The Greco-Persian Warsby Published 15 Oct 1998
|The Greco-Persian Wars.pdf|
|Publisher||University of California Press|
This is a reissue, with a new introduction and an update to the bibliography, of the original edition, published in 1970 as The Year of Salamis in England and as Xerxes at Salamis in the U.S.
The long and bitter struggle between the great Persian Empire and the fledgling Greek states reached its high point with the extraordinary Greek victory at Salamis in 480 B.C. The astonishing sea battle banished forever the specter of Persian invasion and occupation. Peter Green brilliantly retells this historic moment, evoking the whole dramatic sweep of events that the Persian offensive set in motion. The massive Greek victory, despite the Greeks' inferior numbers, opened the way for the historic evolution of the Greek states in a climate of creativity, independence, and democracy, one that provided a model and an inspiration for centuries to come.
Green's accounts of both Persian and Greek strategies are clear and persuasive; equally convincing are his everyday details regarding the lives of soldiers, statesmen, and ordinary citizens. He has first-hand knowledge of the land and sea he describes, as well as full command of original sources and modern scholarship. With a new foreword, The Greco-Persian Wars is a book that lovers of fine historical writing will greet with pleasure.
"The Greco-Persian Wars" Reviews
The first book of my summer reading on the Greco-Persian wars and it was a great introduction. It starts with the creation of the Persian Empire and ends with the hints of an Athenian Empire. I am not sure how easy it is for a person who knows nothing of the conflict since the author sometimes references events that has not happen chronologically yet or been dealt with by the author. The language is as always a bit hard when it comes to dealing with ancient/classical works since there are allot of places that don't exist anymore, names that are not so common anymore and sometimes people are mentioned just once such as in this battle X son of Y heroically did this and then never mentioned again, just a minor detail. Peter Green also uses allot of french sentences and words which for the most part was new to me, I know allot of terms from political philosophy but most of these were completely new so be prepared to check up the meanings of these french sentences while reading.
In general I liked the book very much, it had some good maps but sometimes the maps weren't on the pages that I would have liked them to be but its just a detail. I will definitely read Peters Greens book on Alexander the great once I get to that era of history.
Lively recount of the Persian Empire's famously thwarted incursion into Europe. The author deals with both sides of the conflict fairly—he never conflates the heroic with the good—but the details of the Greek side are given a major share while describing the course of the conflict. Many of the Greek personalities and events are given WWII-era analogs, with Themistocles compared to Churchill, collaborators described as quislings. No one source is used to reconstruct events, and no source is considered immune to the politics and propaganda of the time or just simple human error. When possible archeology and terrain are used to augment and/or verify written record.
Peter Green's prose is delight to read. He manages to compress a lot of information into each page without spiraling into academic jargon. Each sentence seems just as long as it needs to be, rather than simplified into small chunks or aggregated into massive blocks at the behest of some abstract standard unrelated to the topic at hand.
What is the point of war? Power shifts, blood is shed, cities are wiped out, and monuments are erected. It seems the Greeks for a brief time were forced to defend not only their often-conflicting interests but also to share and defend ideals harder to live up to. Men were not made to be heroes, living in such a manner tends to kill before too long, and even the best soldiers after a while long for home. So should fate smile at you and offer a hand from her scarlet deck, remember the glory will never be yours to own; and though the table of the world may reconfigure itself to altar, so too will you be transformed from cattle to sacrifice.
The struggle that seeded panhellenism in the surprisingly disjunct ancient Hellenic world, described at length.
I'm a new fan of Themistocles :)
More enjoyable than the subject matter is Green's writing style: both accessible and brisk, combining humor and suspense.
My only word of warning is that it may be bit hard to follow without passing familiarity with the period in question. Green has a tendency to make references without apology or explanation, and while this helps to maintain the pace of the work, it does add a barrier to be overcome by the uninitiated.
However the payoff, particularly if one follows the notes and is willing to do a little extra-curricular reference hunting, is well worth it.
Donald Kagan calls Mr. Green's Greco-Persian opus magnus "a brilliant piece of popular scholarship." It is definitely scholarly with extensive Notes and Bibliography sections. As well Green explores and expounds upon the strategy and tactics of all the players whilst keeping focus and without wandering down any hair-of-the-gnat rabbit holes. I suspect that Kagan uses the adjective "popular" as a mode of conveying Green's pace and writing style. Many history books -- and certainly most text books -- earn the appellative of being a bit dry. The Greco-Persian Wars was as much a page-turner as Kagan's The Peloponnese War. Both are lucid and clear-eyed, well-paced and superbly written. And, though I had just finished two other accounts of the Greco-Persian conflict -- one focused on the battle of Thermopylae and the other on Salamis -- Green's accounting was more thorough -- beginning with Darius and the early-days conflict in Ionia and ending with Xanthippus' destruction of Xerxes' last Hellespont outpost of Sestos -- and held my interest despite the lack of any historical surprises.
Green does have one literary tic that gets a little annoying at times. He sprinkles his text with Latin and and a little less often French phrases, some quite common and others leading to a bit of head-scratching. Flip to seemingly almost any given page and the italicized en masse, ab initio, in suto, bien-pensants, sic transit, en passant, terminus ante quem, etc., are there for either an "a-ha" moment or a quick Google-cum-dictionary search. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely times when a good en route or in toto is going to be appropriate. And, I feel my language skills can always be stretched. So, this is less a complaint than just a note. Therefore, it should not dissuade anyone from picking up this superlative history, et credo.