Jennifer T. Roberts
The Plague of War
Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece
Oxford University Press 2017
The Peloponnesian War was one of the first subjects of historical inquiry, and one that has been the subject of many works ever since Thucydides wrote his famous account of the conflict. Yet these works typically focus just on the decades when Sparta’s Peloponnesian League fought against the Athenian empire. In The Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece (Oxford University Press, 2017), Jennifer T. Roberts sets the war within the broader context of inter-state hostilities in 5th and 4th century Greece. As she explains, fighting between the two sides did not begin in 431, nor did it really end in 404. Instead the Peloponnesian War was just one of a series of conflicts that stretched throughout the Hellenic era, in which victories often simply set the stage for the next round of battles. Though Sparta may have defeated Athens in 404, by continuing the story beyond then Roberts shows how the new alignments that resulted transformed the city states in ways that led to Sparta’s own defeat in 371, making her triumph in the war only a fleeting one.