Tides of War

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For the film known as Tides of War, see Phantom Below.

Tides of War is a novel by Steven Pressfield, set in the decades following the Peloponnesian War, Jason, a member of the Athenian landowning class, recounts the events of the war to his grandson. However, most of the narration occurred through Jason’s recounting of his meetings with Polemidas, an Athenian mercenary whom Jason had defended years earlier for the murder of Alcibiades.

Plot summary[edit]

Through the course of his career as a mercenary, Polemidas had come into contact with most of the pivotal figures of the era including Socrates, the statesmen-general Pericles and the politician Nicias, and Spartan general Lysander. Polemidas describes his travels: his upbringing in Sparta and his family estate outside Athens, his time in Athens during the Plague, the mutilation of the sacred hermai in Athens on the eve of the Sicilian Expedition, sailing with the Athenian marines during the disastrous expedition, and Athens’ eventual defeat at the battle of Aegospotami.

However, it was the character of Alcibiades who loomed most large over the narrative, just as he had the greatest impact on the Peloponnesian War. Undefeated during his career as a general and admiral, Alcibiades’ life played itself out like an epic tragedy with the tensions between his genius and the hubris that was his ultimate downfall.

The political shifts that occurred during the war, manifesting through partisan public opinion, act almost to make Athens herself a character in the novel.

While most of the dialogue is Pressfield’s own creation, for long speeches and character development he used many ancient sources, particularly adapting quotes appearing in Thucydides in the History of the Peloponnesian War and to a lesser extent several of the Socratic Dialogues of Plato.