So right now I’m reading Tides of War by Stephen Pressfield. It’s about Alcibiades in the Peloponnesian War. Pressfield is a damn difficult writer to read, but I imagine he’s easier than Thucydides, the author of The History of the Peloponnesian War, from which Pressfield gets much of the story. The History has been recommended by many strategists and politicians and bloggers about the same, such as Ryan Holiday. Supposedly Rumsfield was a big fan and that was part of what led to the Iraq invasion in 2003. Opinions differ on whether the USA is represented by Athens or Sparta (Sparta being located in the Peloponnesian peninsula, and thus the name).
I’m only part way into it, but I will note that he takes a charismatic but flawed leader and runs through his rise and fall. Conn Iggulden does this with Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan in what I have to say is a much more readable fashion. Pressfield wrote a book called The Hot Gates about the battle of Thermopylae – this was before the Movie “300” – and it was a struggle to get through it even though the subject itself is fascinating. I mean, three hundred and something pages for one battle? So he fills it with training and childhood and all that character development stuff. It’s told from the point of view of a Spartan slave who survives the battle. And it’s said he writes awesome battle scenes but I think Bernard Cornwell blows Pressfield away here.
This book is told by Polemides, a fictional character made up by Pressfield that was a good friend of Alcibiades but also his assassin, in the end. There’s a whole lot more to the story but seeing as how I’m only a third of the way through it I’ll leave it to later to talk more about it.
I’ll say this – it’s a shame we didn’t read the classics in school. I’ve been reading Aurelius and Herodotus and Thucydides and even a better version of Homer these last few years and these guys are good. I’d rather read these than Wuthering Heights or Great Expectations. But who knows, at this rate I may end up enjoying Shakespeare too…