Wednesday, 21 June 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book IV


Pylos from the north
source Wikipedia


History of the Peloponnesian War

Book IV:  Demosthenes continues his strategies to Athens' benefit.  There is an ironic battle between Athen and Sparta in Pylos, where Athens is fighting on Spartan land, defending it against the Spartans who are approaching by sea.  A power struggle between Creon and Nicias ensues and Creon is forced to take command of the troops against his will, after clever manipulation by Nicias, and chooses Demosthenes as his commanding officer.  The Spartans are eventually defeated with the prisoners being taken to Athens.  The Spartans try to negotiate peace but the Athenians reject the proposal, always "grasping at more."  Nicias now leads an expedition and more Athenian battles ensue.

Athens with the Acropolis
William James Müller
source ArtUK


More battles are described covering many areas of Peloponnese and Attica.  Athens appears most of the time to have the upper hand until Brasidas, a Spartan commander, begins a march through Thessaly toward Macedon where he has been invited by its leader, Perdiccas, to help them, and surrounding areas revolt from Athens.  Brasidas is wildly successful and is only stopped from invading Eion by Thucydides (our famous author!), however most other Chalcidice territory falls into his hands.  His attacks and revolts by kingdoms continue in spite of a one-year armistice between Athens and Sparta that is agreed upon in the 9th summer of the war.  However, as some of Brasidas’ soldiers vent their anger on baggage and oxen of deserting Macedonians, a falling out occurs between Perdiccas and Brasidas, the former “beg{inning} to regard Brasidas as an enemy and to feel against the Peloponnesians a hatred which would not suit well the adversary of the Athenians.  Indeed, he now departed from his natural interst and made it his endeavor to come to terms with the latter and to get rid of the former.”  The ninth winter ends with a failed attempted by Brasidas to conquer Potidaea.

He became a target for every arrow
(Brasidas)
source Wikipedia


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

History of Peloponnesian War - Book III



History of the Peloponnesian War

Landscape of Attica
Nikolaos Lytras
source Wikiart
Book III:  In the summer of the fourth year, there is much action along the Ionian coastline.  Sparta also prepares to invade Attica.  Lesbos revolts from Athenian control and Mytilene follows suite and after fighting, Athenian strength prevails.  Cleon and Diodotus argue over how to treat the revolutionaries with Cleon arguing for execution.  In the end, Athens votes to spare them.

We have many descriptions of battles and states allying with one opponent or the other.  Most often the alliance was formed for self-preservation, rather than from any deep conviction, although the occasional loyalty did crop up.

The Thebans and Plataeans squabble, Sparta judges and executes the Plataeans (yes, all of them) and their city is razed.

Thucydides gives a fascinating speech on the evils of war and revolution and how it changes men both externally and internally.  There are chilling similarities to the politics and power struggles of our times:

"The sufferings which revolution entailed upon the cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in a severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases.  In peace and prosperity states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants and so proves a rough master that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes ...... words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question incapacity to act on any.  Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self-defence.  The advocate of extreme measure was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.  To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries .......  The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention ...... Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles.  The ancient simplicity into which honor so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.  To put an end to this, there was neither promise to be depended upon, nor oath that could command respect; but all parties dwelling rather in their calculation upon the hopelessness of a permanent state of things, were more intent upon self-defence than capable of confidence.  In the contest the blunter wits were most successful .... {yet} often fell victims to their own lack of precaution."

For a second time a plague strikes the Athenians, although the first plague has not quite left, and lasted for a year, has a devastating effect on their population.

Demosthenes (1893)
Nicholas Roerich
source Wikiart


We are introduced to Demosthenes and his aggressive and single-minded leadership, which seems to work well for him, as he assists the Acarnanians in routing the Peloponnesians and the Ambraciots in a decisive victory.

The winter of the sixth year of the war concludes with an eruption of Mount Etna.

Viw of Mount Etna (1844)
Thomas Cole
source Wikiart

Friday, 16 June 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book II

Peloponnese region
courtesy of Ian Gkoutas
source Wikimedia Commons


History of the Peloponnesian War


Pericles Funeral Oration (1877)
source Wikimedia Commons
Book II:  This book takes the reader from the beginning of the war to the third year in the winter season.  An altercation between Spartan and Athenian allies provides the spark for Sparta to invade Hellene lands and so the war begins, with descriptions of battle and raids and refugees. and even the great Athenian general Pericles donates his land to the Athenian government for political reasons.  His eulogy over dead fighters (his famous funeral oration) gives a particular insight into Hellenic culture and character:

"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves ......  We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality .... We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggles against it.  Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, we regard the citizen who takes no part in theses duties not as unambitious but as useless, and we are able to judge proposals even if we cannot originate them; instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminiary to any wise action at all ...... But the prize for courage will surely be awarded most justly to those who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger .... "

Soon after, an horrendous plague hit Athens, which started on Lemnos and is speculated to have originated in Ethiopia.  Thousands upon thousands of Hellenes began to die and Thucydides was one of its targets, although obviously he didn't die and was an expert on its progression, both from having the disease, to observation and inquiry.

Anaxagoras and Pericles
Augustin Louis-Bell
source Wikimedia Commons
Pericles is then disparaged by the people for the deprivation and struggles they are facing during the war, and he gives a rather stirring speech in his defense, after which the people throw their support behind him, albeit not without a fine to assuage their previous grumblings.  Thucydides' description of Pericles is very complimentary:

"For as long as he was at the head of the state during the peace, he pursued a moderate and conservative policy; and in his time its greatness was at its height.  When the war broke out, here also he seems to have rightly gauged the power of his country.  He outlived its commencement two years and six months, and the correctness of his foresight concerning the war became better known after his death.  He told them to wait quietly, to pay attention to their marine, to attempt no new conquests, and to expose the city to no hazards, during the war, and doing this, promised them favourable results.  What they did was the very contrary, allowing private ambitions and private interest, in matters apparently quite foreign to the war, to lead them into projects unjust both to themsevles and to their allies ---- projects whose success would only conduce to the honor and advantage of private personas, and whose failure entailed certain disaster on the country in the war.  The causes of this are not far to seek.  Pericles indeed by his rank, ability, and known integrity, was enabled to exercise an independent control over the multitude --- in short, to lead them instead of being led by them; for as he never sought power by improper means, he was never compelled to flatter them, but on the contrary, enjoyed so high an estimation that he could afford to anger them by contradiction.  Whenever he saw them unreasonably and insolently elated, he would with a word reduce them to alarm; on the other hand, if they fell victims to a panic, he could at once restore them to confidence.  In short, what was nominally a democracy was becoming in his hand government by the first citizen."

Then follows many general descriptions of battles that take us through to the end of the third year of the war: Plataea is wooed by Archidamus, king of the Spartans, but decides to remain loyal to Athens and are besieged by the Peloponnesians for their decision; Acarnania, in western Hellas, is attacked by the Peloponnesians and defends itself, causing a Peloponnesian retreat.

The Acropolis of Athens (1883)
Ivan Aivazovsky
source Wikiart



Book I                                                                                            

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book I


Confusion
Achraf Baznani
source Wikiart

I swore I would never do this again ....... After being completely drained by my The Histories posts, I made a pact with myself NOT to do the same with Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.  After all, how much brain power can one person have?  But my post for the book is getting longer and longer and longer, and honestly I'm getting more engaged with Thucydides narrative, somewhat dry though it may be.  I was admittedly bored until about halfway through, but now it has suddenly become interesting and I'm eager to keep reading.  So, with some renewed energy and in an effort not to overwhelm everyone (including myself!) with an hideously long book review, I've decided to take the plunge and travel book by book.  Most of the reviews won't be as long as Herodotus, in fact, some will be rather short.  I'm certain everyone is sighing in relief!

So without further ado, Book I of History of the Peloponnesian War:


History of the Peloponnesian War

Peloponnesian War Alliances
source Wikipedia
Book I:  Think of two brothers embroiled in an enormous disagreement, trust and unity quickly eroding to jealousy, self-importance and suspicion.  Athens incenses Corinth by placing their fleet so they are unable to attack Corcyra and then they woo Potidaea, a colony of Corinth. Now Corinth is livid and appeals to Sparta with their grievances.

I quite liked this comparison between the two nations, Athens and Sparta, offered by the Corinthians:
"..... you will encounter in the Athenians, how widely, how absolutely different from yourselves.  The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you {Sparta} have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough.  Again, they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine; your wont is to attempt less than is justified by your power, to mistrust even what is sanctioned by your judgment, and to fancy that from danger there is no release.  Further, there is promptitude on their side against procrastination on yours; they are never at home, you are most disinclined to leave it, for they hope by their absence to extend their acquisitions, you fear by your advance to endanger what you have left behind.  They are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse.Their bodies they spend ungrudgingly in their country's cause; their intellect they jealously husband to be employed in her service ...... To describe their character is a word, one might truly say they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others."
Theatre of Ancient Sparta
source Wikipedia
While the Spartan delegation counsels war with Athens, their king, Archidamus, cautions that they must build their alliance and gather resources as the war must prove to be long and arduous.  Thence, we hear of a number of alliances and misalliances involving both states plus further introductions to a more crafty Themistokles and an arrogant and violent Pausanias, that appears to be in direct contrast to his portrayal by Herodotus.  Pausanias, inflated by his successes in the Persian Wars, attempts to solidify his power by courting Persia's regard and is eventually questioned by Sparta.  Tricked into revealing his crimes, he flees to the temple where he is confined and ultimately perishes of starvation.  Likewise, Themistokles is an anathema in Athens, and to preserve himself, pursues the favour of the Persian king, now Artaxerxes, is appointed governor by him and eventually dies. However, the Spartans vote for war, encouraged and praised by the shrewd Corinthians, and Athens vows to defend herself, inspired by the stirring speeches of Pericles.  All-out war seems imminent, but it doesn't happen just yet.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

June ~ Is Summer Finally Here? .....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel


Well, it looks like summer has finally arrived.  We've had temperatures close to 30C (90F) some days, however the temperature has also dipped into the teens, so it's still somewhat unsettled and colder than normal.

While the month of May was very eventful, it would probably boring for anyone who isn't interested in sports.  I'm part of the administrative crew for the largest fastpitch tournament in Canada and we've started to gear up for it, so it's been taking up much of my time.  My job includes lots of recruiting, scorekeeping and sending endless emails. It's my first year in this position and I'm prepared for a trial-by-fire.  Please keep me in your prayers, ha ha! ;-)

Source
In mid-May I travelled to scorekeep a softball tournament in the Interior of B.C. where it is usually desert-like conditions.  Not this year.  They had been having torrential rains and flooding, and we were set to arrive right in the middle of another storm and predicted evacuations.  The rains and flooding were said to be an event that would only happen there once every 200 years.  Ah, what luck!  As it turned out the drive was uneventful except for a snowstorm and fog at the summit of the highway, which lasted only about 10 minutes and the weekend, while overcast, did not bring any further rain.  Phew!

Source
I was able to have a short weekend away to visit the city of Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia.  It's a lovely old-world British-style city with wonderful shops and amazing places to eat, not to mention the Parliament Buildings.  If anyone ever visits B.C., don't miss it!

As for reading, as you can imagine, my time has been very limited.  Thucydides' The History of the Peloponnesian War seems to be taking forever and (can I be honest?), he is so dry and uninteresting that I'm feeling like falling asleep whenever I read him.  On a positive note, I do like the speeches, and in particular, Thucydides' speech on the evils of war.  In any case, if I'm not finished this book by the end of this month, I'll cry.  And I think Thucydides caused me to lose my mind a little because I went off track and read three totally unplanned un-classics.  Seriously, don't faint.  I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby, a book reminiscent of On the Road by Jack Kerouac, being a memoir of an adolescent adult who refuses to grow up, behaves like a child, and then is completely puzzled that his life is a total mess and he is incapable of having a fulfilling relationship.  Duh!  Next, I read an Alex Delaware novel, Heartbreak Hotel, which was awful (after 32 Alex Delaware books, perhaps Kellerman should give up), and finally Empire of the Sun which was about a boy trying to survive Japanese occupation of China during WWII.  It was mildly interesting but, while two of the books counted for my Guardians 1000 list, I realized that I needed to return to those dependable classics.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel


June comes with continuing softball responsibilities yet I'm also going to make an escape to the island for a weekend and hopefully recapture some lost reading time.  I'd like to be able to pull out the kayaks and go for a good long paddle as well.  Biking .....? Yoga .....?  Well, hopefully, but of course, as time permits.  I've also starting planting in my garden which should have started a month ago but was held up because of the weather.  Finally my figs are coming out on my fig tree, my quince is in blossom, my apple tree has just finished blossoming, and my Italian plum tree is destined to be torn out because in spite of having piles of blossoms every year, it never bears plums.  I did manage to plant the potatoes I received during my farm trip in April, so it's been fun to see them starting to come up as well.

Source
As for reading, I'm going to finish Thucydides.  Let me say that again, I AM GOING TO FINISH THUCYDIDES!  I have a number of buddy reads starting including two on Goodreads where we'll read The Republic and Augustine's City of God (help!).  A third will be with Cirtnecce and Helen and we'll start Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye as soon as I get my copy, hopefully in another week.  I'm not trying to look farther than that.  My cup overfloweth and if I started thinking of any more books, my head would probably explode.

And the food blog? ..... ah, the now dreaded food blog.  I'm still waiting for my partner to make a date to get together and compile our bios and mission statement.  Both of us are very busy but chasing him down can be a task in itself.  I've already drafted a number of recipes and tested a number of them (ha, funny how he seems to be around for the testing but not for the writing!) so I'm really ready to launch except for this one snag.  Will we be unsnagged by July?  Stay tuned to find out!


“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”  ~ Dr. Seuss


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer Books in my Beach Bag



Many thanks to Nancy who tactfully reminded me that summer is quickly approaching and it is in my best interests to have some books lined-up to maintain a focus that has been disturbingly absent so far this year.  So with a new resolution in mind to be more organized, here are some of my possible reads for a summer that in my part of the world, looks like it's going to pass us by.





Shadow of the Moon

Cirtnecce suggested a read-along of this wonderful M.M. Kaye book and how could I resist?  I haven't read any of Kaye's novels in ages and summer is just the right time.






The Gormenghast Trilogy

I suggested a read-along of The Gormenghast Trilogy to Cirtnecce ages ago, as I know it's on one of her book lists.  Will she join me?  We shall see.






The Fountain Pit

I really need to read some more novels for my rather pitiful Russian Challenge.  This one has intrigued me for a couple of years.  I can't wait to read it.







Plutarch’s Lives

I know this book is part of my The Well-Educated Mind History Project, but I want to get a start on it because I plan to go more in-depth and hopefully post a little on each figure. At least, I think I do.






An Infamous Army

Lately, I've been trying to target some books on my Guardians 1000 List.  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps an impulsive scramble to look like I'm accomplishing something.  I quite like Georgette Heyer, so this one is a good choice.






Precious Bane

Honestly, this one is a capricious addition.  I have no idea whether I'll read it, but it's always intrigued me.  And summer is an excellent time to be capricious, wouldn't you say?






One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Another addition for my Russian Challenge.  I've heard good things about this novella and I'm looking forward to it.






The Game of Kings

Has anyone ever thought that I'm delusional?  Well, this is proof.  I'm sure I will NEVER get to this book before summer has ended, but I still dream that I might ......




And here ends perhaps hopefully my possible, potentially unplanned but feasible reads for the summer of 2017.  Dare I look back at the end to see what I accomplished?  Might I get someone to do it for me?  Maybe ............  Ha ha!

Happy summer reading everyone!




Friday, 5 May 2017

Cyrus the Persian by Sherman A. Nagel

"The city of Babylon, 'the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency,' 'the lady of kingdoms,' lay quiet under the silvery splendor of an oriental moon."

I just finished reading Herodotus' The Histories, where the story of Cyrus figures prominently, so when Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children's Classic Literature Event appeared for April, I thought what better time to read a children's book about the same historical figure?

Nagel sets the story of Cyrus in the time of the Jews captivity in Babylon, and their story runs parallel to that of Cyrus before the two intersect.  One hundred years before Cyrus' birth, the prophet Isaiah named him as the man who would permit the Jews of Babylon to return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the story allows us to be a part of events leading up to the fulfillment of this prophecy.

King Astyages sending Harpagus to kill young Cyrus
Jean Charles Nicaise Perrin
source Wikipedia
The grandfather of Cyrus, Astyages king of the Medes, is visited by a disturbing dream and his magi tell him that he must destroy the child of his daughter, Mandane, if the child she bears is a boy.  At Mandane's marriage to the Persian king, Cambyses, Astyages extracts a promise that she will return to him before she gives birth to her firstborn and the promise is fulfilled as Cyrus is born in the kingdom of the Medes.  In fact, so crafty is Astyages that he persuades the parents of Cyrus to leave him with his grandfather, and then sends for his trusted servant Harpagus, commanding him to kill the child.  At the notification of the baby's death, his parents are grief-stricken but unknown to them and Astyages as well, as Harpagus gives the child over to his chief shepherd, Mitradates, to dispose of the will of God is stronger than all. Upon returning home, Mitradates is distressed to learn of the death of his own child and, on a whim, his wife and he substitute the corpse for Cyrus and pass off his death without a hitch.  Raised as a shepherd boy until, through unexpected circumstances, he comes to the palace an adolescent, he is ultimately recognized as a possible heir to the throne.  With Cyrus back in Persia and Astyages becoming more nervous of his grandson's power, a force is gathered by Astyages to invade Persia but Harpagus turns loyal to Cyrus based on the king's cruelty and arranges with Darius, Cyrus' uncle, that half the army will fight for Cyrus.  At the completion of the battle, Cyrus is victorious. Eventually he will become king of both the Persians and Medes.

At this time as well, Jewish discontent is fomenting due to their religious persecution and captivity by the Babylonians, which the reader experiences through a raid on Rabbi Hermon's house during a weekly meeting, as the Jews impatiently wait for their prophesied coming deliverer.  We also encounter Jewish history through the activities of Azariah, better known by his Babylonian name of Abednego from Biblical tradition, and his relationship with a Babylonian woman, Iris.  History weaves into story, battles into harmony, and captivity into freedom.  It's an enduring story that Nagel has obviously thoroughly researched with his attention to historical detail and the relationships he so subtly crafts.  Themes of loyalty, betrayal, persecution, love, friendship, death and perseverance, one can hardly put it down.

Cyrus hunting the great Boar
source Wikimedia Commons


Isaiah 45: 1-3

Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:

I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.

I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name ........



⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚

This book contained a number of wonderful quotes of which I'll share.  There are many but every one is worth reading!

Quotes:

"When one is full of himself, he is empty."

"Love is a very rare quality.  So many emotions are mistaken for love.  Of all the counterfeits, lust has always been love's strongest opponent.  Nothing is so wonderful, so conducive to happiness, so health-producing, as the heart union of two lives, where true love reigns and lust has no power."

"If there is one thing heaven hates in man it is pride.  Not self-respect, but that quality of pride which causes a man to think more highly of himself than he ought."

"Unholy ambition has brought ruin to many a man who has followed her unhallowed footsteps.  Multitudes of the human family have suffered and died because of the ambition of one.  He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping."

"How often we doubt because we cannot know all that is going on which we cannot see. Faith is believing in God.  It is taking Him at His word.  It is evidence when there is no evidence in sight.  It is 'the substance of things hoped for.'  Belief is accepting a map; faith is taking the journey."

"Patience is a pearl oft produced by petty irritations.  The human heart cannot be whole until it is broken.  Care becomes its own cure when it drives us to prayer.  To our prayers God gives answers, but in His love, makes ways and times His own.  Their leaders wisely taught the people not to worry about the future, but to be optimistic.  Nature hates to disappoint the man who is always looking for the worst to happen.  We only live a day at a time."

"The average man is like a match; if he gets lit up, he loses his head."

"And Astyages talked boastfully on, like a man who may think he is eloquent when he is only evaporating."

"Those who throw themselves away usually do not like the place where they land."

"Best character is developed amid storm clouds and tempests."

"Conscience is not like a bore; if you snub it a few times, after that it won't bother you."

"When one was asked the secret of his happy life, he replied: 'I have a friend.'  True friends are to be cherished for they are precious.  One should keep a little cemetery in which to bury the failings of one's friends.  The man who never puts in an honest day's work on friendship's railroad, has no reason to expect a sidetrack to his door.  Selfish people may have acquaintances but not friends.  With some people you invest an evening, with others you spend it."

"Cyrus was naturally of a very affectionate disposition.  He had a great deal of sentiment.  No man is worth much without it but to have too much is suicidal."

"God has not promised to do for us that which we can do for ourselves."

"Some of the unhappy folk in our world today are men and women with more money than they know what to do with."

"It has been said that happiness is made of so many pieces that there is always one missing.  Happiness is never found by searching for it.  Like boys chasing butterflies, happiness is always just out of reach.  It does not consist in a fine house, fine furniture, a sixteen-cylinder car or alot of money.  In many places dwell unhappy hearts.  All of the things enumerated may conduce to happiness but the poor man has access to happiness as well as the rich.

Happiness consists in contentment, in having a clear conscience.  It will be found in acting in an unselfish manner towards others.  You cannot pour the perfume of happiness upon others without getting a few drops on yourself.  Victor Hugo has well written: 'The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.'"