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Peter Green


Subtitle: The Failure of the Sicilian Expedition 415 - 413 B.C., Hodder and Stoughton, London, 392 pgs., index, bibliography, maps, illustrations, notes, appendices.


Reviewer Comments:

By focusing on a campaign that occupied two years dr. Green is able to describe and analyze it in great detail. But he does more. He includes the background setting for the campaign and why the Athenians undertook it. This means he discusses the whole context of the Athenian - Lacedaemonian wars that occurred before it. For the Athenians critical economic necessity was the important factor but the decision for it was very much a result also of the internal political struggle between individuals and factions in Athenian society. Dr. Green includes much more detail on these factors than does Thucydides in his sparse descriptions. But Thucydides' description and analysis is included, especially his descriptions and opinions about the Athenian leaders. Dr. Green is also able to include much more detail about the reality of Greek warfare including siege warfare than in general histories - Landmark edition excluded.



In this section the author describes the lengthy and voluminous research work he accomplished in preparation for writing this book. This is to mollify his academic colleagues for lack of such expected apparatus and also to explain his motivation in 'filling the gap' in literature on the Athenian expedition. In compensation to his academic colleagues he does provide a huge bibliography that includes ancient well as modern references.


I. Prelude to a War


II. Wheat, Timber, Gold

A very valuable description of the vital economic situation the Athenians faced due to their strategy of creating a large city with much larger population than they could feed and reliance on a fleet for which they lacked the required timber. The expedition to the 'west' that means Sicily and Italy was the desperate result of Athenian failure to maintain control over Egyptian grain and having only tenuous control over the grain supply from the Black Sea region. Gold, of course, was necessary to finance everything as even their silver supply was curtailed.


III. The Grand Design


IV. Cleon and the West


V. The Phoney Peace


VI. An Embassy from Segesta


VII. Herms and Mysteries


VIII. The Armada Sails


IX. Nicias Takes the Offensive


X. The Heights of Epipolae


XI. Walls and Counter-walls


XII. Enter Gylippus


XIII. A Dispatch to the Assembly


XIV. The Capture of Plmmyrium


XV. A Naval Reverse


XVI. Demosthenes' Night Attack


XVII. Death by Water


XVIII. The Last Retreat


XIX. The End of the Road

Dr. Green gives us a very vivid description of the fate of the Athenians most of whom died either in the initial slaughter on the Assinarus River or in captivity. And he notes that, surprisingly to me, a few Athenians did manage to return to Athens. He concludes with a brief note extolling Athenian indomitable will that enabled them to continue the war for 10 years by heroic efforts.


Appendix I. Distribution figures for Attic Red-Figures


Appendix II Population and Grain-Consumption Figures for Fifth Century Athens


Appendix III Sicilian Cities: Production and Consumption in the Fifth Century B.C.


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