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Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) (Greek ??????????, Thoukydíd?s) was a Greek historian and author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC Thucydides has been dubbed the father of "scientific history" due to his strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis in terms of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods, as outlined in his introduction to his work.[1] He has also been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the relations between nations as based on might rather than right.[2] His classical text is still studied at advanced military colleges worldwide, and the Melian dialogue remains a seminal work of international relations theory. More generally, Thucydides showed an interest in developing an understanding of human nature to explain behaviour in such crises as plague, genocide (as practised against the Melians), and civil war. In spite of his


stature as a historian, modern historians know relatively little about Thucydides' life. The most reliable information comes from his own History of the Peloponnesian War, which expounds his nationality, paternity and native locality. Thucydides informs us that he fought in the war, contracted the plague and was exiled by the democracy. Thucydides identifies himself as an Athenian, telling us that his father's name was Olorus and that he was from the Athenian deme of Halimous.[3] He survived the Plague of Athens[4] that killed Pericles and many other Athenians. He also records that he owned gold mines at Scapte Hyle (literally: "Dug Woodland"), a coastal area in Thrace, opposite the island of Thasos.[5] Because of his influence in the Thracian region, Thucydides wrote, he was sent as a strategos (general) to Thasos in 424 BC During the winter of 424-423 BC, the Spartan general Brasidas attacked Amphipolis, a half-day's sail west from Thasos on the Thracian coast. Eucles, the Athenian commander at Amphipolis, sent to Thucydides for help.[6] Brasidas, aware of Thucydides's 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 control.[7] (See Battle of Amphipolis.) Amphipolis was of considerable strategic importance, and news of its fall caused great consternation in Athens.[8] It was blamed on Thucydides, although he claimed that it was not his fault and that he had simply been unable to reach it in time. Because of his failure to save Amphipolis, he was sent into exile:[9] 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. During this time, he conducted important research for his history, having claimed that he pursued the project as he thought it would be one of the greatest wars waged among the Greeks in terms of scale. This is all that Thucydides wrote about his own life, but a few other facts are available from reliable contemporary sources. Herodotus wrote that Thucydides' father's name, ?loros, was connected with Thrace and Thracian royalty.[10] Thucydides was probably connected through family to the Athenian statesman and general Miltiades, and his son Cimon, leaders of the old aristocracy supplanted by the Radical Democrats. Cimon's maternal grandfather's name was also Olorus, making the connection exceedingly likely. Another Thucydides lived before the historian and was also linked with Thrace, making a family connection between them very likely as well. Finally, Herodotus confirms the connection of Thucydides' family with the mines at Scapté Hýl?.[11] Combining all the fragmentary evidence available, it seems that his family had owned a large estate in Thrace, one that even contained gold mines, and which allowed the family considerable and lasting affluence. The security and continued prosperity of the wealthy estate must have necessitated formal ties with local kings or chieftains, which explains the adoption of the distinctly Thracian royal name "?loros" into the family. Once exiled, Thucydides took permanent residence in the estate and, given his ample income from the gold mines, he was able to dedicate himself to full-time history writing and research, including many fact-finding trips. In essence he was by then a retired, well-connected gentleman of considerable resources who, by then retired from the political and military spheres, decided to fund his own scientific project. The remaining evidence for Thucydides' life comes from rather less reliable later ancient sources. According to Pausanias, someone named Oenobius was able to get a law passed allowing Thucydides to return to Athens, presumably sometime shortly after the city's surrender and the end of the war in 404 BC[12] Pausanias goes on to say that Thucydides was murdered on his way back to Athens. Many doubt this account, seeing evidence to suggest he lived as late as 397 BC Plutarch claims that his remains were returned to Athens and placed in Cimon's family vault.[13] The abrupt end to Thucydides' narrative, which breaks off in the middle of the year 411 BC, has traditionally been interpreted as indicating that he died while writing the book, although other explanations have been put forward. Although there is no certain evidence to prove it, the rhetorical character of Thucydides' narrative suggests that he was at least familiar with the teachings of the Sophists, traveling lecturers who frequented Athens and other Greek cities. It has also been asserted that Thucydides' strict focus on cause and effect, his fastidious devotion to observable phenomena to the exclusion of other factors and his austere prose were influenced by the methods and thinking of early medical writers such as Hippocrates of Kos. Inferences about Thucydides' character can only be drawn (with due caution) from his book. His sardonic sense of humor is evident throughout, as when, during his description of the Athenian plague, he remarks that old Athenians seemed to remember a rhyme which said that with the Dorian War would come a "great death". Some claimed that the rhyme was actually about a "great dearth" (limos), and was only remembered as "death" (loimos) due to the current plague. Thucydides then remarks that, should another Dorian War come, this time attended with a great dearth, the rhyme will be remembered as "dearth," and any mention of "death" forgotten.[14] Thucydides admired Pericles, approving of his power over the people, and shows a palpable distaste for the demagogues who followed him. Thucydides did not approve of the democratic mob nor the radical democracy that Pericles ushered in but felt that it was acceptable in the hands of a good leader.[15] Generally, Thucydides exhibits a lack of bias in his presentation of events, refusing, for example, to minimize the negative effect of his own failure at Amphipolis. Occasionally, however, strong passions break through, as in his scathing appraisals of the demagogues Cleon[16] and Hyperbolus.[17] Cleon has sometimes been connected with Thucydides' exile.[18] Thucydides was clearly moved by the suffering inherent in war and concerned about the excesses to which human nature is apt to resort in such circumstances. This is evident in his analysis of the atrocities committed during civil conflict on Corcyra,[19] which includes the phrase "War is a violent teacher". Thucydides wrote a history that was divided into 8 books after his death: its modern title is the History of the Peloponnesian War. His entire contribution to history and historiography is contained in this one dense history of the 27-year war between Athens and its allies, and Sparta and its allies. The history breaks off near the end of the 21st year, the last sketchy book suggests that his death was not anticipated and could possibly have been sudden or violent. Thucydides believed that the Peloponnesian War represented an event of unmatched magnitude.[20] He intended for his account of the events of the late fifth century to serve as "a possession for all time."[21] Thucydides is generally regarded as one of the first true historians. Like his predecessor Herodotus (often called "the father of history"), Thucydides places a high value on autopsy and eyewitness testimony, and writes about many episodes in which he himself probably took part. He also assiduously consulted written documents and interviewed participants in the events that he records. Unlike Herodotus, he did not recognize divine interventions in human affairs. One major difference between Thucydides' history and modern historical writing is that the former includes lengthy speeches that, as he himself states, were as best as could be remembered of what was said — or, perhaps, what he thought ought to have been said. Nevertheless, it can be argued that, unless a historian were to write them down, these speeches would not have been otherwise archived at all, which is certainly not the case in the modern era, when records and archives abound. Therefore Thucydides did not merely "go to the source", as a historian proper is nowadays routinely urged to do, but actually rescued his mostly oral sources from certain oblivion. These speeches are composed in a literary manner. Pericles' funeral oration, which includes a moral defence of democracy, heaps honour on the dead: Although attributed to Pericles, this passage appears to have been written by Thucydides for deliberate contrast with the account of the plague in Athens which immediately follows it: Classical scholar Jacqueline de Romilly first pointed out, just after World War II, that one of Thucydides' central themes was the ethic of Athenian imperialism. Her analysis put his history in the context of Greek thought on the topic of international politics. Since her fundamental study, many scholars have begun studying the theme of power politics, i.e. realpolitik, in Thucydides' history. On the other hand, some authors, including Richard Ned Lebow, reject the common perception of Thucydides as a historian of realpolitik. They argue that actors on the world stage who had read his work would all have been put on notice that someone would be scrutinising their actions with a reporter's objectivity, rather than the storyteller's passion, and were thus consciously or unconsciously participating in the writing of it. His Melian dialogue is an example.


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