Blog, Historiography

Thucydides

Thucydides with his students

Apart from Herodotus, the Greek historiography owes a lot to Thucydides who made himself a noted historian of ancient Greece through his book History of the Peloponnesian war. The theme he selected from his writing was the struggle between two leagues of city-states-one led by Athens and the other Sparta- the Peloponnesian war.

  1. He explored all accessible sources for collection of materials so as to render his works monumental.
  2. As a general in Athenian n army, he maintained close contact with the developments, recorded the speeches he heard, visited the allied states and collected information from prisoners of war.
  3. In addition, he read the works written by others and depended upon research before coming to a conclusion. The war broke out in 431 BCE.
  4. Two works written in two stages treated the struggle of 27 years as one war. The historians, however, have divided the works into eight books
  5. In his first book, he discusses the origin of war together with Athenian and Spartan involvement in it, the growth of Athenian empires and the break of diplomatic relations following the speech of Pericles, persuading the Athenians to go war.
  6. The second, third an fourth and part fifth book narrate the story of the fighting during 10 years of war and the settlement of peace of Nicias.
  7. The subsequent books deal with at length with the details of the later conflicts.
  8. What adds to the credit of Thucydides is his complete mastery of the details. Impartiality in his presentation and accuracy of facts. The entire approach is scientific. He gathered all possible data on the subject and analyzed them before he formed his conclusions.
  9. In his attempt to attain accuracy he has ascertained relevancy of information, maintained balanced views on controversial issues and avoided irrelevant deviations from the central theme.
  10. The language is marked by polished literary but the standard declines as the work advances towards its end.
  11. The entire work is organized an presented in a unique styles so as to give the impression that it deals with the greatest theme in history.
  12. Finally, he made history more humanistic. Supernatural forces have not entered into his work. He explains all phenomenon in human terms.

Criticism

  • Thucydides influenced by  a consideration that past lacked greatness and hence he ignored it.
  • Did not appreciate the role of social and economic forces which operated behind political developments like wars and peace.
  • He display tendency  to attribute causes of events to personal motives.
  • Absence of exact chronology was serious handicap
  • He accordance with the Greek tradition, had allowed the leading characters to mouth his speeches so as to portray the political and diplomat developments instead of explaining them himself.
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