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Book Title: Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy|
The author of the book: Donald Kagan
Edition: Free Press
Date of issue: October 1st 1998
ISBN 13: 9780684863955
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 597 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.5
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Because of a dearth of primary source materials author Kagan must progress here by way of thematic chapters: "The Statesman," "The Visionary," "The Peacemaker," and so on. We see the people, the buildings, the wars, the navy, the art, the pantheism, the slaves, the empire, the rebellions, the legal system, etc., but there's very little about the man himself, which I suppose is not surprising 2,400 years later. This was fine with me as I tend to dislike the traditional cradle-to-grave biographical story arc. In terms of primary sources there's Pericles's Funeral Oration reported by Thucydides in his History of the Peloponessian War and I think two other speeches. There's Plutarch's biography, written 400 years after the fact, and various mentions here and there. That's it. So Kagan is stuck with providing an overarching view of Pericles's times and locale. Still I found a lot to like about the book because what I wanted was a refresher on the way the Athenian Empire was formed and how it was maintained. Kagan spent about twenty years writing his four volume opus on the Peloponnesian War before undertaking his slimmer, more condensed version (The Peloponnesian War, Viking, 2003). So almost every line in the later volume has the sonorous ring that you'd expect from a lifetime's immersion in one's subject matter. The creation of Pericles of Athens one suspects was not so felicitous. There are two turgid patches that I skipped: one at the end of "The Peacemaker," the other at the end of "The Educator." Otherwise smooth sailing. It's perhaps not surprising that Kagan's later chapters on the Peloponnesian War are his strongest. These constitute a condensed almost capsule overview of the conflict. Interesting, too, uncanny in fact, is how many of the diplomatic moves made by Pericles during that conflict resemble 20th-century geopolitical maneuvering. Kagan without too much effort establishes the workings of this brilliant political mind. Recommended with some reservations. PS: I have a smart friend here at GR who is highly knowledgable about the cutting edge scholarship of this period. Let's be clear, this book is not for such a person. It is for the general reader.
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Read information about the authorProfessor Kagan, who received his PhD from Ohio State University in 1958, has written The Great Dialogue: A History of Greek Political Thought from Homer to Polybius (1965 and 1986); The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (1969); The Archidamian War (1974); The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition (1981); The Fall of the Athenian Empire (1987); Pericles and the Birth of the Athenian Empire (1990); On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace (1995); While America Sleeps (2000) with Frederick W. Kagan; The Western Heritage (2000) with Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner; The Heritage of World Civilizations (2000) with Albert M. Craig, William A. Graham, Ozment and Turner; The Peloponnesian War (2003).
Winner of the National Humanities Medal for 2002, and a prominent social and political critic, his graduate courses include seminars in the writings of selected Greek historians and in selected periods in Greek history.
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