Thucydides (460c BC-400 BC)

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Thucydides, who lived during the second half of the fifth century B.C., is considered the greatest of the ancient Greek historians. His work, The Peloponnesian War[Part Two], recounts the fifth-century B.C. struggle between Athens and Sparta and is the first piece of historical writing to combine political and ethical reflections with history. His personal history is unknown except for the small bits of information revealed in his narrative. Thucydides was probably born a few years before 460 B.C. and died sometime after the peace of 404. The abruptness with which the history ends may indicate that he died a sudden death in those violent times.

His careful attention to research and his evident concern for accuracy have left an enduring mark on the discipline of history. Heroes and villains are treated with full attention to their blemishes as well as their virtues. Nor did Thucydides hesitate to criticize Athenian policy or his own actions as a general during the war. He saw history as more than just a list of events. It was rather an enduring record of all aspects of the time, and something that would be of value for later generations. "To hear this history rehearsed, for that there be inserted no fables, shall be perhaps not delightful. But he that desires to look into the truth of things done and which (according to the condition of humanity) may be done again, or at least their like, he shall find enough herein to make him think it profitable. And it is compiled rather for everlasting possession than to be rehearsed for a prize."


Works by the Author

Thucydides. Thucydides. 2 vols. Translation by Benjamin Jowett. Oxford: The University Press, 1900.

Works about the Author

Godolphin, Francis R.B., ed. The Greek Historians. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1942.

Finley, Jr., John H. Thucydides. Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1942.

Cornford, Francis Macdonald. Thucydides Mythistoricus. London, Routledge & K. Paul, 1965.


The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.

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