Papercut Book Cover of The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan

About the Book:

Finally! We’re reached the last book of the four-volume set, The Complete History of the Peloponnesian War, with Donald Kagan’s The Fall of the Athenian Empire. After this, I will no longer have to be tormented by tedious, confusing history books again!


Wait... what’s that you say? There are a few more history books on Rory’s list? Oh no! Really? Such as? Oh... The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. Great. Just when I thought I was in the clear. Well, that book will need to wait a bit while I read some more pleasant titles, because I don’t think my brain can take any more history right now.


Actual Cover of The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan

Oh, Richard Gilmore! You and your stupid history books infringing on this remarkable literary journey with Rory! But I suppose everyone has their own reading preferences...


I digress.

The Fall of the Athenian Empire wraps up the Peloponnesian Wars with, you, you guessed it— Athens losing. It’s all quite confusing however. There are various political groups vying for power, trying to overthrow the Athenian democracy and establish an oligarchy in its place. These groups are called by truly inventive names such as the "Four Hundred," the"Five Thousand," and the "Three hundred and fifty-nine." Just kidding, I made that last one up. But the first two were real groups, and I just couldn’t follow all the political antics that go on between all of them.

Although, I did learn something new— that various political leaders such as Aristotle (yes, that Aristotle!) actually viewed an oligarchy as preferable to a democracy. Because we’re told that democracy is the "great invention" of the Greeks, I think we tend to assume that every Greek just adored democracy. Apparently, not so. Interesting.


Although the Athenians won a great naval battle at Arginusae, they then condemned to death the generals who won the war for their failure to rescue survivors and collect their dead. This, although with other political "private quarrels" eventually led to the defeat of Athens. Kagan ends the saga with this conclusion:


At any rate, the Athenian experience in the Peloponnesian War suggests that in warfare democracies, where everything must be debated in the open and relatively uninformed majorities persuaded, may find it harder to adjust to the necessities of war than other, less open societies."

I’m not sure what to make of that conclusion, but it can serve as food for thought. What do you think?


Regardless of the lessons we can take away from this history lesson, though, I am glad to be done with this series. I realize that history is important to know and learn from, but I also know that I prefer to read historical fiction over straight history. Excited for some easier reads from the Rory Gilmore Reading List next.



About the Papercut:

Nothing says "fallen empire" like a statue being knocked over, am I right? In modern times, the statue is usually of a fallen dictator or general. However for this particular rendition of iconic fallen empire imagery, a statue of the goddess of wisdom herself was the obvious choice. I found an image of Athena as a warrior, and then broke her in half, as if the marble statue was cracked in two. Maybe the imagery is a bit too obvious, but it fits the theme of the book and the simplistic theme of the papercuts for the series.

Up Next:

When I first started the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, I just jumped in without thinking about reading the titles in an particular order. Then, after I finished the Stephen King books, I thought that maybe I would read titles in (mostly) chronological order. I read the Iliad and then thought that reading about Greek history would be a good way to help frame the Iliad. Next would then be the Bhavagada Gita, although this might have actually been written before the Iliad, but it’s hard to determine exactly when it was written. Then would come Beowolf and the Art of War by S T.


However, I’ve heard that the Bhavagada Gita is a pretty confusing read, and I know Beowolf isn’t any easier. After the drain that the Complete History of the Peloponnesian War was on my brain, I just can’t even think about tackling any of those titles next. I need an easy read in my life right now.


So instead, I’m going jump to the other end of the list chronologically, and read "How the Light Gets in."



The series is done! Here's a look at all four papercut book covers:

Not bad, right?

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