(c.460 – 395)
Thucydides is considered one of the greatest historians of the ancient
world together with Herodotus. He tried to be as neutral as he possible
could and he stated that what he wrote was something that belonged to the
future. Some people like to call him a journalist, which perhaps is not too
far from the truth, since he based his texts on witness reports and
interviews.He wrote using the ancient Attic language and many poetic words.
He was born in the municipality of Alimounta near Athens. His father was
Oloros, an aristocrat with Thracian royal descent, and his mother was
Igisipyli. Thucydides was well educated and his teachers was the philosopher
Anaxagoras and the orator Antiphon. Prodicus of Ceos , Gorgias and many
others with spiritual virtues had an impact in shaping his character.
When he was old enough he joined the army and became squadron leader of the
Athenian fleet in 424 BC during the period of the Peloponnesian War. His
duty was to guard the Thracian coast and the island of Thassos from the
Spartans. When he failed at Amphipolis against the Spartan army and its
general Brasidas, was accused of treason and sentenced to death. However he
left Athens to escape his punishment and stayed in exile for 20 years . This
motivated him to start writing about his the accounts of his time. He went
to Italy, Sicily, Macedonia and returned to Athens after the overthrow of
the Thirty Tyrants.
Thucydides wrote the "Peloponnesian War" (431-404) without completing the
whole story, because his work ends in 411. The completion of the story was
made by Xenophon in his work "Hellenika". The history of Thucydides it is
because it was written to reveal the truth. He wrote what he saw, and the
accounts of witnesses in order to reach the truth. When in doubt, he put all
the evidence in order not to do injustice to anyone. He sees clearly the
link between the history of war and the inner life of the country. It shows
how the course of the war influenced the struggle within the individual
states, especially in Athens.
Thucydides distinguishes clearly the causes and reasons for the events.
In contrast to Herodotus, Thucydides was a rationalist historian. Although
he stated predictions, he doubts them and certainly did not give them any
special meaning. He saw in natural phenomena nothing supernatural nor
superstitious unlike some of his contemporaries. However, Thucydides was
unable to overcome his belief in fate, which is typical of writers of that
time and characterizes all the later ancient historians, both Greek and the
His work is a model of historical study, distinguished by the clarity,
fairness an actual recounting of events. The author was aware of enemies and
friends and he was not affected by passions and interests. With a pure
spirit he recounted the causes and actual basis of the results and, Without
religious superstition, records events for those who want to learn the past
and learn for the future. The history of Thucydides is the obsessive attempt
to present the true lesson of freedom and love for the homeland.
The history of the Peloponnesian War was divided into 8 books. The first is
an introduction to the history of the war, starting from the history of
previous years and leads the reader up to the events of the war.The first
twenty chapters of the book have the title "Archaeology of Thucydides" and
serve as an introduction to the narrative of events immediately before the
Peloponnesian War. The introduction reflects the basic idea of Thucydides,
who concluded that "in the past, Greece has not been in wars like the
Peloponnesian one". Thucydides obviously did not know a lot about the
existence of the Minoan -Mycenaean civilization. The permanent local
population, in his opinion, appeared in Greece long ago.
It takes account of the role of natural conditions, the dependence of the
occupations of residents on the development and role oftrade in developing
and securing the city states. Thucydides explains that the ancient cities
were built at some distance from the sea,this was due to the fact that the
people feared attacks from pirates. Speaking about the war of Troy, he says:
"I think that Agamemnon succeeded in mobilizing forces for the campaign
because he was more powerful than the rulers that lived during this time.
Thucydides represents the past based on remnants of culture. Thus Thucydides
made the first
attempt to recreate the past, critically analyzing the documents and
accounts of contemporaries and those who took part in the events, the poetic
legends traditions and the laws that were previously in force. Thucydides
states in chronological order the actual history of the war. He rarely draw
conclusions and leaves the reader to do that. In the first line he puts the
war story, the campaigns, the situation of the troops, the course of
military operations described by him with great knowledge of the matter, and
sometimes exhaustive completeness. This corresponds to his purpose, as set
out in the beginning
of his work.