Thucydides


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Thucydides

(tho͞osĭd`ĭdēz), c.460–c.400 B.C., Greek historian of Athens, one of the greatest of ancient historians. His family was partly Thracian. As a general in the Peloponnesian WarPeloponnesian War
, 431–404 B.C., decisive struggle in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta. It ruined Athens, at least for a time. The rivalry between Athens' maritime domain and Sparta's land empire was of long standing. Athens under Pericles (from 445 B.C.
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 he failed (424 B.C.) to prevent the surrender of the city of AmphipolisAmphipolis
, ancient city of Macedonia, on the Strymon (Struma) River near the sea and NE of later Thessaloníki. The place was known as Ennea Hodoi [nine ways] before it was settled and was of interest because of the gold and silver and timber of Mt.
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 to the Spartan commander BrasidasBrasidas
, d. 422 B.C., Spartan general in the Peloponnesian War. In 424 B.C. he saved Mégara from Athenian attack, and then conducted an able campaign in Thrace, capturing Amphipolis and other cities and greatly weakening the Athenian cause through his military successes
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 and was exiled until the end of the war. He thus had opportunity to acquaint himself with both the Athenians and the Spartans and to acquire firsthand information for his one work, the incomplete History of the Peloponnesian War. It covered the period from 431 to 411 and was a departure from the histories of the past, both in method and presentation. He wrote a text to be read, not recited, and he was scrupulous in his presentation of facts. Preeminently a military history, chronicling events by the seasons, it completely avoids any reference to social conditions or state policy, unless they have to deal with the progress of the war, and interprets the succession of events in view of the general nature and behavior of man rather than as the result of a fate outside man's influence. The work is enlivened by the well-crafted speeches he puts into the mouths of participants in the events he chronicles, a common technique in his day. The most splendid of these is PericlesPericles
, c.495–429 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was a member of the Alcmaeonidae family through his mother, a niece of Cleisthenes. He first came to prominence as an opponent of the Areopagus (462) and as one of the prosecutors of Cimon, whom he replaced in influence.
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' funeral oration. Thucydides' account of the plague, through which he lived, displays his clinical and descriptive attitude and is a standard of its type. He is generally acclaimed as the creator of scholarly history as we know it today. The classic English translation of the History is that of Thomas Hobbes (1629; ed. by David Grene, 1959); modern translations include those by Richard Crawley (1910, repr. 1952), Rex Warner (1954), and R. W. Livingstone (1960).

Bibliography

See R. B. Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides (rev. ed. 2008); studies by J. H. Finley (1942, repr. 1967), G. B. Grundy (2d ed. 1948), H. D. Westlake (1968), and A. G. Woodhead (1970); A. W. Gomme et al., A Historical Commentary on Thucydides (5 vol., 1945–78); S. Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides (3 vol., 1997–2009); D. Kagan, Thucydides: The Reinvention of History (2009).

Thucydides

 

Born circa 460 B.C.; died 400 B.C. Greek historian.

Thucydides came from an aristocratic and well-to-do Athenian family. In 424 B.C, during the Peloponnesian War, he was a strategus and commanded an Athenian squadron off Thrace. He was not able to prevent the Spartan commander Brasidas from capturing Amphipolis, as a result of which he was condemned in Athens and sent into exile. During the 20 years that he was away from his native land, he collected materials for his historical work. He returned to Athens in 404.

Thucydides’ History, consisting of eight books, is devoted to the Peloponnesian War of 431–404 B.C. (the narrative is brought down to the autumn of 411). Despite the incompleteness of individual parts, the History stands as an artistic whole. As distinct from Herodotus, Thucydides ascribed great importance to the critical verification of the data that the historian has at his disposal for setting forth his theme; only after this, in Thucydides’ opinion, is it possible to turn to a reconstruction of the past. Thucydides saw the principal task of the historian as a seeking out of the truth (I, 20). In explaining historical phenomena, Thucydides paid particular attention to the causes of events. His rationalism excluded as a cause the direct intervention of divine forces in historical events, although he did not specifically deny the existence of gods or the divine principle. Ascribing primary importance to objective historical factors, not only political but also economic, Thucydides, unlike subsequent historians, was still not inclined to emphasize the role of particular individuals; he did not ignore, however, the importance of the minds and wills of outstanding figures, as is seen from his characterization of Pericles. Thucydides emphasized the importance of Athenian sea power; it was to the excessive growth of the might of Athens and to the aggressive policy of the Athenians that he ascribed the principal cause of the inter-Hellenic conflict. Although Thucydides wrote primarily a military history, he paid a great deal of attention to the sociopolitical struggle. He was one of the first to give a detailed description of civil conflicts, the clashes between democratic and oligarchic factions.

In his political views, Thucydides was an advocate of moderate, rationally regulated power. He was hostile to radical democracy, and he belittled its leaders, Cleon and Hyperbolus. In contrast, Thucydides thought highly of the moderately oligarchic rule of the Five Thousand in Athens (end of 411), considering that this constituted a rational mixing of oligarchic and democratic elements. However, neither Thucydides’ sympathy nor his antipathy is ever very noticeable in his History, and, on the whole, his exposition is distinguished for its high degree of objectivity. Thucydides is considered to be the greatest historian of antiquity, a writer who left a vivid and reliable description of one of the most important events of ancient history.

EDITIONS

Thucydides historiae, vols. 1–2. Edited by C. Hude. Leipzig, 1908–13.

Thucydides, vol. 1. Edited by O. Luschnat. Leipzig, 1954.

In Russian translation:

Istoriia, vols. 1–2. Translated by F. Mishchenko and revised by S. Zhebelev. Moscow, 1915.

REFERENCES

Mishchenko, F. G. Opyt po istorii ratsionalizma v drevnei Gretsii, part 1: Ratsionalizm Fukidida v Istorii Peloponnesskoi voiny. Kiev, 1881.
Mishchenko, F. G. Fukidid i ego sochineniia, fasc. 2. Moscow, 1888.
Buzeskul, V. P. Vvedenie v istoriiu Gretsii, 3rd ed. Petrograd, 1915.
Lur’e, S. Ia. Ocherki po istorii antichnoi nauki: Gretsiia epokhi rastsveta. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Finley, J. H. Thucydides. Cambridge, Mass., 1942.
Romilly, J. de. Thucydide et l’impérialisme athénien. Paris, 1947.
Grundy, G. B. Thucydides and the History of His Age. 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Oxford, 1948.
Diesner, H. J. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft bei Thukydides. Halle, 1956.
Fritz, K. von. Die griechische Geschichtsschreibung, vol. 1. Berlin, 1967.

E. D. FROLOV

Thucydides

?460--?395 bc, Greek historian and politician, distinguished for his History of the Peloponnesian War
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