100 books like Thucydides

By Thucydides, Jeremy Mynott (translator),

Here are 100 books that Thucydides fans have personally recommended if you like Thucydides. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Last of the Wine

Jim Carr Author Of Yesterdays

From my list on wars over the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love history and languages from the first time my school classes opened my eyes to them and it has stayed with me ever since. Learning Latin helped me to understand how these people talked and how they thought and expressed themselves. It didn’t matter what, whether the daily lives of Romans and how they built their empire. It has coloured my thinking, and helped me in writing all my books that take place during the past, whether in Roman life or medieval warfare.

Jim's book list on wars over the ages

Jim Carr Why did Jim love this book?

If you think our wars are long and drawn out, the 25-year war between Athens and Sparta at the time of Athenian power in ancient Greece. The story is told by Alexis, born at a time of plague and the outset of the war. Alexias is born to a rich family and takes part in all the big events that shaped the outcome of the war. The book traces his adventures from his school days and how he witnessed the great naval battle in the Great Harbour, how he was captured and buried his father on his return. There are also references to Alicabides, a prominent figure in Athens at the time.

The Last of the Wine is more than about battles. It also offers great insights into how lived beyond the constant battles that pepper the book and coming to know some of the key Athenian statesmen who come…

By Mary Renault,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Last of the Wine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Athens and Sparta, the mighty city states of ancient Greece, locked together in a quarter century of conflict: the Peloponnesian War. Alexias the Athenian was born, passed through childhood and grew to manhood in those troubled years, that desperate and dangerous epoch when the golden age of Pericles was declining into uncertainty and fear for the future. Of good family, he and his friends are brought up and educated in the things of the intellect and in athletic and martial pursuits. They learn to hunt and to love, to wrestle and to question. And all the time his star of…

Book cover of The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece

Paul Cartledge Author Of Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece

From my list on ancient Greece and their world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied Classics and Ancient Greek history since my teens, I read ‘Greats’ (Ancient History and Philosophy) at Oxford, completed an archaeological doctorate on early Sparta also at Oxford (1975), while spending my teaching career (1972-2014) in Northern and Southern Ireland, and in England at Warwick and Cambridge Universities. I retired as the inaugural, endowed A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture before taking up my current position as A.G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. I have been the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of some 30 books on ancient Greek history, most recently Thebes: the Forgotten City of Ancient Greece.

Paul's book list on ancient Greece and their world

Paul Cartledge Why did Paul love this book?

Not – repeat not – because I am its editor and wrote more than half of it but mainly because this is I believe the one-volume, one-stop-shop book to have on your shelves or digitally on your computer if you want to gain something like a complete understanding and appreciation of the world or rather worlds of Ancient Greece. I can do no better than quote from the ‘blurb’ provided online by the C.U.P. itself.

It is sumptuously illustrated throughout, almost entirely in colour. It offers fresh interpretations of the whole range of ‘Classical’ Greek culture, different aspects of which are expertly handled by members of an international cast of top-notch scholars both male and female. These aspects include: the influences of the environment and economy; the effects of interstate tensions; the implications of (bi-, homo-, hetero-normative) sexuality; the experiences of workers, soldiers, slaves, peasants and women; and the roles…

By Paul Cartledge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sumptuously illustrated in colour and packed with fascinating information, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece is now available for the first time in a revised paperback edition. Offering fresh interpretations of classical Greek culture, the book devotes as much attention to social, economic, sexual and intellectual aspects as to politics and war. Paul Cartledge and his team ask what it was like for an ordinary person to partake in 'the glory that was Greece'. They examine the influences of the environment and economy; the effect of interstate tensions; the implications of sexuality; the experience of workers, soldiers, slaves, peasants…

Book cover of The Iliad

Nick Stevenson Author Of Nethergeist

From my list on compelling world building in fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been intrigued by fantastical world-building that is complex, detailed, forensically credible, and immeasurably encyclopedic in scope. It should propel you to a world that feels almost as real as the world you leave behind but with intricate magic systems and razor-shape lore. Ironically, some of my choices took a while to love, but once they “sunk in,” everything changed. Whenever life gets too much, it has been cathartic, essential even, to transport to another universe and find solace in prose dedicated to survival, soul, and renewal.

Nick's book list on compelling world building in fantasy

Nick Stevenson Why did Nick love this book?

This may be considered an odd choice on the surface, given the true events of the Trojan War. This was also another I initially struggled with. Nevertheless, despite the factual elements, it’s viewed as one of the earliest epic fantasies in Western literature, along with The Odyssey, which came after.

Centered on just a few days of the ten-year siege of Troy, the lives of humans and their gods are intricately linked. It is one of the earliest examples of pathos with much sympathy actually lying with the enemies, the Trojans, a people based in Asia Minor, and their allies from all over the region. Outside the gods, it also references monsters such as Bellerophon, the Gorgon, and centaurs, with the gods often used as a plot device to refract the emotions and flaws of the characters.

The world-building is vivid and rich in dactylic hexameter, a rhythmic style.…

By Homer, Robert Fagles (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Iliad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the greatest epics in Western literature, THE ILIAD recounts the story of the Trojan wars. This timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves to its tragic conclusion. In his introduction, Bernard Knox observes that although the violence of the Iliad is grim and relentless, it co-exists with both images of civilized life and a poignant yearning for peace.

Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland)

Steve P. Kershaw Author Of The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato's Ideal State

From my list on Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was introduced to the fascinating world of the Ancient Greeks by an inspirational teacher at my Primary School when I was about 10 years old—he read us tales of gods and monsters and heroes and heroism, and I was entranced. My grandpa bought me a copy of The Iliad. I read it with my torch under the bedclothes and embarked on a magical journey that has seen me spend the greater part of my life travelling in the world of the Ancient Greeks, both physically and intellectually. Those characters, both real and mythical, have become my friends, enemies, warnings, and role-models ever since.

Steve's book list on Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks

Steve P. Kershaw Why did Steve love this book?

Herodotus is a joy to read. In his Enquiries into the heroic struggle of Greece against the mighty Persian Empire, he wanted to preserve the memory of wondrous deeds. And he does it brilliantly. Along the way we discover how to catch a crocodile in Egypt, visit the walls of Babylon, and travel with the fearsome, gender-fluid, Scythian warriors. As the massed Persian armies with their arrogant and manipulative commanders bear down on the divided state of Greece, we are taken to battlefield of Marathon, witness the tenacious heroism of the 300 Spartans, and fight on the sea at the great Greek victory at Salamis. This epic conflict between the forces and ideals of East and West is rendered beautifully in Tom Holland’s fluent translation, which nimbly walks the line between accuracy and accessibility.

By Herodotus, Tom Holland (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Western history's greatest books springs to life in Tom Holland's vibrant new translation

Herodotus of Halicarnassus-who was hailed by Cicero as "the father of history"-wrote his histories around 440 BC. It is the earliest surviving work of nonfiction and a thrilling narrative account of (among other things) the war between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states in the fifth century BC.

With a wealth of information about ancient geography, ethnography, zoology, comparative anthropology, and much else, The Histories is also filled with bizarre and fanciful stories, which award-winning historian Tom Holland vividly captures in this major new…

Book cover of The Peloponnesian War

Tom Kratman Author Of The Romanov Rescue

From my list on history and practice of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by war since I was literally a toddler. True story, I was the only two-and-a-half-year-old in South Boston, Massachusetts with an adult library card. I had to get one, and to get it to prove to the librarian that I could read, in order to check out certain books that I wanted. I only recall one title, The Battle of Midway. Since then, though I’ve done other things like practice law and become a novelist, most of my adult life was still spent as an enlisted man, non-commissioned officer, and company grade and field grade infantry officer in the Army.  

Tom's book list on history and practice of war

Tom Kratman Why did Tom love this book?

Written around twenty-five centuries ago, this remains the seminal work of history, political science, man as he is, war, and diplomacy. The author expressly intended that it be “a work for all time,” and so it remains. Moreover, it serves still as an example of a civilization ruining itself, as Europe did in the Great War. Thus, it continues to warn.

By Thucydides, P.J. Rhodes, Martin Hammond (translator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Peloponnesian War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest historian that ever lived'

Such was Macaulay's verdict on Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) and his history of the Peloponnesian War, the momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta as rival powers and political systems that lasted for twenty-seven years from 431 to 404 BC, involved virtually the whole of the Greek world, and ended in the fall of Athens. Thucydides himself was a participant in the war; to his history he brings an awesome intellect, brilliant narrative, and penetrating analysis of the nature
of power, as it affects both states and individuals.

Of his own work Thucydides wrote: 'I…

Book cover of The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

Thucydides, along with Herodotus a generation earlier, created history as we know it. Herodotus added to narrative the analysis of cause: ‘why’ as well as ‘what’. Thucydides added different levels of causation: the immediate reasons for the war and the long-term causes. He studied how the dynamics of fear and power drive states into warfare. He took the gods out of history (it is hard to remember how radical that was). He studied the corruption of moral language and behaviour under the pressure of conflict. In Pericles’ Funeral Speech he set out the theory of Athenian democracy (Pericles would have denied that our own society was democratic—a challenging thought). Thucydides’ eye is not exactly cold, but it is unblinking: no historian seems so free of illusion.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Landmark Thucydides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thucydides called his account of two decades of war between Athens and Sparta "a possession for all time," and indeed it is the first and still the most famous work in the Western historical tradition.

Considered essential reading for generals, statesmen, and liberally educated citizens for more than 2,000 years, The Peloponnesian War is a mine of military, moral, political, and philosophical wisdom.

However, this classic book has long presented obstacles to the uninitiated reader. Written centuries before the rise of modern historiography, Thucydides' narrative is not continuous or linear. His authoritative chronicle of what he considered the greatest war…

Book cover of How to Think about War: An Ancient Guide to Foreign Policy

Neville Morley Author Of Thucydides and the Idea of History

From my list on understanding Thucydides.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian and classicist, teaching at the University of Exeter. I am equally interested in classical Greece and Rome, especially their economy and society, and in the ways that classical ideas and examples have been influential in the modern world.

Neville's book list on understanding Thucydides

Neville Morley Why did Neville love this book?

Not a book about Thucydides, but a selection of the speeches – one of the most striking aspects of his approach to history is the way he includes set-piece debates, not so much as accurate transcripts of what was actually said as a means of exploring issues of war, peace, democratic deliberation and so forth. If you already own a copy of Thucydides, this may not be of much interest (unless you’re obsessive enough to compare Hanink’s translations with others), but if you’re new to the topic this may be a good place to start: the speeches are more accessible than the lengthy battle narratives, they’re the main basis for Thucydides’ reputation as a thinker about political issues, as well as the source of some memorable lines, and Hanink’s introduction does a good job of explaining all of this.

By Johanna Hanink, Thucydides,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Think about War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An accessible modern translation of essential speeches from Thucydides's History that takes readers to the heart of his profound insights on diplomacy, foreign policy, and war

Why do nations go to war? What are citizens willing to die for? What justifies foreign invasion? And does might always make right? For nearly 2,500 years, students, politicians, political thinkers, and military leaders have read the eloquent and shrewd speeches in Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War for profound insights into military conflict, diplomacy, and the behavior of people and countries in times of crisis. How to Think about War presents the most…

Book cover of The Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece

Myke Cole Author Of The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

From my list on narrative military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong warfighter, law enforcement officer, intelligence officer, and emergency services worker, intimately familiar with the crisis response and what makes conflict so fascinating to students of history. I’m also a popular novelist with an in-depth understanding of story arcs and what makes great prose. I’ve previously published narrative military history myself – Legion Versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World. My short nonfiction, much of it based on military history and crisis work, has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Ancient Warfare Magazine.

Myke's book list on narrative military history

Myke Cole Why did Myke love this book?

Roberts’ groundbreaking, game-changing story of the Peloponnesian War (really, wars) is richly detailed and comprehensive, a modernizing “leveling up” from Donald Kagan’s 2004 standard text. By centering her narrative in the impact of the war, rather than strategy and politics, Roberts brings home the terrible human cost of the conflict, and the book serves as a critical examination of what wholesale violence means to a society, from the high to the low. Roberts writes with incredible empathy, and her voice makes the book more than enlightening, it’s a deeply moving mediation on the depths of self-inflicted suffering as only human beings can engender. 

By Jennifer T. Roberts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Plague of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 431 BC, the long simmering rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta erupted into open warfare, and for more than a generation the two were locked in a life-and-death struggle. The war embroiled the entire Greek world, provoking years of butchery previously unparalleled in ancient Greece. Whole cities were exterminated, their men killed, their women and children enslaved. While the war is commonly believed to have ended with the capture of the Athenian
navy in 405 and the subsequent starvation of Athens, fighting in Greece would continue for several decades. Sparta's authority was challenged in the so-called Corinthian…

Book cover of Thucydides: The Reinvention of History

James M. Banner Jr. Author Of The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History

From my list on historians and how they think and write.

Why am I passionate about this?

An experienced historian who’s occupied both academic and public posts and written for popular as well as academic audiences, I’ve become absorbed by what’s behind the history so many of us read for all the reasons we read it: enlightenment, pleasure, and lessons about life in a fragile world. That’s taken me to write and teach about the professional lives of historians, about some fundamental realities of historical thought, and now about historians themselves: who they are, what they do, and why they do it. It’s often said that if you wish to understand books, know the people who write them. The books I’ve recommended help do that.

James' book list on historians and how they think and write

James M. Banner Jr. Why did James love this book?

This book is important, authoritative, and compelling because it demonstrates that a conservative historian can be comfortable with revisionist history. Kagan, a Yale historian noted as a leading academic traditionalist, terms Thucydides “the first revisionist historian” not because he was like today’s leftists but because he took issue with his pioneering predecessor, Herodotus. In his great history of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides threw down the gauntlet over which was the “best” and “right” way to do history. He thought its subjects should be politics, warfare, the relation between states, and—a surprise?—men. His views held the field for centuries. The Framers of the Constitution were its legatees. So were we until the late 20th century, when social and cultural subjects gained attention. This wonderful book shows why.

By Donald Kagan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thucydides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A reconsideration of the first modern historian and his methods from a renowned scholar

The grandeur and power of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War have enthralled readers, historians, and statesmen alike for two and a half millennia, and the work and its author have had an enduring influence on those who think about international relations and war, especially in our own time. In Thucydides, Donald Kagan, one of our foremost classics scholars, illuminates the great historian and his work both by examining him in the context of his time and by considering him as a revisionist historian.

Thucydides took a spectacular…

Book cover of Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times

Barry Sandywell Author Of Logological Investigations, Volume 1: Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

From my list on the beginnings of European theorizing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm currently an Honorary Fellow in Social Theory at the University of York, U.K. For more than five decades I've been working to promote more reflexive perspectives in philosophy, sociology, social theory, and sociological research. I've written and edited many books in the field of social theory with particular emphasis on questions of culture and on work in the field of visual culture. Recently these have included Interpreting Visual Culture (with Ian Heywood), The Handbook of Visual Culture, and an edited multi-volume textbook of international scholars to be published by Bloomsbury, The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture. My own position can be found in my Dictionary of Visual Discourse: A Dialectical Lexicon of Terms.

Barry's book list on the beginnings of European theorizing

Barry Sandywell Why did Barry love this book?

If Gadamer is an important guide to the hermeneutics of beginnings and the spirit of theorizing, Thomas Martin’s work is one of the most concise, readable, and comprehensive introductions to the social history of ancient Greece and the spiritual origins of Western culture. While there are many fine histories of the period, this book provides access to the whole sweep of Greek history from the beginnings of Hellenic civilization in Indo-European and Mycenaean cultures, to the Archaic age, the beginnings of democracy with the age of the city-state, the collapse of the Athenian Empire at the end of the Peloponnesian War, and the rise of Hellenistic Greece and the Hellenistic kingdoms that led to the hegemony of Rome and Latin culture. The work is an exemplary form of what I would call 'configurational’ history as his narrative interweaves military, political, religious, and social history with detailed discussion of the realm…

By Thomas R. Martin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ancient Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This compact yet comprehensive history brings ancient Greek civilization alive, from its Stone Age roots to the fourth century B.C.

"A highly readable account of ancient Greece."-Kirkus Reviews

Focusing on the development of the Greek city-state and the society, culture, and architecture of Athens in its Golden Age, Thomas R. Martin integrates political, military, social, and cultural history in a book that will appeal to students and general readers alike. Now in its second edition, this classic work now features new maps and illustrations, a new introduction, and updates throughout. "A limpidly written, highly accessible, and comprehensive history of Greece…

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