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"Great naval battles of the ancient greek world": a review



I feared that this book by Owen Rees was one of those basic, superficial booklets for war nerds barely more serious than an Osprey. It was not so bad, but not as good as it could have been, either.

The Amazon description that you already read says it all about the content. So I give you my comments only.

On the plus side, it has a surprisingly good bibliography. It not only includes all the usual ancient sources (Thucidides, xenophon, ecc) but also a lot of modern academic articles on serious publications such as the Journal of Hellenic Studies. So, Rees' presentation of events is backed up by some serious study, and you can use the book as a guide for further reading.

On the bad side, there are things you will not find here. First, the descriptions of the battles themselves are rather dry and matter-of-fact. There is no effort at all to provide any detail on what happened or how, on the basis of an original interpretation of ancient sources or new archeological findings or nautical knowledge. Most pages are on the context and aftermath, not on the discussion of the battles themselves. Second, Rees does not discuss critically what the ancient sources tells us, even when it is not very clear or credible. He just paraprhases them.

Third, he also avoids a serious discussion on trireme tactics and operations, which could have been useful in a book on such a subject. He could have just presented us with the current state of the art of the historical discussion on the subject.

In conclusion: buy this book if you need a short, crisp executive summary of Thucidides (to draft a campaign, maybe?), or if you are starting to dip your toes on the subject.

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