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The epic true story of Themistocles and the Battle of Salamis, and a rousing history of the world's first dominant navy and the towering empire it built.The Athenian Navy was one of the finest fighting forces in the history of the world. It engineered a civilization, empowered the world's first democracy, and led a band of ordinary citizens on a voyage of discovery that alThe epic true story of Themistocles and the Battle of Salamis, and a rousing history of the world's first dominant navy and the towering empire it built.The Athenian Navy was one of the finest fighting forces in the history of the world. It engineered a civilization, empowered the world's first democracy, and led a band of ordinary citizens on a voyage of discovery that altered the course of history. With Lords of the Sea, renowned archaeologist John R. Hale presents, for the first time, the definitive history of the epic battles, the fearsome ships, and the men – from extraordinary leaders to seductive rogues – that established Athens's supremacy. With a scholar's insight and a storyteller's flair, Hale takes us on an unforgettable voyage with these heroes, their turbulent careers, and far-flung expeditions, bringing back to light a forgotten maritime empire and its majestic legacy....

Title : Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy
Author :
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ISBN : 9780670020805
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy Reviews

  • Mike
    2018-10-12 17:48

    I think I would best calssify this book as light historical reading. Hale writes in a very accessible, if plain, manner drawing the reader into the story of the ancient Athenian navy by concentrating on the personalities of the age and how they impacted the Athenian fleet. Battles were described in a way that was both descriptive but not bogged down in minutia. Hale was not afraid to use maps to illustrate battles or political relations, something more history books ought to do and he provides a wonderful timeline and glossary in the back of the book. This book was certainly intended for those somewhat unfamiliar with the times and Hale makes every effort to ensure the reader doesn't get lost.The history of the Athenian navy itself was quite fascinating. Unlike an army, the development and maintenance of a fleet requires a large investment to initiate and high annual costs to maintain. Unlike an army where the individual soldiers can mostly provide their own gear for war, a navy requires a port infrastructure, skilled laborers to build and fix ships, the acquisition of a wide variety of materials, and hundreds of trained men to successfully and effectively operate just one trireme. This sort of effort requires a sustained political commitment both by the rulers of a state and its citizens. It costs a lot, but if you control the seas in the ancient world you have a lot of flexibility in both war and peace.It was fascinating to see how the Athenian democracy changed over the course of this book. At the beginning they were a pretty traditional Greek city state, albeit a smallish one with little to make it stand out from the rest. But with the investment of men and material in the navy they took on a new form. With the successful repelling of the Persians thanks to the "wooden wall" if Athenian ships they began to build a league of alliance with other Greek city states. This alliance eventually developed into a empire with Athens demanding tribute from their client states and trying to expand their influence as far as Egypt and the Black Sea.After finding so much success they became arrogant behind their walls and fleet, challenging the might of Sparta and her allies. Eventually, like a good Greek tragedy, their hubris brought them low as their advantage on the seas was degraded by smart Spartan leadership, Persian money, the plague, and too many years of losses. But even being brought low by the Spartans after the Peloponnesian War did not permanently cripple the Athenian democracy or navy. It took the might of the Macedonians to finally quench the torch that was Athenian democracy and naval supremacy.Hale does an excellent job showing how Greek politics influence the navy and how the navy enabled Athenian policy at home and abroad. Hale shows us the key personalities that drove these policies and explains why they acted the way they did. He also offers an excellent window into Athenian culture and life. While I knew the Greeks loved their plays, I was unaware of both their popularity and just how political they were. The Greeks were also extremely superstitious, to their own detriment on many occasions (stupid eclipses), and their beliefs informed their own policies and strategies. Also the Athenian democracy had some pretty ugly warts, be it allowing the rise of Trump-like demagogues or punishing unsuccessful military leaders with death or exile. I thought Hale very clearly laid out the strengths and weakness of Athens as well as why they eventually failed.I did think the book fell short in a few areas. Where Athenian victories got a decent explanation and description, their defeats mostly amounted to "and the Athenians were defeated in the subsequent naval battle". I also thought Hale came up short in tying the Athenian navy to Athenian democracy. It is certainly true that on several occasions they extended citizenship to any slave of freeman who was willing to row for the fleet, but the institution of democracy didn't seems a closely tied to the navy as the title might suggest.Still, it was a very engaging and informative read, great for people who want a good entry point into ancient Greece.

  • Helmut
    2018-09-25 20:02

    Wie alt warst Du, als die Perser kamen?Kreta, auf dem ich dieses Jahr erneut Urlaub gemacht habe, ist eine Insel: Da denkt man automatisch an meeresverliebte Menschen, an minoische Seefahrer. Doch die modernen Kreter sind anders, landgebunden, meeresverachtend. Die traditionellen Kreter ziehen ins Landesinnere und pflanzen Olivenbäume, und wollen nichts mit dem Meer zu tun haben. Eine Ankedote, von unserem lokalen, auf Kreta aufgewachsenen Führer erzählt, illustriert das. Sein Vater, ebenso auf Kreta in einem Dorf nur ca. 20 Kilometer von der Küste geboren, hat das Meer zum ersten Mal im Alter von 18 Jahren gesehen. Er wusch seine Hände im Meer, schüttelte das Wasser ab, und ging wieder nach Hause zu seinen Olivenbäumen.Die Athener waren zu Beginn etwas ähnlich veranlagt. Die Diskussion, ob es sich lohnt, auf eine Meeresstreitmacht zu setzen, konnte Themistokles nur durch einen Zufall, einen Silberfund, durchsetzen. Von da an aber war Athen eine "Stadt auf Schiffen", vom Meer verzaubert, freiwillig ans Meer gebunden, eine "Thalassokratie". Bis zu ihrem Aufgang in nachfolgenden Reichen war die Stadt Athen mit ihrer Flotte und Demokratie über 200 Jahre das strahlendste Kleinod des Mittelmeers, und eines, das selbst heute noch als Vorbild für uns dienen kann.The beat of oars was the heartbeat of Athens in the city’s Golden Age.So eine Triere war die neue Superwaffe der Antike. Unglaublich schnell, agil, manövrierbar; dabei mit ihrer Hauptwaffe, dem Rammsporn, tödlich für andere Schiffe. Nichts konnte einer gut trainierten Schiffsdivision athenischer Schiffe widerstehen. Und in dieser Tradition, in der sich kein Athener zu schade war, auf den Ruderbänken platz zu nehmen (es gab keine Sklaven in antiken Trieren, das war eine mittelalterliche Neuerung und eine Ben-Hur-Film-Irrung), musste sich so etwas wie Mitspracherecht entwickeln.A naval tradition that depended on the muscles and sweat of the masses led inevitably to democracy: from sea power to democratic power. (...) Oars were great levelers. Rowing demanded perfect unison of action, and the discipline inevitably generated a powerful unity of spirit. Rich and poor shared the same callused palms, blistered buttocks, and stiff muscles, as well as the same hopes and fears for the future. A new unified Athens was being forged on the decks and rowing thwarts of the fleet.Und kaum hatten die Athener sich mal an diese Form des Lebens gewöhnt, taten sie mit typisch griechischer Dickköpfigkeit alles dafür, es aufrecht zu erhalten.What made the Spartans, Athenians, and others willing to fight? Part of the answer lay in a raw Greek spirit of independence, a fierce and fanatical zeal for liberty. Their rough and rocky land had bred a race of tough, self-reliant people. Greek cities were as obstinate as individual citizens in jealously guarding their freedom. For centuries this spirit had kept the Greeks divided against one another. Now at last it helped them unite against a common enemy.Etwas, das man auch heute noch in Medien und Politik beobachten kann, ist die Tendenz, einst erfolgreiche und geliebte Führer schnell zu verdammen, sobald ihre Glückssträhne nachlässt. Die Begrenzung der Herrschaftszeit eines Anführers in modernen Demokratien hat schon ihren Grund; und den Athener Helden wäre es gut angestanden, ihren Zenit nicht zu überschreiten, denn wenn sie nicht freiwillig abtraten, tat es das Volk für sie - im besten Fall mit einfacher Verbannung aus der polis, im schlimmsten Fall durch mehr oder weniger erzwungenen Selbstmord mit dem Schierlingsbecher.Only six years had passed since the victory at the Eurymedon River had seemingly put Cimon at the summit of Athens’ pantheon of heroes. His father, Miltiades, had suffered a similar fate within a year of his victory at Marathon. There was no question that the Athenians often dealt more harshly with their leaders than they did with their enemies. (...) One after another the heroes of Arginusae drank their vials of hemlock juice and departed this life.Dennoch bleibt ein ewiger Glanz auf diesen wenigen Generationen; die Namen der Helden überleben bis heute, und sie dienen trotz aller ihrer Mängel immer noch als Vorbilder für den Kampf für etwas, an das man glaubt.As youths many had taken the traditional oath: “I shall hand on my fatherland not less, but greater.” More than any other generation, these men had fulfilled that promise. (...) All those gifts of mind and spirit that set Athenians apart shone at their brightest in Phormio: optimism, energy, inventiveness, and daring; a determination to seize every chance and defy all odds; and the iron will to continue the fight even when all seemed lost—even when the enemy had already begun to celebrate their victory. For Phormio, it was never too late to win.Waren es die scheinbar unschlagbaren Gegner in Form der Perser und Spartaner, die dennoch bezwungen wurden, die diesen Glanz erzeugten? Die unüberwindbaren Schwierigkeiten im Bauen und Aufrechterhalten einer so teuren Streitmacht, die gemeistert wurden? Die inneren Widerstände, die Opposition, die gegen alles kämpfte, was Athen groß gemacht hatte, die leider am Ende gewann, aber einen harten Stand hatte?When the historian Thucydides recorded the people’s energetic response, he observed that democracies are always at their best when things seem at their worst.Eine Beobachtung die heute, in Zeiten des Demokratieabbaus, gegen den sich niemand wirklich wehrt, da es uns allen scheinbar zu gut geht, eine besondere Aktualität gewinnt.Nach dem Erfolg der Frank-Miller-Comicverfilmung "300" war Sparta eine Weile in aller Munde. Eine brutale Militärdiktatur, kulturverachtend, herrschsüchtig, gewaltbereit, die Bürger (wenn man sie überhaupt so nennen konnte) unterjochend - alle fanden es "cool" (mich erstmal eingeschlossen). Dennoch waren sie letztlich, obwohl es im Peloponnesischen Krieg erstmal eine Weile so aussah, als hätte Sparta die Oberhand, den Athenern unterlegen, deren Geist und Witz sie nie gewachsen waren.The inexplicable failure of the Spartans to attack Athens immediately after this battle led Thucydides to dub them “quite the most convenient enemies that the Athenians could possibly have had.”Ich wäre froh, wenn es das kluge, strategische, clevere und edle Athen wäre, und nicht Sparta mit seinen hohlen pathetischen Kriegermythen, das mehr Aufmerksamkeit in der populären Medienwelt bekommen würde.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2018-10-20 20:47

    First, get the slaves to dig up the silver at Laurium, then build a fleet, bully your neighbors and become a great democracy! (or, as my HIST 312 students know full well, maybe not).

  • Roger Burk
    2018-09-26 20:12

    Hale has written an engaging history of the Athenian navy during its period of power, from when Themistocles convinced the Athenians to use a silver strike in 483 BC to build the fleet that stopped the Persians until a later Athenian fleet surrendered to the Macedonians after trifling resistance in 322. I think we sometimes get the idea that the Athenian navy did little of note outside of the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, but their other wars were also important, lacking only their Herodotus or Thucydides to give us a compelling account. For instance, a 300-ship fleet sailed to Egypt in the 450s to aid a revolt against the Persions, and it was destroyed. Who knew? The decisive Athenian defeat by the Spartans in 404, which at the time seemed like the End of Everything, turned out to be but a blip in the history of their navy; they were a power again by 378.Criticisms: A lot of this history concerns general Athenian politics and its influence on naval matters. I suppose that's because of the lack of good sources on strictly naval affairs. Hale does not warn the reader (except in an endnote) that his reconstruction of the Battle of Salamis is not universally accepted. He has the Persian fleet forming up parallel to the Attic shore and facing the Greeks along the opposite shore. I think the more common opinion is that the Persions formed a line across the straight, at right angles to the shores, which nullified the great Persian advantage in numbers. In Hale's recontruction, it is hard to understand not only why the Persians did not envelope the Greek line, but also why their defeated right wing would attempt to escape by sailing several miles behind the rest of the line towards the Piraeus, rather that running to the Persian-held shore immediately behind them. How many other dubious reconstructions have been presented as fact in this book? The reader should be advised about what is known vs. what is guessed.And now for a pet peeve: Hale has become convinced that the triremes of this era were rowed with a sliding seat (illustration on p. 41). This highly dubious idea is inconsequential to his tale, but it still bugs the hell out of me. He justifies this with three illustrations from ancient sources, showing rowers with knees bent at the catch (A), knees partially bent during the drive (B), and knees straight at the finish (C). The ancient pictures, from three different times and places, in fact show the opposite of what Hale claims. (A) indeed shows knees bent at the catch, but it is not of a trireme, and a similar pottery fragment from c750 BC shows knees bent at the finish (The Age of the Galley, ed. Robert Gardiner, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1995, p. 41). Also, the spacing between the rowers shows no room to slide back. Apparently some early galleys had shallow draft and the rowers sat with bent knees. (B) shows the one rower from the famous Lenormant Relief ( whose knees are raised; the other seven very plainly have their thighs perfectly horizontal in the drive, and so are clearly not sliding. The bent-kneed rower is simply sitting over a cross-piece. Also, there is again no room for the rowers to slide. Finally, (C) is from a 700 BC potsherd (ibid., p. 27, mirror-imaged), 300 years before the Lenormant Relief and centuries before triremes. The rowers are only shown from the hips up; it's not clear how straight their knees are. It is clear that there is no room between them for a sliding seat.

  • Chris
    2018-10-17 22:14

    The title and back cover initially led me to believe LORDS OF THE SEA was an analysis of how the ancient Athenians’ decision to "navalize" ultimately led to adoption of democratic government. Instead of analysis, per se, the author, John Hale, embraced a more chronological, narrative-history approach. In so doing, he employs the novelist’s method of "showing, rather than telling" how naval expansion politically empowered the middle and lower classes of Athens.That the author uses a novelistic effect is not at all meant as criticism. Hale’s writing is gripping and evocative. He makes you feel as though you’re actually sailing "the wine-dark sea," the foam of waves splashing your face as you sit on the prow of an Athenian warship, the "trireme."As with many books that cover this period, LORDS OF THE SEA, while ostensibly focused on naval history, is in truth a good overall history of Athens during its golden age——from the victory against the Persians, through the Peloponnesian Wars, until Alexander of Macedon brought the end of democracy and instituted an age of kings. All the major developments of the period are given fresh treatment, and the individuals who dominated that era——Themistocles, Pericles, Cleon, Alcibiades, Demosthenes, and others——come alive.When discussing the history of ancient Athens, the Peloponnesian War naturally looms large. Indeed, about two-thirds of the book is about that "Greek world war." This massive conflict exerts such a hold on my imagination that, every time I read about it, I find myself rooting for the Athenians, even though I already know the eventual, dismal outcome.One final observation: History owes Themistocles an unimaginable debt of gratitude of convincing the Athenians not to use revenue from a newly-discovered (in the 490s BC) silver mine to, in effect, give a “tax cut” to everyone in Athens. Instead, he persuaded his fickle, democratic countrymen to invest in a public works project of common purpose: building a massive navy. Without that investment, Xerxes may well have conquered Greece and, likely, much rest of Europe——extinguishing the light of classical Greece before it had a chance to flourish. The history of the world without that guiding light is a vision of darkness I don’t wish to imagine.

  • Chelsea
    2018-10-09 16:04

    Hale's Lords of the Sea is the history of the Athenian navy. Pretty straightforward, so this will be a fairly short review. The book is extremely readable, and it wasn't necessary to drag my feet through tons of horribly academic language. It moves at a fairly good pace, and only uses 318 pages to cover hundreds of years of history, so there isn't a lot of pointless detail.However.Hale is very obviously in love with the Athenian navy and credits it with every single advancement Athens made. He credits the NAVY with the BIRTH OF DEMOCRACY even when Athens was a democracy BEFORE the navy! He also glorifies it to the point that he ends up glorifying war. A good chunk of the book takes place during the Pelopponesian War, and he makes it seem like a paddle around the pond for Athens, when in fact the the Athenians and Spartans spent most of the war torturing each other and dying in terrible ways. These are entirely glossed over or ignored in favor of relating the detailed plots of some of the plays that were written--and not all of those were about the sea or the navy. If you're going to include plays, Hale, you should probably have thought to include Lysistrata, the one about how the Pelopponesian War was so horrible and caused so many deaths that the women of Greece refused to have sex with their husbands until the men ended the war, because the women didn't want to lose anymore family members. (This was, by the way, fiction; no such sex strike ever took place, to my knowledge.) That seems a bit more important than a farmer flying to Olympus on a dung beetle.There also seems to be some extrapolation; Hale often puts words or thoughts into Greek mouths, or records actions that I very much doubt were recorded.Overall, a readable book, but Hale's love of the navy has obviously blinded him to other important aspects of Greek life, and this should be read with a heart dose of salt.

  • Jrobertus
    2018-10-14 16:06

    This is a very interesting, albeit lengthy, book. It describes the rise of the Athenian navy in the Golden Age, and its role and impact on the concept of democracy. Themistocles opined that building a great navy would make Athens a great city state and this proved to be so. Although outnumbered badly, Athenian triremes crushed Xerxes Persian fleet at the battle of Salamis in 480BC and set the stage for two centuries of greatness. The Athenians battled not only Persians, but Spartans and ultimately Macedonians. The fleet was very democratic, and indeed, the trireme rowers had to be free men; this was their responsibility to the state and a great source of pride. Several great playwrights, like Sophocles and Euripides were rowers and their plays often reflect nautical themes. Philosophers too, like Socrates and Plato, used the ship of state as metaphors for the analysis of government. There is a case to be made that sea farers have broad horizons, and that contact with other cultures make them open to new ideas that have adaptive value. The book is historical, showing the role of key figures, like the well managed governance of Pericles, in that history. The author relates actions, particularly sea battles, not just as who was there and what happened, but adds in a novelists view. He paints a picture for the reader about what it must have looked like on this day, with 200 triremes moving off quietly for a surprise attack.

  • Aaron
    2018-09-22 19:57

    If only I didn't love Sparta so much I would give this book 5 stars. However, it is hard to fully enjoy a book about all of Sparta's nemesis, Athen's victories :) That said, I really enjoyed the way the John Hale wrote and I can hardly complain about any of literary details of the book.Lords of Sea was a basically a journey through the rise and eventual fall of the Athenian navy, and John Hale also tied this rise of the navy to the rise of the democracy in the world, which may be a stretch connecting the two so strongly, but he does spend time discussing Athen's democracy because of that idea, which was fine. Therefore, a big thing I learned from this book is the incredible fickleness of a pure democracy. In the one sense of that fickleness, the government was constantly expelling citizens and then accepting with open arms 10 years later that same citizen. Since democracy rests on the mood of the mob, they would expel a general from the city after a defeat or failed plan, only to accept them back a few years down the road when he has had a military success for another city or brings forth a new plan. A person with any sort of power within a democracy can never feel safe, for the sentiments of a mob are liable to change and violently switch sides of the spectrum at any time. This evidences a strong problem a pure democracy.Another aspect of the fickleness of their democracy was how often the government changed. The government seemed to be in a continuous cycle of being a democracy to becoming a oligarchy to going back to a democracy to being ruled by the rich tyrants to going back to a democracy. The democracy was never firmly stable. Because as the mood of the mob can change on rulings within the government, so it can easily change with what form of government it wants.It was also incredible to read of how Athen's power and naval power was constantly going up and down. It seemed just as soon as they had won a few great victories and built a massive fleet, they would lose all the ships in a massive defeat. But within a few years, they would scrounge up the resources to rebuild that fleet and go out and reconquer their lost territory. And this cycle seemed to repeat multiple times in their 200 years of naval dominance. Therefore, with their combination of democracy and navy up and downs, I cannot say the Athenians were a consistent people, I will however commend their astonishing perseverance!

  • Jonathan
    2018-09-20 22:10

    A detailed and yet lively account of the rise and fall of the Athenian navy and, not coincidentally, her role as a great power in the Mediterranean region. Professor Hale is probably the leading authority on rowed warships (he rowed crew for Yale while studying with Donald Kagan) and it shows: not only are the campaigns, the strategies and the battles skillfully portrayed, but the techniques of sailing, rowing and fighting an oared galley - the ancient Greeks used a triple-banked oared ship known as a "trireme" - as is the finance and outfitting of such a fleet. Most important, however, were how the Athenians crewed and commanded their navy, and about the great men were who were their leaders. All in all, a ripping great read of life and death on the wine-dark sea, and an excellent introduction to naval warfare in the golden age of Greece.

  • Benji Palus
    2018-10-03 15:58

    Non-fiction lost its draw for me years ago, but I read this one because of a "you read mine, I'll read yours," kind of deal with a friend.I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed it, to the point that I wanted to go out and be an Athenian badass, lol!It's difficult to write about a battle so that the lay-reader can really follow and grasp it, but through his words and diagrams, John Hale explains the naval maneuvers in a way that made me see them perfectly clearly.More than anything else, however, is that the author truly does achieve what to me seemed to be his primary reason for telling this rich history: To inspire the reader as to what a bit of daring, a bit of boldness, and a bit of courage can accomplish, along with what can happen when we become afraid to use them.

  • Jonathan
    2018-09-30 19:44

    Excellent overview of 5th and 4th century Athenian life as shaped by the Navy. Starts with the Persian wars and finished with the final defeat of the Athenians by the successors of Alexander. Hale is a good storyteller. The book is a little more pro-Athenian than I like; romanticizing democracy, the Persians don't come out looking so well, etc. But, his approach as a naval historian is novel and it is an enlightening read on the whole. The illustrations are also nicely done. I would recommend all of the authors Great Courses series.

  • Tony
    2018-09-30 16:55

    Lords of the Sea is a thrilling account of ancient Athens as seen through the lens of the city-state's Navy. Hale not only provides masterful accounts of major battles and naval policies, but also shows how the Navy influenced virtually all aspects of Athenian life--from theatrical plays to the democratization of government. This is an interesting and unique perspective on ancient Athens's glorious heyday.

  • Dmitry Kuriakov
    2018-10-04 18:59

    Под конец прочтения книги можно произнести такие слова: флот и сила стратегического планирования. Да, подъём Афин, их золотой век, век расцвета, целиком и полностью пересекается с подъёмом их морской империи с флотом во главе (плюс, умение грамотно, с разумом этим воспользоваться). И заканчивается эта 150 летняя эпоха даже не разгромом, т.к. Афины переживали разгром и ранее и как Феникс восставали из пепла, а потерей более важной и более неуловимой сущности. А может, это просто мир изменился, а они – нет. В любом случаи книга предлагает нам великолепный рассказ о том, как строилась, развивалась и жила эта морская империя.Книга, по моему мнению – уникальна. Автор настолько интересно пишет о настолько далёком и для некоторых, несколько скучном школьном материале, что лично для меня, это было просто поразительно, что можно написать такую увлекательную и захватывающую книгу. Автор в ярких красках описывает каждое сражение (зачастую, это всё – морские сражения), создавая ощущение полной вовлеченности читателя, как будто ты сам как бы паришь над сценой морского сражения, над всеми кораблями. Особо удачно получилось передать самые драматические события, а точнее, когда просто каким-то чудом Афины вырывали победу в сражении. Это получилось у автора просто великолепно. Конечно, возникает вопрос, откуда у него настолько детальная информация? Но с другой стороны, все эти увлекательные и фантастические сражения являлись переходными моментами в той или иной войне, так что в принципе, современники могли это описать. В любом случаи, книга получилась чуть ли не художественной, в том смысле, в каком это касается одной из самых замечательных книг по истории, а именно «Боевой клич свободы. Гражданская война 1861-1865», где автор с такой же поразительной точностью описывает важнейшие боевые действия и, как и в этой, важнейшее или даже ключевое событие одной конкретной битвы. Так же и тут, мы как бы смотрим киноленту, на которой развёртывается война сначала на море, а потом сразу в самих Афинах, но уже с использованием риторики. Мы видим весь блеск афинской демократии и как благодаря ей Афины поднялись практически на недосягаемую высоту, что даже Царь царей не решался дать открытое морское сражение. И до её негативных моментов, в особенности связанных с печальной историей группового суда над бывшими стратегами-победителями, высветивших все недостатки афинской демократии и невольно задавшись вопросом, а не она ли, в конце концов, привела к окончательному концу морской империи.Что касается периода повествования, то история начинается, разумеется, со знаменитого противостояния с Ксерксом (это там появится ныне популярный Леонид с 300 спартанцами, хотя, конечно, их там не 300 было). Далее, и это большая часть книги, мы увидим противостояние и ключевые битвы во время Пелопоннесской войны и главным врагом, а до этого союзником в войне с Ксерксом - Спартой. И закончится книга и золотой век Афин, сначала союзом с Александром Македонским, а после его смерти, разгромом и на море и на суше его последователем. Удивительно, но если раньше Афины терпели поражения из-за полного военного разгрома, то в этом заключительном акте, когда у Афин будет максимальное количество военных кораблей, потребуется гибель лишь трёх, чтобы Афины запросили полной капитуляции. Что это? Поражение без битвы или поражения до битвы, проигрыш самим себе. «Мы встретили врага, и оказалось, что это — мы сами!»? Так или иначе, это великолепная наполовину лекция и наполовину документальный фильм, который расскажет читателю о сути Афин.

  • Carl
    2018-10-20 17:45

    This is one of my favorite books that I've ever read. I love Ancient Greek and Roman history, so this was right in my wheelhouse. To be honest, when I bought it, I thought it would probably be dry and very academic, which is fine by me, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the fact that this book was as flat out entertaining as it was informative. I can't recommend this one enough!

  • Fred Dameron
    2018-10-17 20:51

    John Kagen asked his editor to have Hale write and publish this story of Athens. It is/was worth the seven years Hale spent completing his research. An excellent history that takes one back to Salamis and forward to Periclean and finally Demesthon's Athens. A really readable history.

  • Steve
    2018-10-12 22:52

    An interesting and very detailed look at the Athenian Navy and its impact on Athenian life from Themistocles and the first attack of the Persians in 490 BC to its final demise under the successors to Alexander in 322 BC.

  • Andrea
    2018-09-21 18:04

    Fast moving with enough detail to intrigue but not so much that it drags. Explains how the development of the navy and naval strategies led to the Athenian dominance of the ancient world. Fast paced, skillful narrative.

  • David Steven
    2018-10-05 19:09


  • Peterb
    2018-09-19 18:56

    John Hale's "Lords of the Sea" is an in-depth history of the Athenian thalassocracy from before the Peloponnesian Wars, up until Cleitus, one of the Macedonian successors to Alexander the Great, forced Athens to accept the yoke. It is a fascinating read.Hale brings a very specific perspective to this topic: as a crew rower, he is perhaps more interested in the naval side of Athens than of any other aspect. Hale makes a compelling case that Athenian democracy itself had both its roots and its flowering in naval power. Athens, like the other Greek poleis of their day, only allowed citizens to serve in the military. The trireme, Athens' war vessel with 3 rows of oars on each side, needed 170 men to power it. With hundreds of triremes - each one able to ram and cripple enemy ships - Athens needed thousands of citizens actively involved in the war effort, citizens who needed to provide neither arms, nor armor, nor anything beyond a strong back and the will to fight. This need, Hale argues, made democracy rather more likely to flourish in Athens than in land-based poleis, whose military might resided in the hoplite phalanx. Hoplites, needing to supply their own arms and armor, were by definition men of property; not so the humble sailor.Hale backs up his argument with evidence that the Athenians themselves saw life through the lens of naval warfare. Citing works by Euripidese... My favorite little etymological guilty pleasure would have to be Hale's offhand observations on sexual terminology:"A woman's vagina could be described as a kolpos or gulf, like the Carinthian and Saronic gulfs, where a happy seafarer could lose himself. As for the penis, a modest man could claim to have a kontos or boat pole, an average man a kope or oar between his legs, and a braggart a pedalion or steering oar. Inevitably too, the erection poking against an Athenian's tunic was referred to as his "ram." Sexual intercourse was likened to ramming encounters between triremes, but the men did not always take the active role. The popular Athenian sexual position in which the woman sat astride her partner gave her a chance to play the nautria or female rower, and row the man as if he were a boat. A man who mounted another man might claim to be boarding him, u sing the nautical term for a marine boarding a trireme. Sexual bouts with multiple partners were sometimes dubbed naumachiai or naval battles."Hopefully Hale will forgive me choosing perhaps the only sexually explicit passage in his 500 page book as an excerpt. But I am now waiting eagerly for life to give me a chance to deploy the word naumachiai in this context. May I live long enough.The modern image of golden age Athens is wrapped up in images of philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, in deep conversation about life and government. But Hale points out that these men were, largely, reactionaries. A chapter-long discourse on Plato's fable of Atlantis shows how it was a crypto-mythological critique of Athens' addiction to sea power, which is a perspective I was, before this book, simply unaware of. The thought of people ignoring that critique in favor of searching for the "real" Atlantis would, one suspects, make Plato weep.I was led to Lords of the Sea by my explorations of Thucydides. I was searching for something that put the Peloponnesian War in a larger context. The fear when you pick up a book such as this is that it will prove to be nothing more than a palimpsest, a summary of things that other, better writers have created. What Hale has actually accomplished is a synthesis, drawing from ancient sources but also contributing his own insights. I was considerably enriched by Lords of the Sea, and I recommend it unreservedly to anyone interested in the history of Hellenic warfare.

  • Keith
    2018-10-18 23:08

    Lords of the Sea provides an illuminating account of the rise and fall of the Athenian maritime empire or thalassocracy . Author Hale brings three elements to his story; a strong narrative voice; a provocative thesis; and his own experience as a rower, something that gives his tale a distinct personal touch.  The heart of the maritime empire was the trireme and Hale makes this point in a lyrical introduction:"At dawn, when the Aegean Sea lay smooth as a burnished shield, you could hear a trireme from Athens while it was still a long way off. First came soft measured strokes like the pounding of a distant drum. Then two distinct sounds gradually emerged within each stroke: a deep percussive blow of wood striking water, followed by a dashing surge. Whumpff! Whroosh! . . . . Relentlessly the beat would echo across the water, bringing the ship closer. It was now a throbbing pulse, as strong and steady as the heartbeat of a giant. . . .  As the trireme hurtled forward, the steering oars and the bronze ram hissed like snakes as they sliced through the water. In the final moments, as the red-rimmed eyes set on the prow stared straight at you, the oar strokes sounded like thunder. Then the ship either ran you down or swerved aside in search of other prey."The book is far more than an investigation in naval archeology, however, Hale relates the story of the rise of Athens, of the Golden Age of Socrates, Plato, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, of the Parthenon, and of the first stirring of the democratic ideal. Hale's thesis is direct, without the Athenian navy there would have been no golden age. The navy begat empire, and empire, for better or worse bequeathed the artistic and philosophic impulses that were the foundation of Western civilization.Hale traces the rise of Athens sea empire from Themistocles' first speeches urging the building of the navy in 483 B.C. down to the final ignominious surrender to the Macedonians at Amorgos in 322 B.C. The Persian Wars begin the tale. When  Persia invades Greece, the Spartan army gathers allies and prepares to buy Greece  time by holding the Persians at Thermopylae. This Leonidas and the 300 do but it is the Athenian naval victories at Artemesium and Salamis that turn the lynchpin of history. Hale quotes Herodotus' famous remark: “If the Athenians, through fear of the approaching danger of Xerxes, had abandoned their country, or if they had stayed in Greece and submitted to the Persians, there would have been no attempt to resist the Persians by sea. In view of this, therefore, one is surely right to say that Greece was saved by the Athenians." And this is where the democratic spark is kindled for the 170 rowers on each Athenian trireme were citizens, not slaves but citizens fighting for freedomHale moves on to chronicle the battles of Athens in the First and Second  Peloponnesian Wars, the Samian War,  down to the Macedonian Wars and the extinguishing of freedom at Athens. It is a remarkable tale filled with all the usual binary elements: courage and cowardice; intelligence and stupidity; despotism and freedom. One final quote. Here's Hale on the night after the end at Thermopylae:At the Hot Gates the distant coast appeared lit by an unearthly glow. In and around the pass shone the myriad flames of the Persian camp: victory bonfires, watch fires, fires for roasting meat, and the blazing fire altars of the Magi. Xerxes’ army was celebrating its first taste of Greek blood. Somewhere amid the eerie wisps from the hot springs stood Xerxes’ proudest trophy: the head of Leonidas, cut from his body and stuck on a pike. Out at sea, hidden by darkness, the ghostly line of ships made its way past the scene of revelry and vanished southward into the night.

  • Heinz Reinhardt
    2018-09-30 22:10

    This is an excellent little work on the West's first true Naval power. Following, and significantly improving upon and technologically advancing, the naval traditions of the Minoans, the Egyptians and the Phoenicians, the Athenians would build the first professional Navy in Western History. Forced upon Athens, formerly having relied upon Hoplite phalanxes for its military defense, the building of a fleet was in response to the overwhelming threat from the massive Persian Empire. In the ensuing Persian Wars the Athenians, and their new Navy, would forever halt the advance of Persian power, and spell the beginning of that great empires eventual downfall. However, as often happens, this nation would, in turn, even while mouthing the platitudes of democracy and liberty, become an empire in itself. An empire based and built upon Naval power. The Athenian ships crews were all freedmen, not slaves as many assumed, and they were paid for their services. And all of them partook in the voting assembly's of the Demos, the Athenian Democracy. Sometimes, in fact, it would be the common crew who would cast the deciding votes for armed intervention or expansionist designs. Nowhere else in the Ancient world was this done. However, like all empires, it had a limited shelf life. Jealousy from neighbors as well as Athenian abuses of their own power ensured revolts against their two great Maritime Leagues. Revolts the democratic Athenians brutally, and bloodily, crushed. Also competition with Sparta and Corinth lead to the apocalypse that was the Peloponnesian Wars. Athens would lose the war, but would, in short time, rise from the ashes of defeat to, once again, exert their influence and maritime power over the Aegean Sea. Then Macedon and Philip and his son Alexander would end it for good. All in all this was a very good, well written, book on an overlooked aspect of the Greek world: the Athenian Navy. About the only controversial contention the author makes is that the Navy, by extension at least, was responsible for the Golden Age of Athens. I defend the authors conclusions. Navy's tend to rise from mercantile peoples. The act of moving trade goods be sea inspires piracy. Piracy inspires a military response to defend said commerce, hence Navies are born. This naval power allows for further and further trade via convoys. This brings into reach larger portions of the world, and invites the influence and contact of foreign cultures. This not only diversifies trade, which generates new wealth, but it also creates a sophistication among the trading cultures as they also culturally trade among each other. This sophistication is translated into the military, commerce, the arts, literature, fashion, even culinary choices. It molds everything about the society it touches. In short, naval power is transformative. On this basis, I feel the authors thesis is a sound one. The book is also filled with tales of great battles, heroic and dastardly commanders and captains, even a few cowards, and is also a great story of the rise, and fall, of Athens itself. All in all, as a great introduction to Naval and Maritime history, as well as a bit of an introduction to Naval theory, this is a very good book. Highly recommended.

  • Wayne
    2018-10-03 19:02

    This book tells the story of the rise and fall of the Athenian navy, from around 483-322BC. I found this a fascinating story, very engagingly told. Athens, of course, is the primary focus, but you get lots of involvement from Persia and Sparta, as well as a host of other cities and areas. This tells of the development of Athens as an overwhelming seapower, wars, battles, politics. There are stories of individuals, as well as the navy. Lotsa good fun here.Ancient Athens was the birthplace of democracy, but those ancient Athenians were nutcases. Every citizen had a vote, but they really should have engaged their brains before voting. It sounds like they were more easily swayed by good oration than by the logic in the oration. Sure, you might be upset that an admiral lost a battle, but do you really need to execute him? They never learned, either. They never learned that they were injuring themselves with the extreme punishments handed out to people. (It is my assessment that the ancient Athenians were raving idiots, not Hale's. Often brilliant raving idiots, but raving idiots nonetheless.)I think the author was very subtly drawing comparisons between this Golden Age Athens and Post-9/11 USA. The USA wasn't ever mentioned, but given the topic and with it being written after 9/11, it'd be naive to think that Hale didn't have such comparisons in mind. The major, major problem with this book is its lack of a comprehensive map. It has a good number of maps, and they're very useful. However, it really needs one map (or even one maps divided into a couple pages) that lays out the seas, the land, the island, the cities, all the places referred to in the book. The book often had maps and text references closely located. Just as often, the references were nowhere near a map. It got rather frustrating having to slog through the maps trying to find where this city was, or where that sea was.I'd have also liked to have a bit more discussion of numbers. There was talk of thousands of prisoners being taken after a battle. Where had these thousands come from? How did their loss affect the place they came from? If Athens lost 10,000 citizens as a result of a battle or war, how many people were left in its cities? Sure, the navy took a hit in that case, but what about the cities and the people?Despite these problems, I highly recommend this book if you have an interest in ancient Greece or naval matters.

  • Bret James Stewart
    2018-10-01 21:13

    This is definitely one of the best history books I have ever read. Hale does a wonderful job with this book. First off, the cover art is attractive. The Greek atop the dolphin, red-orange on a black background, is both intriguing and aesthetically pleasing. The text font and size is easy to read, attractive, and the layout is great. The interior illustrations serve to really bring the material to life. The book is laudable for its chronology, glossary, index, and notes on sources. Further, Hale’s writing style is very approachable. He describes things in a literary manner, applying a narrative style in some of the book that reads like a novel yet teaches the material/ideas Hale wants to convey. My big gripe with many non-fiction authors, especially of history and science, is that they provide the material in a boring fashion, absolutely sucking the life out of information that should be interesting. Hale has no problems in this area. The book itself deals with the naval history of Athens from 483 B.C. to 322 B.C. This period is interesting in itself, with the contextual setting as fascinating (to me, personally) as the naval history. This naval history is niche-oriented, but the inclusion of the overall setting makes it of interest to anyone who seeks more knowledge about ancient history as well as to the naval buffs. This book does include some treatment of the Persian War and the wars of Alexander the Great. He includes the philosophers, as he should, since they had such an impact on the zeitgeist of the time and into our own time. He includes a chapter about Atlantis, which I found very interesting, in general as well as in regard to his argument that the story is a negative metaphor for the Athenian naval and imperial entity. Although others have proposed this before, this is the first time I encountered it, and I found it quite intriguing. This book is wonderful for classicists, historians, those with nautical hearts, and anyone interested in the Athenian tradition of philosophy, military, and literature. I purchased this book as a role-playing game aid to help me with naval combat and related things regarding war galleys and triremes. Hale is one of the few authors able to maintain the balancing act of creating a book that is approachable enough to the lay reader and extensive enough for scholars. The annotated bibliography section serves as a wish list. I would give Lords of the Sea more than five stars if I could.

  • Joe White
    2018-10-18 18:10

    This is a detailed narrative told from the perspective of Athens, of the entire Greek world from 483 BC to 322 BC. If specifically focuses on the creation and use of the trireme navy by Athens as a supporting backdrop for the major politicians and generals that shaped the lifestyle and government of the city and region. It is the detailed enumeration of so many personalities that tend to make this a work that requires effort to follow. The book is written in a narrative fashion which flows from battle to battle, and is very clear and concise while depicting each event. It is the sheer number of critical events, each having elements and personalities that might overlap from previous events that begin to make this a tedious read for a casual or recreational reader. For comparison, U.S. history told from the perspective of major politicians with every general of every major decisive battle through time, becomes tedious due to the sheer volume of details that can occur in 150 years.My objective in reading this was to get a better background on the maritime capabilities that existed at this time in world history. This book does somewhat enlighten subjects such as the number of boats in various battles, how the warships were arrayed and used at the start and during a battle, and the outcomes and turning points of the battles. It references the number and generalized type of men required for manning ships for a campaign. It also makes references to the fact that due to the need for a supply of lumber, deforestation and the accompanying soil loss left much of Greece in a more barren agricultural and horticultural state than what would have existed with better resource management. I would like to have seen a spreadsheet type analysis of the number and types of ships involved over time, with a resource estimate as to the number and types of trees required to support the trireme type of ship, as well as more direct information on the effort required to row these vessels at various speeds, and the related estimated cost of food and resources required for a crew.Some cost and financial values were stated, but were not expressed in equivalency to current currency or financial measurements. The merchant maritime activity was largely ignored, which leaves blanks in the historical fabric.This is one of the best summations for this historical time period, as seem from and limited to the exclusive viewpoint of Athens, regardless of any criticisms I have.

  • Jack McCulley
    2018-10-06 16:06

    Excellent for someone who is interested in the Peloponessian and the Greco/Persian Wars.

  • Erik Graff
    2018-10-03 21:56

    I have read many histories of ancient Greece, of Athenian democracy and of "the golden age of Athens". Given our own cultural mythology, so many have been written that the field tends towards cliches. Hales' Londs of the Sea is a departure from the run of the mill, detailing as he does the history of Greece from the battle of Marathon through the Macedonian conquest by telling the story in terms of the Athenian thallasocracy cum democracy. His book is the most readable work I've yet read on the period.Most histories leave me frustrated. Too many questions are left unanswered. I wonder if we simply don't have the evidence to answer the questions that arise for me or if authors assume readers already know the answers. Hale was not frustrating in this way. Not only did he anticipate such concerns, but he managed to go beyond them, opening vistas of speculation that I'd not thought of before. He does this primarily in terms of the Athenian navy. He not only describes the ships, the triremes, but tells how they were built all the way down to the peggings between planks and the structure of the shipyards. He not only describes the important sea battles, but he tells how the ships were deployed, how they maneuvered, what the weather was like that day etc. If there is any flaw to this method of explication it could only be that he gives the impression that we know more than we actually do about events in the ancient world, that perhaps he tendentiously reconstructs events with more apparent confidence than he deserves. Indeed, this is doubtless the case in some instances, but the result is a history that flows like a good novel. Everything makes sense. The characters are realistically represented, believable. So, too, his argument that classical Athens was first and foremost a people's navy may come across as all-to-convincing, as obvious, undebatable.Still, Hale is well-suited for his task. Not only is he a classicist and archaeologist, he is also a rower himself, someone sensitive to the importance of current, of weather, of crew solidarity and leadership, but also to the sensivities of the thetic buttocks of the average Athenian sailor.

  • Tom Darrow
    2018-09-27 16:57

    I have read a fair number of books about Classical Greek history (The Persian War, Alexander the Great, etc), but this one puts a new spin on information I mostly knew. Hale chronicles the ups and downs of Greek civilization through the perspective of the Athenian navy and their accomplishments. Much of the book is obviously military in nature, and although he does spend some time talking about the well known naval battles like Salamis, he doesn't belabor any points. He also brings up many other naval battles that I knew nothing about. Where this book steps out of the typical military and political history realm is his coverage of theater and writing. He spends a lot of time showing how Athens was thoroughly in love with its navy (most of the time) and how that love took over everything from plays to the terms males used for having sex.Positives - Puts a new spin on what would otherwise be a standard military history by including drama and writing. His writing style gives enough explanation for people who are unfamiliar with the ancient Greek navy, but he doesn't dwell too long.Useful maps and illustrations with nearly every chapter.The chapters are all between 10-20 pages, which makes reading a breeze.There is a timeline at the end of the book. I would recommend bookmarking this section and check back with it occasionally as you read so you can keep the perspective of time.Negatives - He moves the narrative along pretty quickly which makes things a little confusing. There are lots of exotic Greek names which can get jumbled up.In moving pretty quickly through 160 years of history, it gets a little confusing when these events are happening and give them the proper context of time. The chapters include almost no dates (except in chapter titles), and aside from the occasional aside where he writes something like "the last time this commander (with a complicated Greek name) was in charge of a navy was twelve years earlier at the battle of (another complicated Greek name)." It runs a fine line. I get that he doesn't want to belabor the narrative with excessive dates, but it will make things confusing for some readers.

  • Walt O'Hara
    2018-10-11 19:02

    I read LORDS OF THE SEA in a somewhat desultory fashion in paper about two years ago, and put it down, not to get to it again, not because I didn't like it, I just lost track of it and didn't get back to it. Recently I checked out a library audio copy from Overdrive, and I finished it last weekend. I am now going to go back and re-read the paper book to get the names right. LORDS OF THE SEA is an excellent, readable history of the rise of the Athenian navy and the Wars of the Delian League that followed. The author, John Hale, inculcates the story with moments of high drama as the city of Athens struggles to meet the challenge of Persian obliteration, then to achieve naval supremacy against the Persians and other opponents (often other Greeks) in the century that followed the Battles of Salamis and the Eurymedon. This was not a time of unending successes; a disastrous expedition to Egypt to support a revolt against the Persian Empire ended in failure, with 20,000 Athenians lost. Internal disputes among the Delian League members and conflict with the Spartan's own Peliponesian League in the first First Pelopenisian War further eroded Athens' claim to hegemony in the Aegean. Throughout their period of ascendancy, Athens understood their power (and culture, as Hale points out) derived from a relentless pursuit of a superior navy and overall "navalization" of their culture. Much like Sparta's militarization of their entire populace, so did Athens adapt an overall naval focus to every level of society. In an undertaking that required rich men to sit on the same rowing bench as poor men, society soon became democratized as well. Hale's book touches on all levels of the naval revolution of Athens, including the arts, democracy and society-- as well as being an exciting and engaging work of history. LORDS OF THE SEA reads like an adventure book, not a history, and I devoured it. Highly recommended.

  • Jonathan
    2018-10-02 17:57

    A long time ago I read Robert Heinlein's book "Starship Troopers" in which military service was a prerequisite for becoming a citizen. In John Hale's book "Lords of the Sea" we're shown an ancient society, that of Athens in the period between the Persian invasions and the death of Alexander the Great, when the opposite was true - when the need for military service reshaped the political landscape of a city-state. Beginning with Themistocles and continuing through a series of politicians and military leaders, Hale draws a vibrant picture of the men who shaped Athens' destiny by tying its military fortunes inexorably to sea power - and tying its political fortunes to its military ones by permitting only free citizens to serve in its army and on its ships as oarsmen. At several points in Athens' history, the franchise and the citizen rolls were enlarged specifically to allow a larger pool of manpower for the triremes that were the backbone of the navy - and of Athens' power. Where Hale's book excels, however, is not in either dry political maneuvering or in military maps and casualty lists. Instead, the strength of the book is in its ability to balance these military and political analyses with the foibles and fatal humanity of the men who ran the state and the army - the brilliant leaders brought down by prosecutions because their opponents feared they sought too much power in a democratic society, or the generals executed for failing to win a battle nobody could have, but because someone had to be blamed. By the time Athens falls to the Macedonians for the last time, it has the aura of inevitability - but the inevitability of a well-plotted novel, not that of a history retold.

  • Mike
    2018-09-30 18:12

    Scholar John Hale traces the Golden Age of Athens (480-322 BC) and the importance of naval power, which saved them from the Persians, created an empire, and was the backbone of Athenian democracy. The Trireme, a 120-foot wooden ship with a bronze ram at the prow, was manned by 170 rowers on 3 levels - these rowers were free men, not slaves, and had to be well-trained to execute combat maneuvers. In addition to the great statesmen and military leaders of the age (Themistocles, father of the Athenian Navy; Pericles; Phormio, Demosthenes) it was the age of the Playwrights, Historians, and Philosophers - who themselves also served in the navy. Yet many of them also fell out of favor with the assembly and were exiled or killed - it was a harsh democracy. One leader, Alcibiades, was judged a failure in the assault on Syracuse (in Sicily) and was recalled. Rather than face the assembly, he fled to Sparta and counseled them on how to defeat the Athenians. He later fled to Persia after bedding the Spartan King's wife (she even got pregnant), and finally, led the Athenians to victory over the Spartans and returned in glory, his death sentence revoked. Describing Alcibiades, the playwright Aristophanes coined the phrase, "They cannot live with him and they cannot live without him."The distances that ordinary Athenians were able to travel on naval service, the lands and trade that were opened to them are remarkable. City planning, rules of law and trade, public criticism (from the playwrights mainly), were other features that originated or grew under the Athenians and are with us today.