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Thucydides

From Academic Kids

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it." ~ Thucydides

Thucydides (between 460 and 455 BC–circa 400 BC) was an ancient Greek historian, and the author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens. This work is widely regarded a classic, and represents the first work of its kind.

Contents

Life

Almost everything we know about the life of Thucydides comes from his History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides father was Olorus,Template:Rf a name connected with Thrace and Thracian royalty.Template:Rf He was a man of influence and wealth. He owned gold mines at Scapte Hyle, a district of Thrace on the Thracian coast opposite the island of Thasos.Template:Rf Thucydides was connected through family to the Athenian statesman and general Miltiades, and his son Cimon, leaders of the old aristocracy supplanted by the Radical Democrats. Thucydides lived between his two homes, in Athens and in Thrace. His family connections brought him into contact with the very men who were shaping the history he wrote about.

He was probably in his twenties when the Peloponnesian War began in 431 BC. He contracted the plagueTemplate:Rf that ravaged Athens between 430 and 427 BC, killing Pericles, in 429 BC, along with thousands of other Athenians.Template:Rf

In 424 BC he was appointed strategos (general), and given command of a squadron of seven ships, stationed at Thasos, probably because of his connections to the area. During the winter of 424/3 BC, the Spartan general Brasidas attacked Amphipolis, a half-days sail west from Thasos on the Thracian coast. Eucles, the Athenian commander at Amphipolis, sent for assistance to Thucydides.Template:Rf

Brasidas and aware of Thucydides presence on Thasos and his influence with the people of Amphipolis, and afraid of help arriving by sea, acted quickly to offer moderate terms to the Amphipolitans for their surrender, which they accepted. Thus when Thucydides arrived Amphipolis was already under Spartan controlTemplate:Rf (see Battle of Amphipolis).

Amphipolis was of considerable strategic importance, and news of its fall caused great consternation in Athens.Template:Rf Because of his failure to save Amphipolis, Thucydides says:

It was also my fate to be an exile from my country for twenty years after my command at Amphipolis; and being present with both parties, and more especially with the Peloponnesians by reason of my exile, I had leisure to observe affairs somewhat particularly.Template:Rf

Using his status as an exile from Athens to travel freely among the Peloponnesian allies, he was able to view the war from the perspective of both sides. He may have travelled to Sicily for the Sicilian Expedition, as there are excellent examples of local knowledge. During this period of time he conducted important research for his history.

According to Pausanias, some one named Oenobius was able get a law passed allowing Thucydides to return to Athens, presumably sometime shortly after Athens' surrender and the end of the war in 404 BC.Template:Rf Pausanias goes on to say that Thucydides was murdered on his way back to Athens. Although some doubt this account, seeing evidence to suggest he lived as late as 397 BC. In any case although he lived past the end of the war, he did not complete his history.

The abrupt end of his narrative which breaks off in the middle the year 411 BC, suggests that he may have died while writing the book.

His remains were returned to Athens and were laid in Cimon's family vault.Template:Rf

Education

Thucydides would have been schooled by the 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 but to question things. They would have taught Thucydides the mechanics of his writing, and would have endowed him with his skills to assess the truth.

Character

His character was said to be dry, humourless and pessimistic. Thucydides admired Pericles 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 acceptable when in the hands of a good leader.

Historian

Thucydides is generally regarded as one of the first true historians. Unlike his predecessor Herodotus (often called "the father of history") who included rumors and references to myths and the gods in his writing, Thucydides assiduously consulted written documents and interviewed participants in the events that he records. By his discovery of historic causation (http://strongbrains.com/pages/bookreview1.htm) he created the first scientific approach to history.

In addition to disputing his status as the first historian, some authors, including Richard Ned Lebow, reject the common perception of Thucydides as a historian of naked real-politik. 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 reporter's dispassion, rather than the mythmaker's and poet's compassion and thus consciously or unconsciously participating in the writing of it. His Melian dialogue is a lesson to reporters and to those who believe one's 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 an event and not a period and as such took lengths not to discuss anything which he considered unrelated.

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.

Work

References

  • Herodotus, Histories, A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920; ISBN 0674991338  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Hdt.+toc)
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece, Books I-II, (Loeb Classical Library) translated by W. H. S. Jones; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. (1918) ISBN 0674991044.  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+1.1.1)
  • Plutarch, Lives, Bernadotte Perrin (translator), Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1914; ISBN
  • Strassler, Robert B, ed. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War. New York: Free Press, 1996; ISBN 0684828154
  • Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+toc)

Notes

Template:Ent Thucydides 4.104.4  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+4.104.4) Template:Ent Herodotus 6.39.1  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Hdt.+6.39.1) Template:Ent Herodotus 6.46.1  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Hdt.+6.46.1); Thucydides 4.105.1  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+4.105.1), Plutarch, Cimon 4.1  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plut.+Cim.+4.1) Template:Ent Thucydides 2.48.1–3  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+2.48.1) Template:Ent Thucydides 3.87.1–3  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+3.87.1) Template:Ent Thucydides 4.104.1  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+4.104.1) Template:Ent Thucydides 4.105.1–106.3  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+4.105.1)  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+4.106.1) Template:Ent Thucydides 4.108.1–7  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+4.108.1) Template:Ent Thucydides 5.26.5  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+5.26.5) Template:Ent Pausanias 1.23.9  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+1.23.9) Template:Ent Plutarch, Cimon 4.1  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plut.+Cim.+4.1)da:Thukydid de:Thukydides es:Tucdides fr:Thucydide ko:투퀴디데스 hr:Tukidid it:Tucidide he:תוקידידס lb:Thukydides (Historiker) nl:Thucydides (historicus) ja:トゥキディデス pl:Tukidydes sk:Thukydides sl:Tukidid sr:Тукидид sv:Thukydides uk:Фукідід

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