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Written four hundred years before the birth of Christ, this detailed contemporary account of the struggle between Athens and Sparta stands an excellent chance of fulfilling the author''s ambitious claim that the work "was done to last forever." The conflicts between the two empires over shipping, trade, and colonial expansion came to a head in 431 b.c. in Northern Greece, and the entire Greek world was plunged into 27 years of war. Thucydides applied a passion for accuracy and a contempt for myth and romance in compiling this exhaustively factual record of the disastrous conflict that eventually ended the Athenian empire.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

About the Author

Thucydides (c. 460 BC–400 BC) was a general who was exiled for his failure to defend the Greek city of Amphipolis in Thrace. During his exile, he began compiling histories and accounts of the war from various participants.

Rex Warner was a Professor of the University of Connecticut from 1964 until his retirement in He was born in 1905 and went to Wadham College, Oxford, where he gained a "first" in Classical Moderations, and took a degree in English Literature. He taught in Egypt and England, and was Director of the British Institute, Athens, from 1945 to 1947. He has written poems, novels and critical essays, has worked on films and broadcasting, and has translated many works, of which Xenophon’s History of My Time and The Persian Expedition, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, and Plutarch’s Lives (under the title Fall of the Roman Republic) and Moral Essays have been published in Penguin Classics.

M. I. Finley was a professor of ancient history and master of Darwin College, Cambridge. He died in 1986.

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
488 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

N. Ben-horin
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
THE Masterpiece
Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2020
Not just a great book, perhaps the greatest history book ever written. It is our fortune that it did survive
his long, and, anyone reading it, is guaranteed to come out the other side wiser, and intellectually richer.
13 people found this helpful
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Grant Hildebrand
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The greatest of historians
Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2019
"My book was not meant to meet the tastes of an immediate public, but was done to last forever." At 2,430 years, it''s on its way. Thucydides has been called the greatest historian of all time, with reason; certainly his work set the conditions for historic chronicles ever... See more
"My book was not meant to meet the tastes of an immediate public, but was done to last forever." At 2,430 years, it''s on its way. Thucydides has been called the greatest historian of all time, with reason; certainly his work set the conditions for historic chronicles ever since, and the Rex Warner translation is itself a fine work. Grant Hildebrand Seattle
7 people found this helpful
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Lance Kirby
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2001
Thucydides is usually accounted the first "real" historian; because of his use of written material, interviews with participants, and scientific objectivity, he set a precedent that would be held as the ideal for all who followed. Thucydides remarks at the... See more
Thucydides is usually accounted the first "real" historian; because of his use of written material, interviews with participants, and scientific objectivity, he set a precedent that would be held as the ideal for all who followed. Thucydides remarks at the beginning of his book that:"...if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other in much the same ways, be repeated in the future." No historian today would claim that the past repeats its self, but, sadly, human nature does. Like some of my fellow reviewers you can see the correlation of the Peloponnesian and Delian leagues with the United Nations and NATO of today. The numerous peace treaties and ambassadorial delegations seem so closely to mirror our present time. This book is at the bedrock of Western Civilization, and must be read to understand the great European conflicts which followed.
11 people found this helpful
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HARI A RAO
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Indispensable
Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2018
One of the first works of military history, The History of the Peloponnesian War is still read by international scholars today for its timeless themes of power, glory, betrayal, and pointless bloodshed. Highly recommended.
5 people found this helpful
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H. Sætra
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Some strategy and a lot of history
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2007
First of all, I find it close to impossible to rate such a book as this, as it is truly great as an insight into events that happened thousands of years ago, while the writing and accessibility of the work clearly could have been better. Nevertheless, in my opinion this is... See more
First of all, I find it close to impossible to rate such a book as this, as it is truly great as an insight into events that happened thousands of years ago, while the writing and accessibility of the work clearly could have been better. Nevertheless, in my opinion this is a 5-star book, as the detail and insight into a war that took place ~400bc is such a great read.
Thucydides shows a himself as a great analyst of the conficts he relates, and instead of just relating the facts, he guides us through the actors motivations and the reasons for what takes place. THAT is the value of this book as far as I''m concerned, the strategic approach to conflict, and the massive amount of strategy in regards to alliances and battles that we get to share through this book.
Being a student of political philosophy I read this book because of my fascination with Thomas Hobbes (Allthough not the Hobbes-translation). It will be hard for anyone to understand Hobbes through this though, and I must question the usefulness for most of such a linkage on the whole. There is also a lot of history in this book that will interest a lot of you (Those that are like me), rather little, but one gets through it, and when one is done with the book I truly feel I have gotten a great lecture in strategy and conflict!
5 people found this helpful
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W. Schneider
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thucydides'' Masterwork
Reviewed in the United States on February 16, 2013
Through the use of numerous interviews, tirelessly researching records, and gathering a great deal of evidence, Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War" stands as perhaps the first great work of nonfiction in Western history. After generations of epic poems and... See more
Through the use of numerous interviews, tirelessly researching records, and gathering a great deal of evidence, Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War" stands as perhaps the first great work of nonfiction in Western history. After generations of epic poems and stories, which included every bit as much exaggeration and mythology as they did truth, Thucydides used the tools of evidence and objectivity to create a reliable historical record of the great war between Athens and Sparta to stand the test of time. This is vital reading if you have even a passing interest in military history, Ancient Greek history, or, really, any history at all.
6 people found this helpful
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Stratiotes Doxha Theon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Standard-setter for western historical study
Reviewed in the United States on November 1, 2006
More than a simple historical treatise, it is a character study in human nature and its affects on the human actions that make history. A classic of historical works in its detail and insight on human action we know as history. Thucydides is unmatched in his insights,... See more
More than a simple historical treatise, it is a character study in human nature and its affects on the human actions that make history. A classic of historical works in its detail and insight on human action we know as history. Thucydides is unmatched in his insights, clarity of language and thought, and in his informative description of the history of his time. A must read for anyone wanting to plumb the depths of western civilization and ethos. An enjoyable read for any historiphile.

It could use more maps but be sure to check the back of the book for the few it does have.
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The best history on the Peloponnesian War.
Reviewed in the United States on February 4, 2020
This is the best history on the Peloponnesian War. The lessons in this book are true as much today as they were then.
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Top reviews from other countries

therealus
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Flawed package, but an invaluable guide to war, its causes, and its consequences
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 12, 2017
For all the problems Thucydides’s work poses for the contemporary reader – the dryness of the prose, the author’s own admission that the speeches are unlikely to be accurate reporting, his inability to transcend the particular for the universal – it is beyond churlish to...See more
For all the problems Thucydides’s work poses for the contemporary reader – the dryness of the prose, the author’s own admission that the speeches are unlikely to be accurate reporting, his inability to transcend the particular for the universal – it is beyond churlish to criticise the man who may be seen as the first real historian, the first to consider history as a product of human agency, not as something predetermined by the whims of the gods. By his own admission, Thucydides’s account is short on literary merit. There are occasional references to human emotions, especially fear and panic, but in general the history presents us with little but a litany of events on a grand scale, free of any descriptions of the actions of individuals. Early on there are instances where the speeches in particular offer the potential for learning, but these are implicit rather than explicit. It has been left to his successors to generalise the lessons. But what lessons! The greatest, of course, is that succumbing to the apparent need to wage war on a challenger or incumbent has enormous and often unforeseen consequences. When Sparta and Athens allowed themselves to be sucked into conflict with each other they were both great nations. By the end of the war they were depleted almost to the point of no return, leaving a power vacuum for others to exploit. In the 20th Century, the parallels include Great Britain, Germany and the United States in that respect. On another level, there is the sheer brutality of the way war is waged. Even with individual suffering overlooked, it is difficult not to be horrified by the merciless and summary killings that take place, of soldiers and civilians alike; the calamities that befall both sides due to overreach, miscalculation, hubris, treachery, caprice, forces of nature such as earthquakes, plagues, volcanoes, storms and the tides, and sometimes pure stupidity; and the way in which some people, through no fault of their own, are caught in the middle with no viable means of escape. I lost count of the number of times one side or the other lay waste a region. This Penguin edition, it has to be said, has a few faults of its own. MI Finley’s Introduction is scholarly and informative but in a 1970s kind of way. (I found Graham Allison’s overview in Destined for War, which I have also reviewed, a useful, though by no means complete, supplement.) Rex Warner’s translation dates back to the 1950s, and it shows, and could at least do with an up-to-date commentary. There are numerous typos, problems with the tiny typeface, a number of examples of poor proofreading, including a few times where infinitives have “to” preceding them twice due to a line change, and at least one sentence which, no matter how many times I read it, made no sense at all. Additionally, having read about a quarter of the book wishing there were maps I found them, at the back. But they’re useless, not only committing all the cardinal sins of maps but also giving the appearance of having been printed on blotting paper. It’s impossible, however, to give Thucydides anything less than five stars, no matter how he’s packaged.
22 people found this helpful
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M. Dean
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
lots and lots and lots of fascinating detail
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 17, 2015
The next time I read this book - and it will have to be read again as there is a lot to absorb in one reading - I intend to set a room in my house aside and have a large map of the med to cover the floor. Then with the aid of lots of wooden model boats for the different...See more
The next time I read this book - and it will have to be read again as there is a lot to absorb in one reading - I intend to set a room in my house aside and have a large map of the med to cover the floor. Then with the aid of lots of wooden model boats for the different triremes and blocks for the different armies I can move them around on a page by page basis (probably dressed appropriately in a horse haired helmet and metal greaves and pushing the markers with a wooden spear) and fully immerse myself in the experience. Maybe a few dioramas of the various battles which are explained in exhaustive detail, would also add to the effect. A book for armchair generals of all ages. It basically reads as most modern histories. The strong take from the weak and nations attack others if it it is in their self interest to do so. Some of the personalities of the combatants are also described, though this is almost in passing. And the leaders then seem to have been just as unscrupulous and deceitful as they are now. Totally fascinating.
9 people found this helpful
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William Tomlinson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Reliable service
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 9, 2020
Arrived quickly in good condition and well packed. Since my purchase was so small, it is particularly creditable.
One person found this helpful
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MS L A McPherson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Surprisingly readable
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 29, 2020
Seems to be a god translation and easy to read even if the ancient Greek name are very hard to pronounce!
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Mark Keatley-Palmer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 14, 2017
Perfect, as described & delivered on time Took me back to my A level!
3 people found this helpful
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