” As battles occasionally occur on small yet significant islands, some cross-referencing to the author’s earlier accounts of various places and characters may be necessary for the casual reader, although Bagnall always takes the time to examine how figures such as Athenian generals Pericles and Demosthenes fared in the midst of the war. It endured for an incredible 27 years—albeit with a six-year truce known as the Peace of Nicias, which began in 421 b.c.—every one of them recounted here in dry, heavily academic prose. The author doesn’t spend much time looking at the far-reaching effects the Spartans’ victory had on the globe, instead choosing to retool his epilogue from The Punic Wars to briefly examine how military procedures were irrevocably changed by the war.
Likely to appeal only to military history buffs.