Reading Steven Pressfield’s Alcibiades book

Steven Pressfield is one of a handful of authors who managed to have 4th century BC historical fiction published. His research is fantastic – the man knows his stuff, no doubt about it.

So I’ve read The Afghan campaign. That’s Alexander the Great’s campaign in that region of the world, from the point of view of a cavalry soldier. Full of information, fast-paced at times, but also dark and gory. I enjoyed it, but you put it down with the yearning to take a long hot shower. Oh, and I believe Pressfield tries a little too hard to weave parallels between Alexander’s troubles in Afghanistan and today’s difficulties in that region of the world.

Now it’s Tides of War, « A novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War », which he wrote back in 2000. Now Pressfield is just showing off his knowledge of daily life and military matters. I’m sure he could only put a fraction of his accumulated knowledge into the book, but even that is overwhelming. Long lists of ship’s names, discussions of Athenian law, thousands of little details thrown in and hundreds of names of semi-famous characters from the old history books. It’s all fascinating, but I never acquired a strong taste for that kind of literature. But I learn something on every page, so I keep reading.

Pressfield’s Web site is quite interesting. Worth exploring, even if it looks like they stopped updating it last year.


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