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The History of the Peloponnesian War

by Thucydides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,393521,073 (4)2 / 123
Written by Thucydides around 400 BC, The History of the Peloponnesian War is a meticulous account by the Athenian general of the extended struggle that raged between Athens and Sparta for the better part of twenty years. Thucydides eschews the romance of heroics and dramatics and his precise and thorough account of the ill-fated conflict is one of the first surviving scholarly works of history.… (more)
  1. 60
    The Histories by Herodotus (Voracious_Reader)
  2. 30
    The Histories by Polybius (timspalding)
    timspalding: Thucydides, Herodotus, Polybius—the rest is secondary.
  3. 10
    Thucydides by Walter Robert Connor (wildbill)

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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Thucydides predicted that the lessons in his History of the Peloponnesian War would be valid “for ever” (I, 22, p. 48), and sure enough, scholars still apply his concepts. Graham Allison, for example, in Destined for War (2017), examines several wars between established powers and rising ones, and whether the United States and China “can escape Thucydides’s trap.”

Now that the world is in the midst of a pandemic, Thucydides’s account of the Plague of Athens (II, 47-55. Pp. 151-6) takes on additional interest. Thucydides contracted the disease but survived. Pericles, Athens’s greatest leader, died of it. A medical symposium in 1999 judged that the Plague of Athens was typhus, but in light of the significance of coronaviruses, that judgment may need reexamination. Thucydides concluded that “Nothing did the Athenians so much harm . . . or so reduced their strength for war” (III, 87: p. 246).

Thucydides was an Athenian strategos (a general and also an admiral) until relieved of his command and exiled. Exile enabled him to write about the war with relative impartiality, because he had access to information from Sparta and other city states. He appears to have been inured to the suffering and death in ordinary battles, and he does not address why the Greek city states so often chose war over peace, but he was appalled by the bitterness of civil conflict, when political and personal enmities intermingled, moderation was denounced as cowardice and “words, too, had to change their usual meanings” (III, 82, p. 242).

Some readers will find the History an uncongenial work of a hard-bitten and humorless author who grinds through obscure battles, amphibious expeditions and local revolts. To make more sense of the narrative, readers can skip the inadequate maps in the Penguin Classic in favor of The Ohio State University’s computerized geographic information: https://ehistory.osu.edu/exhibitions/peloponnesian. ( )
  HerbThomas | Jul 25, 2020 |
It's been so long since I read this that I can't really remember the details.
( )
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
Written 400 years before the birth of Christ, this is a detailed "contemporary" account of the long life-and-death struggle between Athens and Sparta.
  Janet_DeBellis | Apr 5, 2020 |
Translation published 1954. Reissued with new introduction and notes 1972. ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 20, 2020 |
Two political-economic systems compete for influence and dominance after the greatest war that has ever happened, but peace could not last. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides covers the first twenty years of the war between Athens and Sparta before it’s abrupt ending, but throughout his text the motives of the participants and the analysis of unintended consequences shows give the war it’s full context.

The first book—created by later editors not Thucydides—of the work focuses on early Greek history, political commentary, and seeks to explain how the war was caused and why it happened when it did. Over the course of Books 2 through 8, Thucydides covered not only the military action of the war but also the numerous political machinations that both sides encouraged in each other’s allied cities or in neutrals to bring them to their side. The war is presented in a chronological manner for nearly the entire work with only two or three diversions in either historical context or to record what happened elsewhere during the Sicilian Expedition that took up Books 6 & 7. The sudden ending of the text reveals that Thucydides was working hard on the work right up until he died, years after the conflict had ended.

The military narrative is top notch throughout the book which is not a surprise given Thucydides’ time as an Athenian general before his exile. Even though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was positively and negatively critical of both Athens and Sparta especially when it came to demagogues in Athenian democracy and severe conservatism that permeated Spartan society in all its facets. Though Thucydides’ created the prebattle and political speeches he relates, is straightforwardness about why he did it does not take away from the work. If there is one negative for the work is that Thucydides is somewhat dry which can make you not feel the urge to pick up the book if you’ve been forced to set it down even though you’ve been enjoying the flow of history it describes.

The History of the Peloponnesian War though unfinished due to Thucydides death was both a continuation of the historic genre that Herodotus began but also a pioneering work as it recorded history as it happened while also using sources that Thucydides was able to interview. If you enjoy reading history and haven’t read this classic in military history, then you need to. ( )
1 vote mattries37315 | Jul 3, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (310 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thucydidesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baldwin, Hanson W.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crawley, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Finley, John H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Finley, M. I.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flashar, HellmutNachwortsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garais, FricisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gavorse, JosephIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grene, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hadas, MosesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammond, MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hanson, Victor DavisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hobbes, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollo, J. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jowett, BenjaminTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landmann, Georg P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Radice, BettyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhodes, P. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwartz, M.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strassler, Robert B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thesleff, HolgerIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vidal-Naquet, PierreForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, RexTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Thucydides the Athenian wrote the history of the war fought between Athens and Sparta, beginning the account at the very outbreak of the war, in the belief that it was going to be a great war and more worth writing about than any of those which had taken place in the past.
The Corcyraeans...went to the sanctuary of Hera and persuaded about fifty men to take their trial, and condemned them all to death. The mass of the suppliants who had refused to do so, on seeing what was taking place, slew each other there on the consecrated ground; some hanged themselves upon the trees, and others destroyed themselves as they were severally able. During seven days...the Corcyraeans were engaged in butchering those of their fellow-citizens whom they regarded as their enemies: and although the crime imputed was that of attempting to put down the democracy, some were slain also for private hatred, others by their debtors because of the moneys owed to them. Death thus raged in every shape; and as usually happens at such times, there was no length to which violence did not go; sons were killed by their fathers, and suppliants dragged from the altar or killed upon it, while some were even walled up in the temple of Dionysus and died there.
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