Listen free for 30 days

A War Like No Other

How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
Narrated by: Bob Souer
Length: 13 hrs and 58 mins
Categories: History, Ancient
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

Victor Davis Hanson has given us painstakingly researched and pathbreaking accounts of wars ranging from classical antiquity to the 21st century. Now he juxtaposes an ancient conflict with our most urgent modern concerns to create his most engrossing work to date, A War Like No Other.  

Hanson compellingly portrays the ways Athens and Sparta fought on land and sea, in city and countryside, and details their employment of the full scope of conventional and non-conventional tactics, from sieges to targeted assassinations, torture, and terrorism. He also assesses the crucial roles played by warriors such as Pericles and Lysander, artists, among them Aristophanes, and thinkers including Sophocles and Plato.

Hanson's perceptive analysis of events and personalities raises many thought-provoking questions: Were Athens and Sparta like America and Russia, two superpowers battling to the death? Is the Peloponnesian War echoed in the endless, frustrating conflicts of Vietnam, Northern Ireland, and the current Middle East? Or was it more like America's own Civil War, a brutal rift that rent the fabric of a glorious society, or even this century's schism between liberals and conservatives? Hanson daringly brings the facts to life and unearths the often surprising ways in which the past informs the present.

©2005 Victor Davis Hanson (P)2019 Tantor

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 13-02-20

Extremely engaging historical book

The author forgoes the a concise sequential narrative and instead focuses on different aspects of the war per chapter. It still is in a somewhat sequential narrative and this helps keep the story of the war organized in your head. I definitely think that was the right decision but if you struggle with internalizing BC dates like me it can be slightly confusing. I gave this book 5 stars because I learned a massive amount and got many new concepts to mull over. It’s not perfect but 4 stars felt not good enough. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves military history or Greece.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Chris
  • Chris
  • 06-02-20

"A War Like No Other" is a Book Like No Other

I thoroughly enjoyed Victor Davis Hanson’s “A War Like No Other,” which I read as both an e-book and Audible audiobook. Additionally, I read it concurrently with “The Landmark Thucydides” (also Five Stars - look for my review at Goodreads.com). Both books I feel are indispensable to the military or classical historian, as well as anyone interested in a more complete understanding of the Peloponnesian War in particular, and Greek and Western culture in general. “A War Like No Other” is a solid Five-Stars If you are unfamiliar with the Peloponnesian War, don’t worry, you’ll find no spoilers here. The Greeks were an irritable bunch, and despite the snow-capped mountain ranges and often treacherous seas that usually separated two poleis or city-states, they still found the motivation to make “war” on one another. However, the conflicts were usually short, sometimes only a day, and rather civil in comparison to our modern, total-warfare. Most combatants were heavily armored hoplites and the simple tactics were those of the phalanx. The resulting casualties were around 8%. With the battle over and the matter settled, under truce each side collected their dead, the winners would take whatever was fought over, set up a trophy, and everyone would march home and get back to business - which usually meant farming. But the Peloponnesian War (or, the Athenian War if you happen to have been a Peloponnesian) was different, it really was “a war like no other.” For starters, it was a long war at 27 years (431 - 404 BC), it was a long time ago, (2450 years) and just about every Greek state fell in behind either Athens and the Delian League or the Spartans and the Peloponnesian League. Some call the Peloponnesian War the “first world war” because it encompassed so much of the Western world. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I would call it the First Greek Civil War. Like our own Civil War, the Peloponnesian War was an ugly, costly, and tragic endeavor. Atrocities were committed, cities were razed, great speeches were given, and many were starved, enslaved, and executed. By ancient standards the area of operations was large – from Sicily to Asia Minor, plus a widely-scattered panoply of islands, seas, rivers, settlements, cities, and territories. Not to mention the myriad of treaties and alliances between and within both leagues that were constantly being stretched, violated, and broken. With all that being said, it’s no wonder that truly understanding the Peloponnesian War can be a difficult thing to get your arms around. Thank God for Thucydides because without him we would know very little about this war. He was an Athenian general until he was relieved of command and ostracized after losing a battle in northern Greece to a superb Spartan commander. However, Thucydides' loss was our good fortune because he now had the time to devote himself to writing a story “for all ages.” He is widely considered one of, if not THE greatest historian ever. So, for anyone with a desire to better understand the Peloponnesian war, without a doubt, the first step is reading and studying Thucydides’ “History.” And the best translation and editing is Robert B. Stassler’s, “Landmark Thucydides." The next step (or for me, the concurrent step) is to read “A War Like No Other.” Why? Well, before I go there, it’s best that I clarify what “A War Like No Other” is NOT: it’s NOT another history of the Peloponnesian War or a political commentary, nor is it a strategic analysis of the 27-year conflict. Prof. Hanson’s “A War Like No Other” is more of a “drilling-down” - it’s 10 enlightening chapters, each addressing a different aspect of ancient warfare. If Thucydides tells you WHAT happened, Prof. Hanson explains HOW it may have happened, to what EFFECT; this is what the ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE shows or this is the OPINION OF SCHOLARS. An example of the most latter can be found in Chapter 4, entitled “Terror: War in the Shadows (431-421),” Prof. Hanson writes: “Peter Krentz has made the point that hoplite battle was not the primary means of fighting by counting up all the examples of deception and surprise attacks, often by night and fought by nonhoplites. * His thirty-seven instances in the Peloponnesian War dwarf the two large, set-piece hoplite encounters at Delium and Mantinea, and the smaller clashes of phalanxes at Solygia and Syracuse. Similarly, W. K. Pritchett collated forty-three examples of night attacks during the Peloponnesian War, engagements that were antithetical to the old idea of drawing up armies in broad daylight to settle the issue through infantry clashes.” (1) “A War Like No Other” helps bring the Peloponnesian War into a clearer focus, it adds a fine layer of detail to Thucydides. Prof. Hanson begins by explaining why generals, statesmen, presidents, and kings have read Thucydides for 2 ½ millennia and why he’s still relevant today. Prof. Hanson takes you between the lines of Thucydides, often providing critical BACKSTORY behind a particular event or cite supporting ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE. He might even (as I’ll cite just below) conduct an EXPERIMENT. Prof. Hanson digs into the nitty-gritty of ancient Greek warfare to convey what it was like for those who “killed and died” (2) on the Greecian battlefield. How was ancient naval warfare conducted? What was it like to row in the bottom of a trireme? What happened when your vessel was rammed by another? What was the crew’s chance of survival? In several places, he highlights HISTORICAL PARALLELS. One example is found in Chapter 5 “Armor: Hoplite Pitched Battles (424-418):” “Spartan ships, such as Alcidas’ armada, which had headed for Lesbos in 427, were capable only of short voyages akin to the German battleship Bismarck’s brief breakouts into the North Atlantic during 1941” (3) And he doesn’t take Thucydides’ words necessarily at face-value, Prof. Hanson goes the extra mile and physically tests Thucydides’ claims. My favorite example is found in Chapter 2 “Fire: The War Against the Land (431-425).” When Thucydides claims: “Athens was being ravaged before the very eyes of the Athenians…” (Thucydides 2.21) (4) Prof. Hanson experiments: “The Spartan idea was to marshal the Peloponnesian League, invade Attica, destroy farmland, and hope that the Athenians came out to fight. Barring that, the strategy fell back on the hope that food lost at harvesttime would cause costly shortages at Athens… But the hide of permanent plants is tougher than men’s. Orchards and vineyards are more difficult to fell than people, as the Peloponnesians quickly learned when they crossed into Attica in late May 431. Attica possessed more individual olive trees and grapevines than classical Greece did inhabitants. Anywhere from five to ten million olive trees and even more vines dotted the one-thousand-square-mile landscape. The city’s thousands of acres of Attic grain fields were augmented by far more farmland throughout the Aegean, southern Russia, and Asia Minor, whose harvests were only a few weeks’ transport away from Athens… Partly in pursuit of that answer, a few years ago I tried to chop down several old walnut trees on my farm. Even when the ax did not break, it sometimes took me hours to fell an individual tree. Subsequent trials with orange, plum, peach, olive, and apricot trunks were not much easier. Even after I’d chainsawed an entire plum grove during the spring, within a month or so large suckers shot out from the stumps. Had one wished to restore the orchard, new cultivars could have been grafted to the fresh wild shoots. Apricot, peach, almond, and persimmon trees proved as tough. Olives were the hardest of all to uproot. It was even difficult to try to set them afire. Living fruit trees (like vines) will not easily burn-or at least stay lit long and hot enough to kill the tree. Even when I ignited the surrounding dry brush, the leaves were scorched, the bark blackened, but no lasting damage was done. Thucydides observes that the Spartans, during their fourth invasion of Attica in 427, needed to recut those trees and vines "that had grown up again" after their first devastations a few years earlier-a phenomenon of regeneration well recorded elsewhere of other such attacks on agriculture.” (5) As a professional military scholar, Prof. Hanson understands the military value of terrain features, but as a farmer, he “sees” what most of us would not. For instance, I found it interestingly perceptive when he noticed much of the land surrounding Athens lies at different elevations. Because of this, fields of grain would ripen up to three weeks apart. That means that when the Spartans came to ravage Athenian agriculture, a percentage of their fields would still be green, and thus less likely to catch fire when they tried to set them ablaze. The e-book contains extensive notes, a glossary of common Terms and Places, and from Alcibiades to Xenophon an appendix of the major players, works cited, and nine detailed maps. The audiobook is 13 hours 58 minutes in length and excellent. I enjoy having the ability to listen anywhere and at any time with my Audible app on my phone or, even better, on one of my Amazon Echoes. It’s so nice to be outside, enjoying the weather and listening to an audiobook – and “A War Like No Other” is one of those books that is so packed with good information, you’ll enjoy listening to it several times. One of the things I enjoy about listening on an Echo is that I can say, “Alexa, rewind 10 seconds” or whatever if I missed something (not an Alexa advertisement, some of the others probably work also). Narrator Bob Souer gets the job done with no mistakes for a solid Three Stars Narrator Bob Souer’s voice is easy to listen to for 14 hours. But, except for a few Greek tongue-twister’s, which I expect a professional narrator to pronounce correctly, the book is straightforward with no character voices or the like that might allow the narrator to shine. Souer does a good, albeit average, job and that’s why the three stars. Overall: “A War Like No Other” is a must-read for anyone wanting to better understand the Peloponnesian War Time after time Prof. Hanson provided the detail I wanted (indeed, sometimes he provided details I didn’t know I wanted) to more thoroughly understand this crucial, relevant, and highly interesting period in history - I cannot think now of the Peloponnesian War without incorporating what I learned in “A War Like No Other.” If you’re interested, I provided a link below to Prof. Hanson’s 2005 lecture from Book TV and C-SPAN2: (6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zAlS... LAST: I sincerely hope my review helped you! If so, please click LIKE/FOLLOW or send me a COMMENT. – Thanks! Amazon: Like/Comment Goodreads: Like/Comment/follow Audible: Helpful 1. Hanson, chaps. 4 (Freda 24%) also see Note 2: P. Krentz, "Deception," 186–91; Pritchett, Greek State, 2.163–70. Hanson. (Freda 82%). 2. Hanson, sec. Prologue (Freda 2%). 3. Hanson, chap. 5. (Freda 32%). 4. Robert B Strassler and Victor Davis Hanson, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War. (Riverside: Free Press, 1998), chap. 2.21. 5. Hanson, A War like No Other, chap. 2 (Freda 12%). 6. A War Like No Other: The Peloponnesian War, accessed January 30, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zAlS....

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for P. D. N.
  • P. D. N.
  • 04-01-20

the guy sounded so bored reading this

the book was a little dry, but an interested narrator would've helped immensely. he just sounded bored reading it. The book was a little repetitive.