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Formato: Copertina flessibile
This is the third volume of Donald Kagan's tetralogy on the Peloponnesian war, and it focuses on the period ranging from BCE 421 and the so-called peace of Nicias to BCE 413 and the utter destruction of the Athenian expedition against Syracuse. Kagan justitifies his treatment of this periiod by stating that "the epriod is further unified by its central character, Niceas (the leading Athenian politician and general over this period) whose policy dominated the first part, whose leadership dominated the second, and whose personality, talents, and flaws were so important for the shape and outcome of both."
The first part, which makes up about a third of the book, is titled "The Unraveling of the Peace". It shows that the two sides mainly made peace because they were exhausted, because the leading advocate for war on each side had been killed in the same battle and because Athens wanted to restore its financial resources whereas Sparta wanted to recover their elite Spartans taken a few years before at Sphacteria and ensure their supremacy in the Peloponnese at a time when their treaty with Argos - their main rival there - was just about to expire. As usual, Kagan is at his best when presenting, discussing and confronting the motivations and objectives of both sides and showing how unsurprising it was that what was portrayed as a 50 year peace was formally broken after 8 years only because it was a peace that Sparta, at least, had no real intention in keeping since it had no intention to execute one of its main clauses - the return of Amphopolis to the Athenians. By BCE 413, and because of Athens' Sicilian expedition, this peace was only formal.
The second part of the book, by far the largest, tells the story of the Athens' doomed Sicilian expedition against Syracuse. I won't try to paraphrase the book. Suffice is to say here that this expedition was an utter disaster and never should have been. It is in fact amazing to what extent this was the case. Almost everything that could go wrong did so, starting with a gross understatement of the Syracusans which lead to sending a first expedition which was, despite the portrait drawn by Thucydides, somewhat undersized and inappropriate in its composition (with too few cavalry and light troops, in particular). Then the expedition's command was divided, one of the main commanders (and the most dashing one - Alcibiades) was recalled shortly after the beginning of the siege, then precious time and energy was wasted, allowing Syracuse to send and receive help from Corinth and Sparta, and the litany of blunders goes on, and on, and on until the utter destruction of the previously reinforced expedition and Sparta's decision to restart the war and permanently occupy the fort of Decelia, on Athens' frontier, putting it on the defensive...
The contrast between the opening stages and the end of the book is tremendous. At the beginning, Athens had the advantage, if only a narrow one. By BCE 413, it was definitely and significantly weakened and on the defensive, largely because of its own blunders. As usual, Donak Kagan skilfully tells the events and privides in-depth analysis and explanations for each of them in a very readable way. As usual also, the book is well structured and has all the necessary maps, including, in this case, maps for the major battles. As usual also, Kagan's conclusion is very insighful and leads to a fascinating discussion of the message that Thucydides (our main source for the whole conflict) intended to convey and to what extent the main cause of the disaster was Niceas himself.
A superb read that is well worth five stars and still the most comprehensive and the best treatment of the Sicilian expedition that I know off...