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November 30, 2009

Weekend Book Report – A War Like No Other

A War Like No Other A War Like No Other
How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War

Victor Davis Hanson

400 Pages



I was reading “A War Like No Other” around the time Mrs. Moron and I were trying to choose a name for our first child, a boy.  Being a “live-in-the-moment” kind of guy, I naturally suggested “Pericles.”

Which is why men have wives.

Author Victor Davis Hanson is a classical scholar in the traditional sense.  And by “traditional sense” we mean, “he makes you feel like an idiot in comparison,” as he does his own translations from the original Greek or Latin.

“A War Like No Other,” chronicles the Peloponnesian War between the Athenian empire and Sparta and its allies, a conflict that would consume nearly three decades and change the course of history forever.

If you are like most Planet Moron readers, you’re probably asking yourself, “I wonder if the author properly addresses the role the ill-fated Syracuse campaign played in the ultimate outcome of the war a decade later?”

Also, “I like cheese.”

The book is in fact largely organized around the methods of warfare employed, from chapters on “Fear” and “Fire” to “Horses” and “Ships.”  There is at first a gimmicky feel to this, as with all attempts to take a fresh approach to well-trodden ground (like a chess set that uses Star Wars characters, or calling cuts in a program “savings”) but it works here and offers a fascinating perspective into the means of war and the manner in which it was fought at the time.

A major theme of the narrative, and an inspiration for the title, is the escalating brutality of the war, unseen in earlier internecine Greek conflicts, that marked the 27-years of the on-and-off hostilities.  Modern readers will no doubt find the barbarous accounts of men and women being torn apart by swords and spears by these primitive ancients disturbing, accustomed as they are to the far more sophisticated approach of using bullets and high explosives.

Those were savage, savage, times.

For those interested in this era, or who just like good war stories, it’s hard to go wrong with “A War Like No Other.”


PS:  The kid did end up with a name that will get him beat up at recess far less often than "Pericles."

Some comments on the Kindle: "A War Like No Other" was not available for the Kindle. And therein lies a problem.

I still love the Kindle (originally reviewed here), but my fears regarding availability (much like downloadable music a few years ago) have been confirmed.  From past Book Reports you'll note I don't spend a lot of time on the best-seller lists, so I'm finding maybe half the books I want to read available for the Kindle. On the plus side, it is approaching the $199 price it always should have been.

Bottom line, it remains a product for early-adopters.  That's my comfort zone, since it has buttons and is shiny, but it might prove frustrating for those less fascinated with gadgetry and with eclectic reading habits.

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November 30, 2009 at 01:06 PM in Books | Permalink


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Tsk tsk. Always underestimating your readers. Well I for one was not thinking any such silliness. I know the Peloponnesians couldn't possibly have attacked upstate New York.

You were right on the cheese thing though.

Are you still going strong on the Kindle? The recent competition-fueled upgrades made it seem more appealing, but I still feel the whole thing is too early-adaptor for me.

Posted by: Amarsir | Dec 1, 2009 4:05:02 AM

I hate it when the comments are funnier than the piece.

On the plus side, you remind me I'd meant to include an addendum on the Kindle. Thanks!

Posted by: Planet Moron | Dec 1, 2009 6:45:19 AM

So, did you read it aloud to baby Lysander Moron?

Posted by: Michael | Dec 1, 2009 9:40:51 AM

I wasn't up to that part at the time!

Posted by: Planet Moron | Dec 1, 2009 5:10:19 PM

Thanks for the update. Good to be mindful of long-term use in this season of short-term shopping.

Posted by: Amarsir | Dec 1, 2009 10:23:49 PM

Kindle may be fine for you "techies" but I don't see how you can press pretty flowers between the pages. Or hide love notes. Or many other things too numerous to mention.

Posted by: barryjo | Dec 5, 2009 1:03:18 PM

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