Victor Davis Hanson may just be our best military historian of the ancient world. He has traced the hard hand of war on Greek grain fields and olive groves, analyzed the agony of the ancient Greek infantryman, explicated specific battles, and put forth an ambitious theory of a western way of war that began in early Greece. It is only natural that he would turn now to the Peloponnesian War.[1] Not that anyone would approach the subject without a measure of trepidation.

The Peloponnesian War is the Everest of ancient military history, big and frightening, and not just because it lasted the twenty-seven years from 431 to 404 B.C. and involved the major powers of the Mediterranean World from Sicily to Persia. What makes the war peculiarly difficult is its gatekeeper, Thucydides, the man who chronicled or, rather, “composed” it (to use his ancient Greek word), since he...


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