J. E. Lendon


On his book Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins

Cover Interview of January 04, 2011

In a nutshell

Most of the nutshells in this book end up broken: there is much fighting.  Song of Wrath tells the story of the origins and course of the Archidamian War between Athens and Sparta (431 BC-421 BC), the first of the several wars that made up ancient Greece’s great Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).

The subject of the book is strategy and statesmanship, and my purpose is to show that these are grounded in culture—that different societies pursue different objectives in their foreign relations, and pursue them, including in war, in idiosyncratic ways.

The lesson of the book is that culture gets people killed.  And some of the aspects of culture that got people killed in ancient Greece are very similar to those that that drive modern states and individuals to violence, especially in Asia and the Middle East.

No less important, Song of Wrath aspires to tell its story well.  I intended the book to be literary history as it was known before history became the property of college professors.  Song of Wrath was a pleasure to write, and I hope it will be a pleasure to read.