The first volume of Donald Kagan's acclaimed four-volume history
of the Peloponnesian War offers a new evaluation of the origins and
causes of the conflict, based on evidence produced by modern
scholarship and on a careful reconsideration of the ancient texts.
He focuses his study on the question: Was the war inevitable, or
could it have been avoided?
Kagan takes issue with Thucydides' view that the war was
inevitable, that the rise of the Athenian Empire in a world with an
existing rival power made a clash between the two a certainty.
Asserting instead that the origin of the war "cannot, without
serious distortion, be treated in isolation from the internal
history of the states involved," Kagan traces the connections
between domestic politics, constitutional organization, and foreign
affairs. He further examines the evidence to see what decisions
were made that led to war, at each point asking whether a different
decision would have been possible.
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