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Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the…

Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of… (2009)

by John R. Hale

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301737,236 (4.22)10
  1. 10
    The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan (bookfitz)
    bookfitz: For a more in depth look at the Peloponnesian War and what the Athenians did with their navy, readers of Hale my enjoy Donald Kagan's "The Peloponnesian War."

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Fast moving with enough detail to intrigue but not so much that it drags. Explains how the development of the navy and naval strategies led to the Athenian dominance of the ancient world. Fast paced, skillful narrative. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
A great read following wily Greeks and more specifically Athenians, as they battle with triremes against, Spartans, Persians whoever, and they win more than they lose. ( )
  charlie68 | Mar 22, 2016 |

Fascinating book by someone who has studied the Athenian navy for forty years according to the preface. And yet, the book is very accessible vs being written for other scholars.

This covers the history of Athens and to a lesser extent Sparta from the time of King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans vs Persian thousands at the battle of Thermopylae until the reign of Alexander the Great.

I knew democracy was born in Greece at Athens. But I didn't realize democracy was a product of war and was maintained by warfare for generations. Once the Athenian navy was powerful enough to overawe their neighbors peace was maintained for long periods of time. Then they would stop supporting the navy to the same degree and as their power waned so did peace. Interesting analysis of naval power and the creation of democracy and the effects on Athenian society.

It's always interesting to learn about cultures that are so incredibly different then our own. We tend to think other cultures are more like us than not in many ways. And that is just not the way things have always been. But we look back in history sometimes we find that we, rather than the people of the past, are alien.
( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
My first thought before I even started this book is, "why bother?" I already read Donald Kagan's phenomenal history of The Peloponnesian War, who is this guy and what can he possibly add? Well, it turns out Mr. Hale is not only a former student of Kagan, but he's the guy who twisted Kagan's arm to distill his 4-volume scholarly epic into the excellent book aimed at a broader audience. When that deal went down. Hale was contracted to write a sort of companion book that focused entirely on the Athenian Navy.

The story of the Athenian navy starts with the Persian wars. Athens at the time had a middling hoplite army that was less effective than Sparta and no better than the rest of the Greek city states. The decision to focus entirely on maritime supremacy launched a veritable golden age that peaked even after a stunning defeat in the Peloponnesian War. It wasn't until Alexander the Great humbled all of Greece that Athenian power ceased to be a dominate factor in the Aegean. For nearly 200 years prior to this, however, Athens won stunning victories against horrific odds, celebrated (and then sometimes ostracized) many generals; and experienced ebbs and flows within their novel democracy that led to the demise of some generals and the great teacher/philosopher Socrates. This latter bit is important when considering the military history of Greece during this time -- knowing the outcome of the battles is not nearly enough, the context changed so rapidly that the same general (like Alcibiades) might find himself fighting on different sides during the course of his career.

This book is an excellent companion to Kagan's book, and although it is more Athenian-centric, it also has a broader scope, covering events before and after the Peloponnesian War. My only complaints are minor -- I think I would have liked a little more biography with some of the Spartan, Persian, Theban, and other adversaries...Hale drops a lot of names that are somewhat familiar to me but only because I've heard about them in passing in other such books. I did learn more about trireme battle strategy and many of the Athenian generals though, this book certainly was not a rehash of what I already know (and if that needs to be qualified, I started with Thucydides 35 years ago in an Ancient Greek History class and have been reading on this subject ever since). ( )
  JeffV | Mar 14, 2015 |
With "characters" like Sophocles, Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides, Plato, Alexander the Great and many others, Hale takes what could be a dry history book and makes it a fascinating page turner. It also served as a reminder to me that the world has always been a crazy place. ( )
  Scarchin | Nov 12, 2013 |
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The audience for Lords of the Sea will be all those passionate about the Greeks, military history, ships and shipping--especially laymen. The beauty of the book is not to be found in any new close interpretations of text (instead of footnotes, it has short general source notes by chapter) or new reconstructions of naval engagements but rather in its grand synthesis.
Mr. Hale’s book is good enough that one hopes to hear more from him. He’s an intellectually serious historian who knows how to tell war stories. On Amazon.com one commenter noted that “Lords of the Sea” is an especially stirring audio book. I have no trouble believing that.
"Although sometimes tough to get through, with something for almost everyone, “Lords of the Sea” tells an important story and imparts to him who wants to learn important lessons."

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John R. Haleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Matthews, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The world before you has two realms open to human enterprise, / land and sea, / and over the whole of the sea you are lords. - Pericles to the Athenians
For my father / THOMAS FARRIS HALE / veteran of the United States Air Force, who crossed the Pacific Ocean in a troopship when he was twenty-four and later told his seven children their first stories of war and seafaring
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At dawn, when the Aegean Sea lay smooth as a burnished shield, you could hear a trireme from Athens while it was still a long way off.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067002080X, Hardcover)

A stirring history of the world's first dominant navy and the towering empire it built

The navy created by the people of Athens in ancient Greece was one of the finest fighting forces in the history of the world and the model for all other national navies to come. The Athenian navy built a civilization, empowered the world's first democracy, and led a band of ordinary citizens on a voyage of discovery that altered the course of history. Its defeat of the Persian fleet at Salamis in 480 BCE launched the Athenian Golden Age and preserved Greek freedom and culture for centuries. With Lords of the Sea, renowned archaeologist John Hale presents, for the first time, the definitive history of the epic battles, the indomitable ships, and the men-from extraordinary leaders to seductive rogues-who established Athens's supremacy. With a scholar's insight and a storyteller's flair, Hale takes us on an illustrated tour of the heroes and their turbulent careers and far-flung expeditions and brings back to light a forgotten maritime empire and its majestic legacy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:44 -0400)

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A history of the world's first dominant navy and the towering empire it built.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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