“In 431 BC, the long simmering rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta erupted into open warfare, and for more than a generation the two were locked in a life-and-death struggle. The war embroiled the entire Greek world, provoking years of butchery previously unparalleled in ancient Greece. Whole cities were exterminated, their men killed, their women and children enslaved.” This was the Peloponnesian War, which its historian Thucydides described as “a great war and more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it.”
It might seem that a war of approximately 27 years was long enough to be getting on with. But Jennifer T. Roberts, Professor of Classics and History at the City University of New York has written a history of the Peloponesian War which argues that the war actually went on much longer than that. In her book Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece–issued in paperback this May by Oxford University Press—she traces the war’s titanic influence, not only on the lives of the Greeks, but on the subsquent history of art, architecture, politics, and philosophy—influences that echo down to the present day.