Historians universally agree that Thucydides was the greatest historian who has ever lived, and that his story of the Peloponnesian conflict is a marvel of forensic science and fine literature. That such a triumph of intellectual accomplishment was created at the end of the fifth century B.C. in Greece is, perhaps, not so surprising, given the number of original geniuses we find in that period. But that such an historical work would also be simultaneously acknowledged as a work of great literature and a penetrating ethical evaluation of humanity is one of the miracles of ancient history. For in the pages of Thucydides we find examples of every ethical and political problem ever faced by democratic governments in the last 2,400 years. And it was all organized and written with a breathtaking skill and dramatic intensity which have never been equalled.
Thucydides was an Athenian noble born around 455 B.C. whose antecedents could be traced back to the great Peisitratus and Cimon. In 424 B.C., Thucydides was in command of naval forces attempting to defend Amphipolis in Thrace. Although unsuccessful through no fault of his own, his enemies in Athens blamed him for failure and engineered his exile. It was a fortunate event, for it was upon this accident of history that Thucydides gained the opportunity to become the chronicler of events in Greece. In complete contrast to the furious passions which raged around him, he described events with a cool detachment and an absolute impartiality that is little short of miraculous. He is believed to have died violently, perhaps while writing, in about 400 B.C. His manuscript simply breaks off in mid paragraph.
The Peloponnesian War is organized into eight parts (“books”). This recording uses the highly esteemed translation of Benjamin Jowett. There are several essays preceding and following the work.
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of Thucydides. Both the translation and the quality of the narration were excellent, and there is helpful supplementary material in the form of a number of essays at both the beginning and the end of the audio book.
My only complaint is that the essays at the beginning of the audio book are several HOURS long, before you get to the beginning of book 1 proper. There is also no break in audio tracks between the essays and book itself, and there are no notes saying what time the essays stop and the book starts. I enjoyed the first few, but after a while I wanted to get to book one itself. It was frustrating to keep having to fast forward, listen for a while, and try to figure out if we were still in the essay material or if we’d started the history proper.
My thoughts: Either move the essays to the end of the audio book or (even better), make a break in audio tracks between the essays and the beginning of book one.
In any event, I want to thank the publisher and iTunes for this offering.
The narrator's voice is insufferable.
Like a cartoonish parody of a Victorian-era English person. Almost unlistenable.