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The Soul of Battle

From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny


Victor Davis Hanson (View Bio)
Hardcover: The Free Press, 1999; Paperback: Anchor Books, 2001.

The Soul of Battle

“A brilliant and engrossing book." — Bernard Knox, The New York Times Book Review

"Victor Davis Hanson is a noted historian and author and professor. His writing style is clear, as is his grasp of history....His prose is good and his subject is fascinating." — The Washington Times

"THE SOUL OF BATTLE is a tour de force." — Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review

"Sparkling argument and insightful...Hanson has written...a masterpiece of military narrative." — Army magazine

"Perhaps it was predictable that it should have been an American ancient historian who made this particular battle cry of ancient freedom re-sound again to 20th- or 21st-century ears.... To Victor, in conclusion, the historiographical spoils." — The Anglo-Hellenic Review

"He has written groundbreaking, indispensable books.... In THE SOUL OF BATTLE, he widens the scope of his inquiry to discuss, in rich and fascinating detail, three campaigns.... [A] brilliant and engrossing book." — Bernard Knox, The New York Times Book Review

"By making an explicit link between political ideology and the performance of soldiers, Hanson helps restore an essential element to the discussions about the military." — The Weekly Standard

"An eloquent reminder that democracies under great captains, facing enemies challenging the essence of their cultures, cam make war at levels beyond the worst nightmares of their warrior opponents." — Publishers Weekly

"All historians will also be challenged by its central thrust: that a democratic army, campaigning for salvation and liberation rather than conquest and repression, can have not just a spirit, but a soul." — Journal of Military History

"A timely and bracing polemic....Victor Davis Hanson summons those sharing his faith in democracy to restore the connection [between] faith and politics...For citizens of a democracy that has arrogated itself the role of the world's only superpower that message demands thoughtful consideration." — Wilson Quarterly

"A simple recipe: take three unorthodox, unpredictable, intellectual military leaders; mix them up with an army of free men; and give them a democratic mission. You have created what Hanson (THE WESTERN WAY OF WAR and FIELDS WITHOUT DREAMS) calls THE SOUL OF BATTLE, 'a rare thing that arises only when free men march unabashedly toward the heartland of their enemy in hopes of saving the doomed.'...This is a great book. Hanson has a gift for grasping the personality traits and failings that made these three military leaders so unique. He gives the finest account of the exploits of little-known Epaminondas this reviewer has ever seen in English and comes closer to grasping the essence of that complex character Patton than his biographers." — Library Journal

"[A] stirring tale in highly wrought prose...a superb book forcefully argued and narrated, profoundly meditated, boldly and fruitfully at odds with contemporary political morality....He illuminates this subject like few other recent writers." — Boston Globe

"A magisterial look at Epaminondas (the Theban general who defeated Sparta), Sherman (who brought down the Confederacy), and Patton (who helped vanquish Hitler) by Hanson, a classics professor at California State Univ., Fresno, and author of such works as WHO KILLED HOMER? (1998) and FIELDS WITHOUT DREAMS (1996). Far more than a pat survey of three great military leaders, this account considers the manner in which each of these men conducted a great march of citizen soldiers (to use Stephen Ambrose's phrase) to fulfill a democratic ideal against a martial, enslaving enemy. Epaminondas to rid the Thebans of their Spartan rivals, who did not hold the same democratic ideals; Sherman to attack the heart of the Confederacy, demolish its base of support among its citizenry, and emancipate slaves in its marches' wake; and Patton to strike through northern Europe and destroy the Nazi heartland. Hanson's writing is faultless, and his use of sources is unparalleled, as befits a classicist and military historian. Rather than three short biographies weaved together, these tales are individually so complete that they seem like the unabridged lives of each of the generals. Hanson's choice of subject — three marches for freedom 'led by eccentrics, considered unbalanced...censured by their own governments, threatened with loss of command' who were all so uniquely successful in overcoming an enemy that had long threatened freedom — is as inspired as its conclusions, which draw the three together and also look at our own decade's response to the Persian Gulf War. A masterful work of classical and modern history and a compelling reading experience for anyone interested in how democracies wage war." — Kirkus Reviews

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