Friday, 31 October 2014

What are you reading right now?

It's become a question asked much more frequently on forums since e-readers have become popular. Whether there's a connection with the rise in electronic books or not I have no idea, but they have certainly made books much more readily accessible to a generation or 2 turned on to electronic media consumption.

In my case I'm half way through Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian wars, that records the battles between the city-state of Athens (a tyranical democracy) that was gradually subsuming the Hellenic races, and the Peloponnesian alliance (also called Lacedaemonians, and including the Spartans) who wanted to retain their freedom. Sound familiar?

It's interesting to read about historical events in areas we have visited and know a little, but more to the point, it really brings home how little people have changed and how, generally speaking, bungling governments and organisations are. As is so often the case, a few key individuals appear to have shaped history, whether by brilliance and careful planning, or by self-seeking and failure. Men are sometimes cruel, sometimes cowardly, sometimes brave and sometimes driven by emotions of various kinds to do things they regret and wish to undo later.

There is a passage that sticks in my mind after the Lacedaemonian forces have been defeated and surrendered on Pylos, the survivors having been taken back to Athens as prisoners and hostages. They had a reputation before that point of preferring death to surrendering their arms, and a passer-by distainfully asks one of the captives if the men who fell were honourable. His reply was that arrows and spears cannot choose the type of man they kill.

A translation of the book is available as a free download here if you want it.

How much is historically accurate I cannot say. Ancient historians appear to have disregarded the truth happily in order to create a better story, to affirm their prejudice or to shape their book to suit their patron at the time, even while sometimes complaining loudly about the errors of other writers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Play nice - I will delete anything I don't want associated with this blog and I will delete anonymous comments.