Week 20

The work of Thucydides "marks the longest and most decisive step that has ever been taken by a single man towards making history what it is today." ―J. B. Bury, (The Ancient Greek Historians. New York: Dover Publications, 1958)

"Thucydides wrote his History of the Peloponnesian War in almost impossibly difficult Greek. Maybe the contorted language has something to do with the novelty of his enterprise. Writing at the end of the fifth century BC, he was attempting something never done before: an aggressively rational, apparently impersonal analysis of the history of his own times, utterly free from religious modes of explanation. In Thucydides’ view, the Peloponnesian War, fought on and off for thirty years between the two leading Greek cities of Sparta and Athens, had to be understood with respect to human politics and power struggles, not—as Homer had earlier seen the Trojan War, or as Herodotus had explained the Greek wars against the Persians—by referring to quarrels among the gods on Mount Olympus. This was revolutionary." ―Mary Beard, in "Which Thucydides Can You Trust?", New York Review of Books, September 30, 2010

The Greeks invented "history" and when we say that we mean they they created a new field of human endeavor in which the writer does research, collects documents, interviews witnesses, visits locales in his story and then tries to put it all together in a way that gives the readers a true picture of the past. The Jewish prophets whose work is preserved in the Hebrew Bible did not worry about the standards of history. They wanted to preserve God's truth. The Greek historian's thoguht it was possible for a human being to collect the evidence and write an accurate account of an event in the past. The master of this new discipline was Thucydides.

Thucydides (460–400 BC) was an Athenian historian and general. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the fifth century BC war between Sparta and Athens until the year 411 BC. Thucydides has been dubbed the father of "scientific history" by those who accept his claims to have applied strict standards of impartiality and evidence-gathering and analysis of cause and effect, without reference to intervention by the deities, as outlined in his introduction to his work. He also has been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcomes of relations between states as ultimately mediated by and constructed upon the emotions of fear and self-interest. His text is still studied at universities and military colleges worldwide. The Melian dialogue is regarded as a seminal work of international relations theory, while his version of Pericles' Funeral Oration is widely studied by political theorists, historians, and students of the classics. (Wikipedia)



On Justice, Power, and Human Nature: Selections from The History of the Peloponnesian War,

and Paul Woodruff,

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (October 1, 1993),

ISBN 0872201686

Donald Kagan,

Thucydides: The Reinvention of History,

Brécourt Academic; First Edition edition (December 31, 2009),

ISBN 0670021296