Thucydides

Michael Lahanas

Θουκυδίδης

The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time. Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War, and approved of his power over the people, though he detested the more pandering demagogues who followed him. Thucydides did not approve of the radical democracy Pericles ushered in, but thought that it was ok when in the hands of a good leader.

Thucydides would have been schooled by Sophists. They were the teachers in Athens but today would be considered more like Philosophers and Astronomers Thucydides would have been taught by them not to accept things at face value, to question things. They would have taught Thucydides the mechanics of his writing, and they endowed him with his skills to assess the truth.

Thucydides is generally regarded as one of the first true historians, along with Herodotus (who wrote "The Histories" about a generation prior). However, Thucydides, unlike Herodotus (who is often called "the father of history"), did not include references to myths and the gods in his writing. He vigorously consulted written documents and interviewed participants in the events that he records.

Even for someone disputing his status as the first historian, no-one would deny his status as the first and last historian of naked real-politic. Actors on the world stage who had read his work would all have been put on notice that someone would be scrutinizing their actions with a reporters dispassion, rather than the mythmakers and poets compassion and thus consciously or unconsciously participating in the writing of it. His Melian dialogue is a lesson to both reporters and to those who believe ones leaders are always acting with perfect integrity on the world stage.

The Peloponnesian War

Thucydides does not take the time to discuss the arts, literature or society in which the book is set and in which Thucydides himself grew up. Thucydides was writing about a event and not a period and as such took to lengths to discuss anything which he considered unrelated. Thucydides goes to great pains to make each event as graphic as the one which preceded it.

The Peloponnesian War was under major revision by Thucydides at the moment of his death, following a renewed realization on his part of the significance of the Persian influence to the events of the war.

Writings by Thucydides

(The Free Press, 1996) ISBN 0-684-82815-4