I have a history degree. I feel like I inadvertently neglect this with some frequency. My changing goals have pretty much removed me totally from any realm where I would make practical use of it. Practical use, in this case, being defined as teaching history, guiding a museum tour being the dude standing around famous places going “did you know” I’ve not really sharpened myself in these things.
My history degree has given me something very interesting in my writing life. I’m a firm believer that the times help shape the story, and being able to look at the history around a book makes me feel like I have a better understanding of how the times shaped the book, and how the book represents the time.
Greek history has always fascinated me because the history always seemed so wrapped up in the mythology. The first books and stories I remember reading on my own were stories of creation from Greek mythology. I owned my own copy of Edith Hamilton long before seeing the book show up in my Latin classes. That said, I have no idea how to spell “Peloponnesian” well, some idea, but I never quite get it all right. I tried to explain via text message what I was reading and it was a pretty embarrassing affair.
Anyway, this book is lovely. So often the problem with books dealing with history is that they start to sound like history textbooks. This book maintains colloquial phrases, which don’t detract from the feeling that you’re being lectured by someone who is giving you information. The best teachers I ever had didn’t sound pedantic, they spoke as you or I speak, they just did so more intelligently. The J.E. Lendon is great at sounding intelligent, but not sounding like he is speaking down to you.
The stories he tells are interesting and he does a good job of explaining the reason why he wrote his book, and making his point as to why his claim is valid. The claim is that war between the Classic Greeks were fought as a grand scale pissing contest (I’m paraphrasing, he didn’t get –that- folksy). Wars were often fought between states for the purpose of establishing, or maintaining prestige. It was left for the other states to judge who was winning or losing. The story told in Song of Wrath is the story of Athens trying to become equal to Sparta.
Since I can’t resist a near 2500-year-old spoiler alert, they succeed.
Find book 9 information here