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The Peloponnesian War

Narrated by: Kenneth W. Harl
Length: 18 hrs and 2 mins
Categories: History, Ancient
4.5 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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Summary

The Peloponnesian War pitted Athens and its allies against a league of city-states headed by Sparta. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides captured this drama with matchless insight in his classic eyewitness account of what was arguably the greatest war in the history of the world up to that time.

These 36 half-hour lectures draw on Thucydides' classic account as well as other ancient sources to give you a full picture of the Greek world in uneasy peace and then all-out war in the late 5th century B.C. Professor Harl plunges you into the thick of politics, military strategy, economics, and technology.

You will feel the ancient Greek world come alive as you explore the war debates at Athens and Sparta, the devastating plagues that swept through Athens, the Revolt of Mytilene, the Battle of Pylos, the disastrous Athenian and Spartan expedition to Sicily against Spartan allies. You'll experience the thick of action and consider lively scholarly debates that continue to this day.

Unlike earlier great wars, the Peloponnesian War was not a conflict between kings, but between citizens from different city-states who shared the same language, gods, and festivals. Citizen assemblies decided questions of war - voting on their own fates, since they were the ones who had to do the fighting.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this era is that culture flourished side-by-side with the politics of war - that, even as Athenian citizens were honoring Aristophanes' mocking antiwar play, The Acharnians, by giving it first prize in a drama competition, they were debating with equal ardor whether to continue the war, and deciding overwhelmingly to do so.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses

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Peloponnesian Wars

This is a.great set of lectures. However it is more of a political and economic history rather than a military history. I found there was too much on the introduction and less on military tactics for each battle. For this Donald Kagan's book is probably better.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful and virtuous Sparta

Goes against the grain of the predominant historical analyses (and vilification) of Sparta's role in these wars, and manages to do it with some justification, These are very complex and intricately wound events, but Harl manages to extricate them well, displaying an impressive knowledge of the subject matter. He uses Thucydides as his primary inspiration and source.

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Balanced narrative

It was an enjoyable experience. A very balanced review of the war. He tried his best to entertain the viewpoints of both belligerents without choosing favorites despite the obvious Athenian bias of the contemporary western tradition.

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Great Introduction

Excellent easy to concentrate on concise sections. Recommended! It really was a good listening experience

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  • Mr
  • United Kingdom
  • 03-06-18

outstanding series of lectures by a brilliant prof

outstanding series of lectures by a brilliant professor who both knows and is passionate about his subject.

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Best Great Course that I've listened to

Would you consider the audio edition of The Peloponnesian War to be better than the print version?

The story was definitely improved by the exciting manner in which Professor Harl told it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, definitely, I tend to listen to audiobooks on the train, but I would continue to listen after my journey was complete, even if I had things to do. Totally addictive listen

Any additional comments?

I've listened to a lot of the Great Courses, particularly history courses, and this is probably the best one. Very good listen.

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  • The World's Greatest
  • 26-04-16

Enjoyable, not for Greek newbies...

If you already have a grasp of Ancient Greek history, this will be a good listen about the Peloponnesian war. If you know very little or nothing, it will be harder to follow as the Professor throws out names, places, events rather rapidly and assumes you know what he's talking about. Before listening to the Peloponnesian war, I listened to The long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World by Ian Worthington, so I had the necessary background knowledge to follow along. This series of lectures focuses more on the war as the title suggest and I learned a good deal more about the war and its players and events than I had known before. Even so I wish the lectures were longer and even more details could be provided about the many events as I feel some were glossed over too quickly but in the interest of keeping things moving along, I suppose it's better for most listeners.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • RayVon
  • 20-09-14

I cannot suggest this lecture series enough!

If you could sum up The Peloponnesian War in three words, what would they be?

Harl is great

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Peloponnesian War?

All of it.

What does Professor Kenneth W. Harl bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Harl relays the informative in a comprehendible and digestible manor that makes listening a joy. Nothing kills a lecture like a Prof who is clearly disinterested of bored with the subject but Harl is clearly electrified and excited by the topics at had which in turn only makes the lectures far more engaging.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Knowing little about the greek world, aside from myth and the Iliad, learning about the Greek political climate as well as actual warfare strategies was intensely interesting

Any additional comments?

If you're interested in Greek ancient history then this is a must.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • CasperMtn
  • 13-07-17

Timeless, Thought Provoking, and Timely

Thank you Professor Harl. As another reviewer observed this is a "serious" course. The histories explored and questioned, the importance of the prelude to the war, the actions within it, and the repercussions throughout and after lend us insight into the important wars and alliances then, and throughout the intervening 2,400 years even unto our present day. This is a course to be studied with the excellent accompanying course PDF and the best maps that you can find to refer to throughout. I will never see our "modern" world the same. More complex, perhaps. More devastating, definitely. More humane or evolved? These questions remain with me as I view the Athenians, Spartans, and others presaging the EU, US, former USSR and Daesh, while wading through alliances, diplomacy, and war after war. If you think critically, you will be challenged with this course.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Imre Balazs
  • 06-08-15

An excellent choice

Kenneth W. Harl is truly exceptional. Probably the best performance in my experience with the great lectures series, and I own a dozen. Buy it, listen to it, enjoy it, you can't go wrong with this guy.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 16-05-15

A very well delivered, and engaging series.

One of the top five lecture series from TTC I have enjoyed to date. The professor does an excellent job of keeping the story interesting. His delivery of this course is what elevates it from merely good to fantastic.

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  • khilsati
  • 28-11-18

Unclear

Though the subject is fascinating, Professor Harl talks about it as he would be adressing colleagues. Explanations are unclear at best, confusing at worst. Most of the time, his sentences list numerous people, place and events, in a way that you need a deep background on the subject to follow him.
As a person who never majored in History and whose knowledge of the Era comes from Great Courses (this one was the 6th), the lesson became unpleasant rather quickly. Not for me for sure.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Teresa Appel
  • 02-11-19

Dr. Harl is brilliant and insightful as always!

if you've listened to other lecture series by Dr Harl, you are in for a treat.

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  • Taylor Britton
  • 12-10-19

great course

This. Is. Polyponnesia!

i guess the lessions are that both democracy and tyranny always fail and that war... war never changes.

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  • Mike Jones
  • 05-08-19

music<br /><br />

I hate that loud intfo music every chapter. know your audience, a lot people go to sleep to this.

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  • Josh Schecker
  • 14-09-18

Fantastic overview of the war and ancient Greece

Harl enriches the story of the war with thoughtful analysis and makes it accessible to those with little to no knowledge of the war.

Harl does a great job of explaining the context and implications of Thucydides' history of the war. I really appreciated the extensive introduction to the politics and cultures of the Greek city states in the century prior to the war. Harl builds upon this when explaining why the war took the course it did and this really deepened my understanding of the events.

In describing the war, his accounting is detailed without being overburdened by minutia; However, it is a listen that requires attentiveness as there are many strange names and obscure places to keep track of.