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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Wars that Made the Western World

Wars that Made the Western World - Timothy B. Shutt This publication consists of five lectures about the Persian Wars (490 and 479 B.C.E), four lectures about the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.E), and five lectures about the Punic Wars (264 to 146 B.C.E.). These were wars of antiquity, but Professor Shutt makes the case that they helped determine the nature of the Western World.

My main motive for listening to these lectures was to become familiar with the Peloponnesian War in preparation for reading (or listening to) The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. The Great Books KC group has selected this ancient work--it could be argued to be the second oldest surviving history, Herodotus being oldest--for their next book. My previous exposure to the Peloponnesian War was the historical novel Tides of War (Link to my review) which I liked very much.

If the Persians had been victorious in the Persian War there would have been no Golden Classical Greek era. We would have never heard of Socrates or Plato, and the literature of the Illiad and Odyssey would probably have been lost. If Athens had won the Peloponnesian War, would they have gone on the be the dominate Mediterranean Power instead of Rome? If Carthage had won the Punic War, would they have been the dominate Mediterranean Power? Would the Christian Religion have gotten started if Carthage had been in control of Palestine at the time of Jesus? (It's interesting to note that the Carthaginian religion was similar to the Cannanites and worshiped Baal.)

One thing that impressed me about the Peloponnesian War is how the arrogance of the Athenians repeatably got them into trouble. There are numerous ways that Athens could have won the war, but they instead kept trying to extend their influence and power. Their actions resulted in the end, after nearly 30 years, with losing the war to Sparta.

Another thing I learned from the lectures is the suggestion that perhaps a contributing factor to Socrates being sentenced to death or banishment was his association with Alcibiades. Another insight from these lectures; the Athenian democracy was very fickle. It helps explain why Plato in his book The Republic concluded that democracy was not a good form of government. Of course we all know that Plato was correct. It's just that other forms have been proven to be worse.