THE SOUL OF BATTLE by Victor Davis Hanson


From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny
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A magisterial look at Epaminondas (the Theban general who defeated Sparta), Sherman (who brought down the Confederacy), and Patton (who helped vanquish Hitler) by Hanson, a classics professor at California State Univ., Fresno, and author of such works as Who Killed Homer? (1998) and Fields Without Dreams (1996). Far more than a pat survey of three great military leaders, this account considers the manner in which each of these men conducted a great march of citizen soldiers (to use Stephen Ambrose’s phrase) to fulfill a democratic ideal against a martial, enslaving enemy: Epaminondas to rid the Thebans of their Spartan rivals, who did not hold the same democratic ideals; Sherman to attack the heart of the Confederacy, demolish its base of support among its citizenry, and emancipate the slaves in his marches” wake; and Patton to strike through northern Europe and destroy the Nazi heartland. Hanson’s writing is faultless, and his use of sources is unparalleled, as befits a classicist and a military historian. Rather than three short bios weaved together, these tales are individually so complete that they seem like the unabridged lives of each of the generals. Hanson’s choice of subject—three marches for freedom “led by eccentrics, considered unbalanced . . . censured by their own governments, threatened with loss of command” who were all so uniquely successful in overcoming an enemy that had long threatened freedom—is as inspired as his conclusions, which draw the three together and also look at our own decade’s response to the Persian Gulf War. A masterful work of classical and modern history and a compelling reading experience for anyone interested in how democracies wage war.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84502-4
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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