TIDES OF WAR by Steven Pressfield

TIDES OF WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Pressfield produces an even greater spectacle—and, in its honest, incremental way, an even greater heart-tugger—than in

his acclaimed tale of the battle of Thermopylae, Gates of Fire (1999).

Jason, son of Alexicles, lived almost to 92, in the prime of that long life having fought for Athens and been close friend

to Socrates. When a grandson asks him whether, of all those he'd known in his life, there had been “one whom memory has

driven deepest,” Jason responds immediately: yes, Polemides, the man who assassinated Alcibiades. Thus unfolds the most

remarkable of tales, told partly in Jason's own words and partly in the words of the imprisoned and treason-charged soldier

Polemides as—over the same few days that Socrates waits to drink the hemlock—he tells Jason the story of the many

intertwinings of his own military life, during the “thrice nine years” of the Peloponnesian War, with the life of that bold,

brilliant, gifted, immeasurably ambitious leader, Alcibiades. The political complexities between Sparta and Athens, not to

mention the cultural competition between them, are handled with a clarity that enlightens and captivates the reader at once—as

Polemides becomes a mercy killer in the ghastly Great Plague in Athens early in the war; as Alcibiades all but single-handedly

launches the Athenian fleet in its attack on Sicily—only then, when he's recalled on charges of treason, to abandon the fleet (and

Polemides) to one of history's most ungodly, cruel, costly defeats; and as the same Alcibiades afterward piles up one glorious

naval victory after another in Asia and the Hellespont, returning to Athens in glory only later to be declared, through his

enemies' skilled manipulations of the demos, the greatest danger to her.

On every page are color, splendor, sorrow, the unforgiving details of battle, daily life, and of the fighter's lot. Unabashedly

brilliant, epic, intelligent, and moving.

Pub Date: April 4th, 2000
ISBN: 0-385-49252-9
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000




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