By Ryan A. Sanford
Hubris, or excessive pride, comprises one part of a tragic dyad. The other part of the dyad is peripeteia, or a sudden reversal of fortune. For historian Alistair Horne, the hubris-peripeteia dyad comes to the fore in the decisions and actions of some of history’s best-known leaders and commanders, whose arrogant overreach led to rapid reversal, defeat, and shame. In Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century, Alistair Horne examines six 20th-century battles to show how an inability to assess the strategic context properly, an overestimation of one’s ability, and, potentially most significant, an ignorance of history’s lessons, preceded many inglorious failures on the battlefield. Much like a Baroque composer, Horne establishes the hubris and peripeteia theme of his fugue using the Russo-Japanese War as the exposition, and then presents the theme in new ways using different battles and their actors.