THE HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR PDF
Project Gutenberg's The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no. commenced the compilation of materials for writing the History at the outset of the Peloponnesian War (i. i. 1); and lived through the whole war, ripe in years and. CHARLES FORSTER SMITH. OF THB UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN. IN FOUR VOLUMES. IV. HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR. BOOKS VII AND VIII.
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History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, , Penguin Books edition, in English, Ancient Greek - [Rev. ed. Available online at myavr.info The History of the Peloponnesian War By Thucydides. Translated by Richard Crawley. PDF | Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War is one the best books ever written on war. It is also very long and hard to digest without proper context.
He made himself master of what is now called the Hellenic sea, and ruled over the Cyclades, into most of which he sent the first colonies, expelling the Carians and appointing his own sons governors; and thus did his best to put down piracy in those waters, a necessary step to secure the revenues for his own use. They would fall upon a town unprotected by walls, and consisting of a mere collection of villages, and would plunder it; indeed, this came to be the main source of their livelihood, no disgrace being yet attached to such an achievement, but even some glory.
An illustration of this is furnished by the honour with which some of the inhabitants of the continent still regard a successful marauder, and by the question we find the old poets everywhere representing the people as asking of voyagers- "Are they pirates?
The same rapine prevailed also by land. And even at the present day many of Hellas still follow the old fashion, the Ozolian Locrians for instance, the Aetolians, the Acarnanians, and that region of the continent; and the custom of carrying arms is still kept up among these continentals, from the old piratical habits.
The whole of Hellas used once to carry arms, their habitations being unprotected and their communication with each other unsafe; 6 indeed, to wear arms was as much a part of everyday life with them as with the barbarians.
And the fact that the people in these parts of Hellas are still living in the old way points to a time when the same mode of life was once equally common to all. The Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons, and to adopt an easier and more luxurious mode of life; indeed, it is only lately that their rich old men left off the luxury of wearing undergarments of linen, and fastening a knot of their hair with a tie of golden grasshoppers, a fashion which spread to their Ionian kindred and long prevailed among the old men there.
On the contrary, a modest style of dressing, more in conformity with modern ideas, was first adopted by the Lacedaemonians, the rich doing their best to assimilate their way of life to that of the common people.
They also set the example of contending naked, publicly stripping and anointing themselves with oil in their gymnastic exercises. Formerly, even in the Olympic contests, the athletes who contended wore belts across their middles; and it is but a few years since that the practice ceased. To this day among some of the barbarians, especially in Asia, when prizes for boxing and wrestling are offered, belts are worn by the combatants.
And there are many other points in which a likeness might be shown between the life of the Hellenic world of old and the barbarian of to-day. But the old towns, on account of the great prevalence of piracy, were built away from the sea, whether on the islands or the continent, and still remain in their old sites.
For the pirates used to plunder one another, and indeed all coast populations, whether seafaring or not. These islanders were Carians and Phoenicians, by whom most of the islands were colonized, as was proved by the following fact. During the purification of Delos by Athens in this war all the graves in the island were taken up, and it was found that above half their inmates were Carians: they were identified by the fashion of the arms buried with them, and by the method of interment, which was the same as the Carians still follow.
But as soon as Minos had formed his navy, communication by sea became easier, as he colonized most of the islands, and thus expelled the malefactors. The coast population now began to apply themselves more closely to the acquisition of wealth, and their life became more settled; some even began to build themselves walls on the strength of their newly acquired riches.
For the love of gain would reconcile the weaker to the dominion of the stronger, and the possession of capital enabled the more powerful to reduce the smaller towns to subjection.
And it was at a somewhat later stage of this development that they went on the expedition against Troy. Indeed, the account given by those Peloponnesians who have been the recipients of the most credible tradition is this. First of all Pelops, arriving among a needy population from Asia with vast wealth, acquired such power that, stranger though he was, the country was called after him; and this power fortune saw fit materially to increase in the hands of his descendants.
Eurystheus had been killed in Attica by the Heraclids. Atreus was his mother's brother; and to the hands of his relation, who had left his father on account of the death of Chrysippus, Eurystheus, when he set out on his expedition, had committed Mycenae and the government. As time went on and Eurystheus did not return, Atreus complied with the wishes of the Mycenaeans, who were influenced by fear of the Heraclids- besides, his power seemed considerable, and he had not neglected to court the favour of the populace- and assumed the sceptre of Mycenae and the rest of the dominions of Eurystheus.
And so the power of the descendants of Pelops came to be greater than that of the descendants of Perseus. To all this Agamemnon succeeded. He had also a navy far stronger than his contemporaries, so that, in my opinion, fear was quite as strong an element as love in the formation of the confederate expedition. The strength of his navy is shown by the fact that his own was the largest contingent, and that of the Arcadians was furnished by him; this at least is what Homer says, if his testimony is deemed sufficient.
Besides, in his account of the transmission of the sceptre, he calls him Of many an isle, and of all Argos king. Now Agamemnon's was a continental power; and he could not have been master of any except the adjacent islands and these would not be many , but through the possession of a fleet.
And from this expedition we may infer the character of earlier enterprises. For I suppose if Lacedaemon were to become desolate, and the temples and the foundations of the public buildings were left, that as time went on there would be a strong disposition with posterity to refuse to accept her fame as a true exponent of her power.
And yet they occupy two-fifths of Peloponnese and lead the whole, not to speak of their numerous allies without. Still, as the city is neither built in a compact form nor adorned with magnificent temples and public edifices, but composed of villages after the old fashion of Hellas, there would be an impression of inadequacy.
Whereas, if Athens were to suffer the same misfortune, I suppose that any inference from the appearance presented to the eye would make her power to have been twice as great as it is. We have therefore no right to be sceptical, nor to content ourselves with an inspection of a town to the exclusion of a consideration of its power; but we may safely conclude that the armament in question surpassed all before it, as it fell short of modern efforts; if we can here also accept the testimony of Homer's poems, in which, without allowing for the exaggeration which a poet would feel himself licensed to employ, we can see that it was far from equalling ours.
He has represented it as consisting of twelve hundred vessels; the Boeotian complement of each ship being a hundred and twenty men, that of the ships of Philoctetes fifty. By this, I conceive, he meant to convey the maximum and the minimum complement: at any rate, he does not specify the amount of any others in his catalogue of the ships. That they were all rowers as well as warriors we see from his account of the ships of Philoctetes, in which all the men at the oar are bowmen.
Now it is improbable that many supernumeraries sailed, if we except the kings and high officers; especially as they had to cross the open sea with munitions of war, in ships, moreover, that had no decks, but were equipped in the old piratical fashion. So that if we strike the average of the largest and smallest ships, the number of those who sailed will appear inconsiderable, representing, as they did, the whole force of Hellas.
Difficulty of subsistence made the invaders reduce the numbers of the army to a point at which it might live on the country during the prosecution of the war. Even after the victory they obtained on their arrival- and a victory there must have been, or the fortifications of the naval camp could never have been built- there is no indication of their whole force having been employed; on the contrary, they seem to have turned to cultivation of the Chersonese and to piracy from want of supplies.
This was what really enabled the Trojans to keep the field for ten years against them; the dispersion of the enemy making them always a match for the detachment left behind. If they had brought plenty of supplies with them, and had persevered in the war without scattering for piracy and agriculture, they would have easily defeated the Trojans in the field, since they could hold their own against them with the division on service.
In short, if they had stuck to the siege, the capture of Troy would have cost them less time and less trouble. Even after the Trojan War, Hellas was still engaged in removing and settling, and thus could not attain to the quiet which must precede growth. The late return of the Hellenes from Ilium caused many revolutions, and factions ensued almost everywhere; and it was the citizens thus driven into exile who founded the cities.
Sixty years after the capture of Ilium, the modern Boeotians were driven out of Arne by the Thessalians, and settled in the present Boeotia, the former Cadmeis; though there was a division of them there before, some of whom joined the expedition to Ilium. Twenty years later, the Dorians and the Heraclids became masters of Peloponnese; so that much had to be done and many years had to elapse before Hellas could attain to a durable tranquillity undisturbed by removals, and could begin to send out colonies, as Athens did to Ionia and most of the islands, and the Peloponnesians to most of Italy and Sicily and some places in the rest of Hellas.
All these places were founded subsequently to the war with Troy. It is said that the Corinthians were the first to approach the modern style of naval architecture, and that Corinth was the first place in Hellas where galleys were built; and we have Ameinocles, a Corinthian shipwright, making four ships for the Samians.
Dating from the end of this war, it is nearly three hundred years ago that Ameinocles went to Samos. Again, the earliest sea-fight in history was between the Corinthians and Corcyraeans; this was about two hundred and sixty years ago, dating from the same time. Planted on an isthmus, Corinth had from time out of mind been a commercial emporium; as formerly almost all communication between the Hellenes within and without Peloponnese was carried on overland, and the Corinthian territory was the highway through which it travelled.
She had consequently great money resources, as is shown by the epithet "wealthy" bestowed by the old poets on the place, and this enabled her, when traffic by sea became more common, to procure her navy and put down piracy; and as she could offer a mart for both branches of the trade, she acquired for herself all the power which a large revenue affords. Subsequently the Ionians attained to great naval strength in the reign of Cyrus, the first king of the Persians, and of his son Cambyses, and while they were at war with the former commanded for a while the Ionian sea.
Polycrates also, the tyrant of Samos, had a powerful navy in the reign of Cambyses, with which he reduced many of the islands, and among them Rhenea, which he consecrated to the Delian Apollo. About this time also the Phocaeans, while they were founding Marseilles, defeated the Carthaginians in a sea-fight.
And even these, although so many generations had elapsed since the Trojan war, seem to have been principally composed of the old fifty-oars and long-boats, and to have counted few galleys among their ranks. Indeed it was only shortly the Persian war, and the death of Darius the successor of Cambyses, that the Sicilian tyrants and the Corcyraeans acquired any large number of galleys. For after these there were no navies of any account in Hellas till the expedition of Xerxes; Aegina, Athens, and others may have possessed a few vessels, but they were principally fifty-oars.
It was quite at the end of this period that the war with Aegina and the prospect of the barbarian invasion enabled Themistocles to persuade the Athenians to build the fleet with which they fought at Salamis; and even these vessels had not complete decks.
All their insignificance did not prevent their being an element of the greatest power to those who cultivated them, alike in revenue and in dominion. They were the means by which the islands were reached and reduced, those of the smallest area falling the easiest prey.
Wars by land there were none, none at least by which power was acquired; we have the usual border contests, but of distant expeditions with conquest for object we hear nothing among the Hellenes.
There was no union of subject cities round a great state, no spontaneous combination of equals for confederate expeditions; what fighting there was consisted merely of local warfare between rival neighbours.
The nearest approach to a coalition took place in the old war between Chalcis and Eretria; this was a quarrel in which the rest of the Hellenic name did to some extent take sides. The power of the Ionians was advancing with rapid strides, when it came into collision with Persia, under King Cyrus, who, after having dethroned Croesus and overrun everything between the Halys and the sea, stopped not till he had reduced the cities of the coast; the islands being only left to be subdued by Darius and the Phoenician navy.
All this is only true of the mother country, for in Sicily they attained to very great power. Thus for a long time everywhere in Hellas do we find causes which make the states alike incapable of combination for great and national ends, or of any vigorous action of their own.
Not many years after the deposition of the tyrants, the battle of Marathon was fought between the Medes and the Athenians. Ten years afterwards, the barbarian returned with the armada for the subjugation of Hellas. In the face of this great danger, the command of the confederate Hellenes was assumed by the Lacedaemonians in virtue of their superior power; and the Athenians, having made up their minds to abandon their city, broke up their homes, threw themselves into their ships, and became a naval people.
This coalition, after repulsing the barbarian, soon afterwards split into two sections, which included the Hellenes who had revolted from the King, as well as those who had aided him in the war. At the end of the one stood Athens, at the head of the other Lacedaemon, one the first naval, the other the first military power in Hellas.
For a short time the league held together, till the Lacedaemonians and Athenians quarrelled and made war upon each other with their allies, a duel into which all the Hellenes sooner or later were drawn, though some might at first remain neutral. So that the whole period from the Median war to this, with some peaceful intervals, was spent by each power in war, either with its rival, or with its own revolted allies, and consequently afforded them constant practice in military matters, and that experience which is learnt in the school of danger.
Both found their resources for this war separately to exceed the sum of their strength when the alliance flourished intact. The way that most men deal with traditions, even traditions of their own country, is to receive them all alike as they are delivered, without applying any critical test whatever. The general Athenian public fancy that Hipparchus was tyrant when he fell by the hands of Harmodius and Aristogiton, not knowing that Hippias, the eldest of the sons of Pisistratus, was really supreme, and that Hipparchus and Thessalus were his brothers; and that Harmodius and Aristogiton suspecting, on the very day, nay at the very moment fixed on for the deed, that information had been conveyed to Hippias by their accomplices, concluded that he had been warned, and did not attack him, yet, not liking to be apprehended and risk their lives for nothing, fell upon Hipparchus near the temple of the daughters of Leos, and slew him as he was arranging the Panathenaic procession.
There are many other unfounded ideas current among the rest of the Hellenes, even on matters of contemporary history, which have not been obscured by time. For instance, there is the notion that the Lacedaemonian kings have two votes each, the fact being that they have only one; and that there is a company of Pitane, there being simply no such thing.
So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand. Assuredly they will not be disturbed either by the lays of a poet displaying the exaggeration of his craft, or by the compositions of the chroniclers that are attractive at truth's expense; the subjects they treat of being out of the reach of evidence, and time having robbed most of them of historical value by enthroning them in the region of legend.
Turning from these, we can rest satisfied with having proceeded upon the clearest data, and having arrived at conclusions as exact as can be expected in matters of such antiquity.
To come to this war: despite the known disposition of the actors in a struggle to overrate its importance, and when it is over to return to their admiration of earlier events, yet an examination of the facts will show that it was much greater than the wars which preceded it. And with reference to the narrative of events, far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible.
My conclusions have cost me some labour from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eye-witnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other. The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content.
In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time. The Peloponnesian War was prolonged to an immense length, and, long as it was, it was short without parallel for the misfortunes that it brought upon Hellas. Never had so many cities been taken and laid desolate, here by the barbarians, here by the parties contending the old inhabitants being sometimes removed to make room for others ; never was there so much banishing and blood-shedding, now on the field of battle, now in the strife of faction.
Old stories of occurrences handed down by tradition, but scantily confirmed by experience, suddenly ceased to be incredible; there were earthquakes of unparalleled extent and violence; eclipses of the sun occurred with a frequency unrecorded in previous history; there were great droughts in sundry places and consequent famines, and that most calamitous and awfully fatal visitation, the plague. All this came upon them with the late war, which was begun by the Athenians and Peloponnesians by the dissolution of the thirty years' truce made after the conquest of Euboea.
To the question why they broke the treaty, I answer by placing first an account of their grounds of complaint and points of difference, that no one may ever have to ask the immediate cause which plunged the Hellenes into a war of such magnitude. The real cause I consider to be the one which was formally most kept out of sight. The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon, made war inevitable.
Still it is well to give the grounds alleged by either side which led to the dissolution of the treaty and the breaking out of the war. Its vicinity is inhabited by the Taulantians, an Illyrian people.
The place is a colony from Corcyra, founded by Phalius, son of Eratocleides, of the family of the Heraclids, who had according to ancient usage been summoned for the purpose from Corinth, the mother country.
The colonists were joined by some Corinthians, and others of the Dorian race. Now, as time went on, the city of Epidamnus became great and populous; but falling a prey to factions arising, it is said, from a war with her neighbours the barbarians, she became much enfeebled, and lost a considerable amount of her power. The last act before the war was the expulsion of the nobles by the people.
The exiled party joined the barbarians, and proceeded to plunder those in the city by sea and land; and the Epidamnians, finding themselves hard pressed, sent ambassadors to Corcyra beseeching their mother country not to allow them to perish, but to make up matters between them and the exiles, and to rid them of the war with the barbarians. The ambassadors seated themselves in the temple of Hera as suppliants, and made the above requests to the Corcyraeans.
But the Corcyraeans refused to accept their supplication, and they were dismissed without having effected anything. So they sent to Delphi and inquired of the God whether they should deliver their city to the Corinthians and endeavour to obtain some assistance from their founders. The answer he gave them was to deliver the city and place themselves under Corinthian protection. So the Epidamnians went to Corinth and delivered over the colony in obedience to the commands of the oracle.
They showed that their founder came from Corinth, and revealed the answer of the god; and they begged them not to allow them to perish, but to assist them. This the Corinthians consented to do. Believing the colony to belong as much to themselves as to the Corcyraeans, they felt it to be a kind of duty to undertake their protection. Besides, they hated the Corcyraeans for their contempt of the mother country.
Instead of meeting with the usual honours accorded to the parent city by every other colony at public assemblies, such as precedence at sacrifices, Corinth found herself treated with contempt by a power which in point of wealth could stand comparison with any even of the richest communities in Hellas, which possessed great military strength, and which sometimes could not repress a pride in the high naval position of an, island whose nautical renown dated from the days of its old inhabitants, the Phaeacians.
This was one reason of the care that they lavished on their fleet, which became very efficient; indeed they began the war with a force of a hundred and twenty galleys. Advertisement was made for volunteer settlers, and a force of Ambraciots, Leucadians, and Corinthians was dispatched. They marched by land to Apollonia, a Corinthian colony, the route by sea being avoided from fear of Corcyraean interruption.
When the Corcyraeans heard of the arrival of the settlers and troops in Epidamnus, and the surrender of the colony to Corinth, they took fire. Instantly putting to sea with five-and-twenty ships, which were quickly followed by others, they insolently commanded the Epidamnians to receive back the banished nobles- it must be premised that the Epidamnian exiles had come to Corcyra and, pointing to the sepulchres of their ancestors, had appealed to their kindred to restore them - and to dismiss the Corinthian garrison and settlers.
But to all this the Epidamnians turned a deaf ear. Upon this the Corcyraeans commenced operations against them with a fleet of forty sail. They took with them the exiles, with a view to their restoration, and also secured the services of the Illyrians. Sitting down before the city, they issued a proclamation to the effect that any of the natives that chose, and the foreigners, might depart unharmed, with the alternative of being treated as enemies.
On their refusal the Corcyraeans proceeded to besiege the city, which stands on an isthmus; 27 and the Corinthians, receiving intelligence of the investment of Epidamnus, got together an armament and proclaimed a colony to Epidamnus, perfect political equality being guaranteed to all who chose to go. Any who were not prepared to sail at once might, by paying down the sum of fifty Corinthian drachmae, have a share in the colony without leaving Corinth.
Great numbers took advantage of this proclamation, some being ready to start directly, others paying the requisite forfeit. In case of their passage being disputed by the Corcyraeans, several cities were asked to lend them a convoy. Megara prepared to accompany them with eight ships, Pale in Cephallonia with four; Epidaurus furnished five, Hermione one, Troezen two, Leucas ten, and Ambracia eight. The Thebans and Phliasians were asked for money, the Eleans for hulls as well; while Corinth herself furnished thirty ships and three thousand heavy infantry.
If, however, she had any claims to make, they were willing to submit the matter to the arbitration of such of the cities in Peloponnese as should be chosen by mutual agreement, and that the colony should remain with the city to whom the arbitrators might assign it. They were also willing to refer the matter to the oracle at Delphi. If, in defiance of their protestations, war was appealed to, they should be themselves compelled by this violence to seek friends in quarters where they had no desire to seek them, and to make even old ties give way to the necessity of assistance.
The answer they got from Corinth was that, if they would withdraw their fleet and the barbarians from Epidamnus, negotiation might be possible; but, while the town was still being besieged, going before arbitrators was out of the question. The Corcyraeans retorted that if Corinth would withdraw her troops from Epidamnus they would withdraw theirs, or they were ready to let both parties remain in statu quo, an armistice being concluded till judgment could be given.
The fleet was under the command of Aristeus, son of Pellichas, Callicrates, son of Callias, and Timanor, son of Timanthes; the troops under that of Archetimus, son of Eurytimus, and Isarchidas, son of Isarchus.
When they had reached Actium in the territory of Anactorium, at the mouth of the mouth of the Gulf of Ambracia, where the temple of Apollo stands, the Corcyraeans sent on a herald in a light boat to warn them not to sail against them. Meanwhile they proceeded to man their ships, all of which had been equipped for action, the old vessels being undergirded to make them seaworthy.
On the return of the herald without any peaceful answer from the Corinthians, their ships being now manned, they put out to sea to meet the enemy with a fleet of eighty sail forty were engaged in the siege of Epidamnus , formed line, and went into action, and gained a decisive victory, and destroyed fifteen of the Corinthian vessels. The same day had seen Epidamnus compelled by its besiegers to capitulate; the conditions being that the foreigners should be sold, and the Corinthians kept as prisoners of war, till their fate should be otherwise decided.
Defeated at sea, the Corinthians and their allies repaired home, and left the Corcyraeans masters of all the sea about those parts.
Sailing to Leucas, a Corinthian colony, they ravaged their territory, and burnt Cyllene, the harbour of the Eleans, because they had furnished ships and money to Corinth.
For almost the whole of the period that followed the battle they remained masters of the sea, and the allies of Corinth were harassed by Corcyraean cruisers. At last Corinth, roused by the sufferings of her allies, sent out ships and troops in the fall of the summer, who formed an encampment at Actium and about Chimerium, in Thesprotis, for the protection of Leucas and the rest of the friendly cities.
The Corcyraeans on their part formed a similar station on Leukimme. Neither party made any movement, but they remained confronting each other till the end of the summer, and winter was at hand before either of them returned home. The Corcyraeans, alarmed at the news of their preparations, being without a single ally in Hellas for they had not enrolled themselves either in the Athenian or in the Lacedaemonian confederacy , decided to repair to Athens in order to enter into alliance and to endeavour to procure support from her.
Corinth also, hearing of their intentions, sent an embassy to Athens to prevent the Corcyraean navy being joined by the Athenian, and her prospect of ordering the war according to her wishes being thus impeded.
An assembly was convoked, and the rival advocates appeared: the Corcyraeans spoke as follows: 32 "Athenians! They should show, first, that it is expedient or at least safe to grant their request; next, that they will retain a lasting sense of the kindness. But if they cannot clearly establish any of these points, they must not be annoyed if they meet with a rebuff. Now the Corcyraeans believe that with their petition for assistance they can also give you a satisfactory answer on these points, and they have therefore dispatched us hither.
It has so happened that our policy as regards you with respect to this request, turns out to be inconsistent, and as regards our interests, to be at the present crisis inexpedient.
We say inconsistent, because a power which has never in the whole of her past history been willing to ally herself with any of her neighbours, is now found asking them to ally themselves with her. And we say inexpedient, because in our present war with Corinth it has left us in a position of entire isolation, and what once seemed the wise precaution of refusing to involve ourselves in alliances with other powers, lest we should also involve ourselves in risks of their choosing, has now proved to be folly and weakness.
It is true that in the late naval engagement we drove back the Corinthians from our shores single-handed. But they have now got together a still larger armament from Peloponnese and the rest of Hellas; and we, seeing our utter inability to cope with them without foreign aid, and the magnitude of the danger which subjection to them implies, find it necessary to ask help from you and from every other power. And we hope to be excused if we forswear our old principle of complete political isolation, a principle which was not adopted with any sinister intention, but was rather the consequence of an error in judgment.
First, because your assistance will be rendered to a power which, herself inoffensive, is a victim to the injustice of others. Secondly, because all that we most value is at stake in the present contest, and your welcome of us under these circumstances will be a proof of goodwill which will ever keep alive the gratitude you will lay up in our hearts.
Thirdly, yourselves excepted, we are the greatest naval power in Hellas. Moreover, can you conceive a stroke of good fortune more rare in itself, or more disheartening to your enemies, than that the power whose adhesion you would have valued above much material and moral strength should present herself self-invited, should deliver herself into your hands without danger and without expense, and should lastly put you in the way of gaining a high character in the eyes of the world, the gratitude of those whom you shall assist, and a great accession of strength for yourselves?
You may search all history without finding many instances of a people gaining all these advantages at once, or many instances of a power that comes in quest of assistance being in a position to give to the people whose alliance she solicits as much safety and honour as she will receive. But it will be urged that it is only in the case of a war that we shall be found useful.
To this we answer that if any of you imagine that that war is far off, he is grievously mistaken, and is blind to the fact that Lacedaemon regards you with jealousy and desires war, and that Corinth is powerful there- the same, remember, that is your enemy, and is even now trying to subdue us as a preliminary to attacking you.
And this she does to prevent our becoming united by a common enmity, and her having us both on her hands, and also to ensure getting the start of you in one of two ways, either by crippling our power or by making its strength her own. Now it is our policy to be beforehand with her- that is, for Corcyra to make an offer of alliance and for you to accept it; in fact, we ought to form plans against her instead of waiting to defeat the plans she forms against us.
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For colonists are not sent forth on the understanding that they are to be the slaves of those that remain behind, but that they are to be their equals.
And that Corinth was injuring us is clear. Invited to refer the dispute about Epidamnus to arbitration, they chose to prosecute their complaints war rather than by a fair trial. And let their conduct towards us who are their kindred be a warning to you not to be misled by their deceit, nor to yield to their direct requests; concessions to adversaries only end in self-reproach, and the more strictly they are avoided the greater will be the chance of security.
And it is intolerable for Corinth to be allowed to obtain men for her navy not only from her allies, but also from the rest of Hellas, no small number being furnished by your own subjects; while we are to be excluded both from the alliance left open to us by treaty, and from any assistance that we might get from other quarters, and you are to be accused of political immorality if you comply with our request.
On the other hand, we shall have much greater cause to complain of you, if you do not comply with it; if we, who are in peril and are no enemies of yours, meet with a repulse at your hands, while Corinth, who is the aggressor and your enemy, not only meets with no hindrance from you, but is even allowed to draw material for war from your dependencies.
This ought not to be, but you should either forbid her enlisting men in your dominions, or you should lend us too what help you may think advisable. The advantages of this course, as we premised in the beginning of our speech, are many.
We mention one that is perhaps the chief. Could there be a clearer guarantee of our good faith than is offered by the fact that the power which is at enmity with you is also at enmity with us, and that that power is fully able to punish defection?
And there is a wide difference between declining the alliance of an inland and of a maritime power. For your first endeavour should be to prevent, if possible, the existence of any naval power except your own; failing this, to secure the friendship of the strongest that does exist.
You must also remember that your decision is for Athens no less than Corcyra, and that you are not making the best provision for her interests, if at a time when you are anxiously scanning the horizon that you may be in readiness for the breaking out of the war which is all but upon you, you hesitate to attach to your side a place whose adhesion or estrangement is alike pregnant with the most vital consequences.
For it lies conveniently for the coast- navigation in the direction of Italy and Sicily, being able to bar the passage of naval reinforcements from thence to Peloponnese, and from Peloponnese thither; and it is in other respects a most desirable station.
To sum up as shortly as possible, embracing both general and particular considerations, let this show you the folly of sacrificing us. Remember that there are but three considerable naval powers in Hellas- Athens, Corcyra, and Corinth- and that if you allow two of these three to become one, and Corinth to secure us for herself, you will have to hold the sea against the united fleets of Corcyra and Peloponnese.
But if you receive us, you will have our ships to reinforce you in the struggle. After they had finished, the Corinthians spoke as follows: 37 "These Corcyraeans in the speech we have just heard do not confine themselves to the question of their reception into your alliance. They also talk of our being guilty of injustice, and their being the victims of an unjustifiable war. It becomes necessary for us to touch upon both these points before we proceed to the rest of what we have to say, that you may have a more correct idea of the grounds of our claim, and have good cause to reject their petition.
According to them, their old policy of refusing all offers of alliance was a policy of moderation. It was in fact adopted for bad ends, not for good; indeed their conduct is such as to make them by no means desirous of having allies present to witness it, or of having the shame of asking their concurrence. Besides, their geographical situation makes them independent of others, and consequently the decision in cases where they injure any lies not with judges appointed by mutual agreement, but with themselves, because, while they seldom make voyages to their neighbours, they are constantly being visited by foreign vessels which are compelled to put in to Corcyra.
In short, the object that they propose to themselves, in their specious policy of complete isolation, is not to avoid sharing in the crimes of others, but to secure monopoly of crime to themselves- the licence of outrage wherever they can compel, of fraud wherever they can elude, and the enjoyment of their gains without shame.
And yet if they were the honest men they pretend to be, the less hold that others had upon them, the stronger would be the light in which they might have put their honesty by giving and taking what was just. The attitude of our colony towards us has always been one of estrangement and is now one of hostility; for, say they: 'We were not sent out to be ill-treated. At any rate our other colonies honour us, and we are much beloved by our colonists; and clearly, if the majority are satisfied with us, these can have no good reason for a dissatisfaction in which they stand alone, and we are not acting improperly in making war against them, nor are we making war against them without having received signal provocation.
Besides, if we were in the wrong, it would be honourable in them to give way to our wishes, and disgraceful for us to trample on their moderation; but in the pride and licence of wealth they have sinned again and again against us, and never more deeply than when Epidamnus, our dependency, which they took no steps to claim in its distress upon our coming to relieve it, was by them seized, and is now held by force of arms.
In their case, it was not before they laid siege to the place, but after they at length understood that we should not tamely suffer it, that they thought of the specious word arbitration.
And not satisfied with their own misconduct there, they appear here now requiring you to join with them not in alliance but in crime, and to receive them in spite of their being at enmity with us.
But it was when they stood firmest that they should have made overtures to you, and not at a time when we have been wronged and they are in peril; nor yet at a time when you will be admitting to a share in your protection those who never admitted you to a share in their power, and will be incurring an equal amount of blame from us with those in whose offences you had no hand.
No, they should have shared their power with you before they asked you to share your fortunes with them. But that you cannot equitably receive them, this you have still to learn. It may be true that one of the provisions of the treaty is that it shall be competent for any state, whose name was not down on the list, to join whichever side it pleases.
Thucydides & Peloponnesian War.pdf
But this agreement is not meant for those whose object in joining is the injury of other powers, but for those whose need of support does not arise from the fact of defection, and whose adhesion will not bring to the power that is mad enough to receive them war instead of peace; which will be the case with you, if you refuse to listen to us. For you cannot become their auxiliary and remain our friend; if you join in their attack, you must share the punishment which the defenders inflict on them.
And yet you have the best possible right to be neutral, or, failing this, you should on the contrary join us against them. Corinth is at least in treaty with you; with Corcyra you were never even in truce. But do not lay down the principle that defection is to be patronized.
Did we on the defection of the Samians record our vote against you, when the rest of the Peloponnesian powers were equally divided on the question whether they should assist them? No, we told them to their face that every power has a right to punish its own allies. Why, if you make it your policy to receive and assist all offenders, you will find that just as many of your dependencies will come over to us, and the principle that you establish will press less heavily on us than on yourselves.
But we have also advice to offer and claims on your gratitude, which, since there is no danger of our injuring you, as we are not enemies, and since our friendship does not amount to very frequent intercourse, we say ought to be liquidated at the present juncture. When you were in want of ships of war for the war against the Aeginetans, before the Persian invasion, Corinth supplied you with twenty vessels.
That good turn, and the line we took on the Samian question, when we were the cause of the Peloponnesians refusing to assist them, enabled you to conquer Aegina and to punish Samos. And we acted thus at crises when, if ever, men are wont in their efforts against their enemies to forget everything for the sake of victory, regarding him who assists them then as a friend, even if thus far he has been a foe, and him who opposes them then as a foe, even if he has thus far been a friend; indeed they allow their real interests to suffer from their absorbing preoccupation in the struggle.
And let them not acknowledge the justice of what we say, but dispute its wisdom in the contingency of war. Some of the evidence adduced comes from Herodotus; for the rest, Thucydides had nothing to go on other than Homer, other poets, a few prose chroniclers whom he himself contemptuously dismissed in I, 21 , and the application of his powerful and disciplined mind to the evidence of his own world. The result is a brilliant sweeping theory, namely, that Hellenic power and greatness emerged only in consequence of the systematic development of navigation and commerce, which were followed by an accumulation of resources, stable community organization, empires, and finally the greatest of all Greek power struggles, the Peloponnesian War.
Although this theory is historical in the sense that Thucydides made the bold suggestion that there was continuity and development in Greece from the most ancient times to his own, it is fundamentally a sociological theory derived from prolonged meditation about the world in which Thucydides lived, not from a systematic study of history.
The whole excursus includes very few concrete events, and only four of those are dated: the migration of the Boeotians to Boeotia sixty years after the Trojan War and of the Dorians into the Peloponnese twenty years after that; the construction of four ships by the Corinthian Ameinocles for the Samians three hundred years before the end of the Peloponnesian War i. He does not date the Trojan War, so that two of the events are fixed in time only relatively, not absolutely. The following years lack a single dated event, a period equal in length to that between the accession of Henry VII and our own day.
Even Hellen son of Deucalion, the mythological ancestor of the Hellenes as the Greeks called themselves , appears as a genuinely historical personage. There were not a few men alive in his own circle of friends and relations who had participated in these events, and who could have been questioned and cross-questioned. If this second excursus is not a history of the half century, if it is as empty of exact dates as the opening digression, that was a deliberate decision by the historian.
This time he merely strung out a series of selected events, reported with little comment and without any broad generalizations, in order to show, by example rather than by explicit formulation, how the Delian League became an empire, thereby setting the stage for the war.
The result is not very satisfactory, as is apparent from any commentary on Thucydides or any modern history of the period. That Thucydides could have written a more systematic account cannot be doubted. We therefore conclude that he chose not to, presumably because of his conviction that contemporary history alone was valid. Third, there is the short section, at the beginning of the story of the Sicilian expedition, summarizing the colonization of Sicily by Greeks and non-Greeks VI, 2—5.
For this excursus Thucydides adopted yet another style of presentation, and it is altogether an odd digression. However, instead of going on to supply this vital information, he continued with pure antiquarianism of little relevance to the war, set out in a series of flat statements, beginning with the mythological Cyclopes and Laestrygonians of Homer.
Again the chronology is relative and often vague, except for the foundation of Megara Hyblaea years before the inhabitants were driven out by Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse, a date that works out to about B.
Why did Thucydides bother with these pages, and where did he get his information? As usual, he does not say, but the probability is that his source was a history of Sicily by Antiochus of Syracuse, which, we know from Diodorus XII, 71, 2 , began with the mythical King Cocalus of the Sicanians and ended with the events of B.
Presumably the work had only recently become available and was not well known, so that not even the austere Thucydides could resist the opportunity to parade a bit of learning about the distant past.
Essentially, then, the Thucydidean manner, as we may call it, was reserved for what mattered to him, for the contemporary history that makes up the bulk of his work. For this he set himself a standard of accuracy which, commonplace as it may seem today, was quite extraordinary in the fifth century B.
But the mere existence of parallels will not explain why Thucydides transferred their passion for accuracy to the field of history. Like all such manifestations of individual psychology, the question defies explanation. Whatever the reason, it left him an exceedingly lonely figure in the history of ancient historical writing, for not one man after him, among either the Greek historians or the Roman, felt this passion to the same degree, much as some of them protested that they did.
Only among scientists, such as Aristotle and his disciples, do we find anything comparable in later generations, and they never took history seriously. The modern reader, however, is puzzled, and perhaps disturbed, by the fact that the passionate search for truth did not take Thucydides to documents, the foundation of all modern historical writing. He quotes only a few at any length; those fall almost entirely in Books V and VIII, the two which appear to be in an un-worked state, so that it is at least plausible that the full quotations would have disappeared in the final revision, had Thucydides lived long enough.
In the digression on the Athenian tyrannicides VI, 54—9 there is effective use of an obliterated Athenian inscription and another from Lampsacus. Thucydides was clearly not unaware of the possibilities of documentary evidence. Yet he rarely took advantage of it, and we must not assume, when he mentions an alliance or the Athenian decree excluding the Megarians from all ports within the Athenian empire I, 67 , that he personally consulted the actual texts every time.
Like Herodotus before him, his research was among people, not among papers. For Thucydides, history was in the most fundamental sense a strictly human affair, capable of analysis and understanding entirely in terms of known patterns of human behaviour, without the intervention of the supernatural. It is impossible to say what his religious beliefs were, but it is clear that his piety, if he possessed any, did not extend to faith in the soothsayers and purveyors of oracles, who were particularly numerous and aggressive in time of war.
As a historian, he recorded incidents in which action was determined or held up by omens and oracles, but he also went out of his way to denigrate popular trust in them. The neatest example comes near the end of the account of the plague II, 54 : At this time of distress people naturally recalled old oracles, and among them was a verse which the old men claimed had been delivered in the past and which said: War with the Dorians comes, and a death will come at the same time.
Certainly I think that if there is ever another war with the Dorians after this one, and if a dearth results from it, then in all probability people will quote the other version. This was perhaps his greatest break from Herodotus. Not that men could always control their actions and their circumstances, not even ideally.
Chance played its part, as in the storm that first brought Demosthenes and his fleet to Pylos IV, 3 or in the accidental fire that was so important a prelude to the Athenian capture of Sphacteria IV, Thucydides recorded these things but he drew no conclusions; he was not tempted to muse about divine intervention or the like, not even in his account of the plague II, 47— But they could not provide the techniques.
How does one go about writing the history of a long war fought in many theatres? Thucydides had no precedent to fall back on, no book, no teacher from whom he could learn the business of being a historian.
Not even Herodotus, for he was too diffuse, interested in too many things, while Thucydides proposed to concentrate very narrowly on the war and the surrounding politics. Even his digressions did not depart from his single theme. Neither war nor politics were to be understood in the superficial sense of battle tactics or rudimentary manoeuvres in political assemblies, though they were part of the story.
For Thucydides, as for any serious Greek thinker, moral issues and conflicts were an integral element in politics, and also what we should call social psychology.
Again the account of the plague provides a clear indication. Any historian of the Peloponnesian War would have discussed the plague because it killed off so many Athenians. To make that point, however, Thucydides did not need to build up the horrifying picture he did, as detail is piled on detail with superb artistry.
Thinking about technique, Thucydides was soon brought up against the elementary problem of dates. We say that the Peloponnesian War began in B. An Athenian had to say that it began in the archonship of Pythodorus, which was meaningless to non-Athenians, and indeed to Athenians twenty or thirty years later, unless they had a list of the annual archons before them as they read. In a largescale war, furthermore, with many things happening in different places at the same time, dating by years alone would not give the right kind of picture for Thucydides.
All the little connections and sequences, the day-to-day causes and consequences, would be lost. He might have added that he would have found it difficult to pinpoint his informants about chronology as well, coming, as they did, from many different Greek states. Introducing months would not have helped. Every city had its own calendar: the names of the months were not all alike — more than names are known today — nor was the order nor even the time of the new year.
To write a coherent narrative, therefore, Thucydides had to invent his own system. Simple enough, yet the scheme was unique and Thucydides was openly proud of it. Fixing the beginning of the war was almost the hardest problem of all. Wars do not erupt out of nothing on one particular day.
The first shot or the formal declaration of war can conveniently be called the beginning of a war, but it cannot be the beginning of its history. How far back must the historian go? That is a most critical decision for him; on it depends the interpretation he presents to his readers. In the two decades between and , three radically different views of the causes of the First World War prevailed, in turn, among students of modern history.
Each required its own account of the prehistory of the war. No doubt there were similar disagreements in Athens and elsewhere in the Greek world about the causes of the Peloponnesian War. And Thucydides was the man who first attempted a serious analysis of that question, not only for the Peloponnesian War but for any war.
Thucydides sorted out the essential from the casual, the primary causes from the more immediate grievances and the pretexts. The latter he wrote up in great detail, devoting the whole of the first book to the background. The result is clear, brilliant, and yet somehow incomplete.
Thucydides himself, I believe, was never satisfied with it. Ideas which seemed right early in the war lost some of their persuasiveness twenty or twenty-five years later.
From that distance in time the grievances of Corinth over Corcyra and Potidaea, for example, no longer loomed so large. The Athenian empire had a different look, retrospectively, after it was broken apart; so did Pericles after a succession of leaders like Cleon and Hyperbolus, for whom Thucydides felt a contempt and an anger that he did not disguise.
More and more it was power, the morality of power, the rights and wrongs, which seemed the only important and permanent elements in the picture, with the concrete details mere exemplifications. No one can prove that this sentence was a late insertion, and many scholars deny it. Yet it is a fact that in the detailed narrative that follows, beginning with the quarrel between Epidamnus and Corcyra, Spartan fear of Athens is notably absent. Sorting out, selecting what goes into the account and what is to be excluded from the mass of available data, highlighting and underscoring — these are of course what the historian, any historian, does all the time.
Consciously or not, he is applying his personal canons of relevance, and that means his ideas about the nature of politics, of social behaviour, in a word, about history.
Even when a historian is explicit and tells us what he thinks history is about, he is judged not so much by his theoretical remarks as by the work itself. Thucydides tells us nothing, so that only the work in the form in which he left it reveals his thinking. And the work is, in a sense, self-contradictory; the historian seems to be pulling, and to be pulled, in opposite directions all the time.
On the one hand there is the passion for the most minute detail — minor commanders, battle alignments, bits of geography and the like — so that the proper names alone occupy about twelve double-column pages in the index to the present edition. On the other hand, there are astonishing gaps and silences, whole chunks of history that are left out altogether or dismissed in a phrase or odd sentence.
But Thucydides certainly knew that in B. Yet there is not even a hint of the decree in the book. It played a large role in the war, affecting the strength of many states and determining their relations with the two protagonists, now one way, now the other. That is obvious to us, if for no other reason because Thucydides himself has made it so clear. However, after the magnificent account of the Corcyraean civil war of B.
How many did he fail to mention at all?
It is impossible to know. Thucydides was a genius, and he was a dedicated man. Easy explanations therefore will not do. But then what? A mere retelling of individual events in sequence, no matter how accurate and precise, would just be that and nothing more.
It could be exciting, moving, scandalous, entertaining — but would it be important, would it be worth the pain and effort of a lifetime? Greek intellectuals like Thucydides were in dead earnest about their conviction that man is a rational being. As a corollary, they believed that knowledge for its own sake was meaningless, its mere accumulation a waste of time.
Knowledge must lead to understanding. In the field of history, even when largely restricted to contemporary history, that meant trying to grasp general ideas about human behaviour, in war and politics, in revolution and government.
Undoubtedly, Thucydides did not grasp the complexity of the problem right at the start, nor did he ever find a solution that fully satisfied him. He was constantly probing and experimenting, trying out techniques and refining them. To ensure maximum accuracy, he kept his narrative sections rather impersonal, making infrequent though very telling comments and allowing the story to unfold itself.
Then, to lay bare what stood behind the narrative, the moral and political issues, the debates and disagreement over policy, the possibilities, the mistakes, the fears and the motives, his main device was the speech.
It was a device he employed with variety and artistry: sometimes he chose only one speech out of a number made at an assembly or conference; sometimes a pair, which by their diametrical opposition presented the sharpest possible choice of actions: sometimes an address to his troops by a commander before an engagement. The total impact is overwhelming. The reader is quite carried away; not only does he feel that he has seen the Peloponnesian War from the inside, but he is certain that he knows exactly what the issues were, why things happened as they did.
More than that, his understanding seems to come from the actors themselves, without the intervention of the historian, as it were. The speeches are reproduced in direct discourse, and they are very much abridged — a perfectly legitimate procedure. But they are also, without exception, written in the language and style of Thucydides, and that begins to give the modern reader twinges of discomfort.
In fact, doubts were raised by ancient critics, and there is a noted ambivalence on the subject among subsequent historians. No people have elevated talk and debate into a way of life as did the ancient Greeks. They talked all the time, in public and private, and they talked with enthusiasm and persuasiveness. Their literature was filled with talk, from the long speeches of the Iliad and Odyssey through the monologues of the tragedians to the equally long speeches and debates in Herodotus.
We may assume that it did not occur to Herodotus to argue with himself at length before deciding to incorporate speeches into his History, but that he did so as a matter of course. What does human behaviour consist of, after all, but talk and action?
The first man, so far as we know, to suggest that speeches were a problem in historical writing was, surprisingly enough, Thucydides himself. In the brief section on method already quoted in part, he went out of his way to distinguish the reporting of speeches from the reporting of actions I, 22 : I have found it difficult to remember the precise words used in the speeches which I listened to myself and my various informants have experienced the same difficulty; so my method has been, while keeping as closely as possible to the general sense of the words used, to make the speakers say what, in my opinion, was called for by each situation.
There is no way to get round the incompatibility of the two parts of that statement. It is also worth remembering that he never claimed to make generals, for example, conduct themselves in a manner called for by each situation, as distinct from what they actually did. All historians after Thucydides continued to quote speeches, but they tended to go on the defensive about the practice.
We are even told that a younger contemporary named Cratippus said that Thucydides himself saw the error of his ways and finally abandoned speeches, but that is surely nothing more than an argument post factum, not based on knowledge but inferred from the absence of speeches in the unfinished Book VIII.
This information comes to us from Dionysius, a native of Halicarnassus who became perhaps the greatest authority on literature and rhetoric in the Rome of Augustus and who wrote the most extensive critical analysis of the ancient historians that survives today. Why this particular Funeral Oration, he asked? The occasion was neither glorious nor significant. The answer, he suggested, is that Thucydides wanted a Funeral Oration by Pericles, at any price.
Or why, he asked, are we given the long debate on the reconsideration of the decision to put all Mytilenian males to death, when we properly ought to have had the original debate? And anyway Thucydides ought to have finished his book rather than allow himself to be constantly sidetracked by his obsession with speeches.
Nor is it possible to examine the vast, unending discussions among modern scholars, who naturally raise different questions, stimulated by modern ideas of what is and what is not proper in historical writing. I can only present the point of view I share, and indicate some of the reasons for it.
The Mytilene debate is a good point of departure. Thucydides chose two to summarize, one by Cleon and the other by the otherwise unknown Diodotus. These antithetical speeches, as presented, never depart from tough arguments of practical necessity and expediency — this is the case regularly with debates in Thucydides — never refer to the revulsion which brought about the debate in the first place, never make or reject the obvious pleas to decency and morality that, we should think, were called for by the situation.
If Diodotus in fact refrained from such an appeal, he would have been virtually unique in the annals of political oratory. All extant genuine Athenian speeches are replete with precisely that sort of rhetoric. Another kind of omission appears in the first book. Pericles then went to the rostrum, and his speech stands alone, without a paired opposite, in stark contrast to the brilliant series of debates on the Spartan side to which we have just been treated.
We are given no indication of the arguments presented by the anti-war speakers, or of what they ought to have said. For the power of Athens rests on mercenaries rather than on her own citizens.
It is not suggested that Cleon and Diodotus did not actually address the Assembly in the second Mytilenian debate though it is relevant to note that individual speakers are not always named , nor that they did not say, in their own words, some of the things Thucydides has them say in his words. But they could not have said everything attributed to them, and they said important things the historian omitted.
His search for the mainsprings of political behaviour, his struggle to escape from the tyranny of the concrete and the unique, to understand and then to communicate the real and the universal, would have been the driving force in the direction he took. To criticize or judge him by contemporary standards of historical inquiry would be wholly fallacious though no more so than some of the more extravagant claims for his modernity.
What has to be stressed, instead, is that we are compelled to take Thucydides on faith. He left no ground for reexamination or alternative judgement. We cannot control the reliability of his informants, since they are not named. We cannot check his judgement of what was irrelevant, since he omitted it ruthlessly; or of what he decided was a false report or a wrong explanation, since he left that out too.
An occasional inscription confirms one or another statement or fills out a gap in the information he supplied. Sometimes other Greek writers cast a different light on a situation.
Thucydides was right to reject such scurrilous rumours, but he proceeded to ignore them so completely along with the more serious arguments that we should be unaware of their existence were it not for a few remarks in Aristophanes, Diodorus and Plutarch. Ephorus, a pupil of Isocrates, disliked the Thucydidean account and wrote his own, as part of a Universal History in thirty books coming down to the year B.
But Ephorus did no original research into the war; he merely reinterpreted the material Thucydides had collected, and the abridged version preserved by Diodorus in Books XII and XIII suggests that we do far better to hold fast to the Thucydidean history. What is most remarkable is that we in fact do take Thucydides on faith, though a sharper distinction might be drawn between Thucydides the reporter and Thucydides the interpreter.
He probably has more readers in any single year today than in the whole of antiquity: this translation by Rex Warner, first published in , has been reprinted many times. More significant, he has more authority today than in antiquity.
A number of writers in the fourth century B. But Thucydides had no genuine successors. True, the serious Greek and Roman historians who came after him shared his belief in the primacy of contemporary history and his concentration on war and politics.
They also followed him, and Herodotus before him, in their reliance on oral tradition and eye-witness reports in preference to documentary research. In a long passage, Dionysius of Halicarnassus wrote of him: The first, and one may say the most necessary, task for writers of any kind of history is to choose a noble subject and one pleasing to their readers.
In this Herodotus seems to me to have succeeded better than Thucydides… who writes of a single war, and that neither glorious nor fortunate; one which, best of all, should not have happened, or failing that should have been ignored by posterity and consigned to silence and oblivion.
In his Introduction he makes it clear that he has chosen a bad subject, for he says that many cities of the Greeks were desolated because of the war… The natural consequence is that readers of the Introduction feel an aversion to the subject, for it is of the misfortunes of Greece that they are about to hear.
Dionysius, however, was neither, and his judgement has the value of summing up for us an attitude that was widely prevalent in antiquity among the educated classes to whom the historians addressed themselves. From the beginning, the modern world has had a different judgement. The great humanist Lorenzo Valla published a Latin translation between and followed by a translation of Herodotus that remained incomplete. By that time Thucydides was established among the major authors in English classical education.
And it was not only classicists who showed an interest. It must be admitted that Thucydides was not an original thinker. The general ideas with which he was obsessed were few and simple. He had a pessimistic view of human nature and therefore of politics. Some individuals and some communities, by their moral qualities, are entitled to positions of leadership and power.
But power is dangerous and corrupting, and in the wrong hands it quickly leads to immoral behaviour, and then to civil strife, unjust war and destruction. These were familiar themes among poets and philosophers.
The genius and originality of Thucydides lay in his effort to present them in a new way, by writing contemporary history, and in the artistry of the presentation. How successful he was is shown, for example, by the fact that to this day the image of Pericles or Cleon that the world preserves is the one Thucydides created by calculated, economical means. Cleon led Athens for several years after the death of Pericles, but Thucydides gives him four appearances only, one of them restricted to a single sentence and one a speech.
Having summed Cleon up, Thucydides ignored the other demagogues, just as he summed up civil strife in general by one example, that of Corcyra.
No historian has ever surpassed Thucydides in the ability to portray a typical figure or situation, and to do so without seeming to intervene in any significant measure. The continuous war narrative in which they are embedded has another quality and another interest. Without it the big scenes and the main ideas would lose their persuasiveness. It is the painstaking accuracy of the narrative that makes the rest seem so real and convincing. On the other hand, Thucydides was right in his feeling that the mere piling up of details, no matter how carefully chosen and described, would eventually lose its interest.
August M. There are difficulties of many kinds. Not only is it a question of working long hours, since the work is long. It is also the fact that, though the meaning of Thucydides is usually though not always clear enough, it is expressed in a style which is extremely hard to turn into another language. To begin with one is sometimes repelled by what seems an overdoing of antitheses or an unnecessary roughness in the transitions of the syntax.
Soon one comes to respect these qualities, for they are the marks of a really great mind expressing itself in a manner that has never been used before and grappling with ideas which are novel, unexpected, and illuminating. But it is a style which, in its sudden illuminations and in its abrupt strength, can never, I think, be reproduced in English.
Even Plato would be easier. The boldness of the attempt demands some words of apology. There already exist in English at least two excellent versions of Thucydides. The translation of Hobbes has already been mentioned. He, above all men, had an intellect equipped to understand and to enjoy the greatness of his original; nor is there anything in his style that is not exact, masculine, and emphatic.
There is no nonsense about Hobbes. His only defect is inaccuracy, a thing that was, to a large extent, unavoidable, considering the advances in textual criticism which have been made since his day. Some modern readers also will be repelled rather than attracted by English that was written in the early part of the seventeenth century.
Then there is Crawley, whose very fine translation first appeared in He, too, has evidently felt the spell of Hobbes. On such occasions I have usually followed his lead, and I have taken something from him, too, in the knowledge that he would probably wish me to do so, just as my own ambitions would be gratified if some future translator were to see fit to employ some words or phrases of my own.
Certainly I would not pretend that in this translation I have improved on Crawley. He is accurate, where Hobbes is not; he has a zeal and a love for his author; he has a clear, flowing, and distinguished style. I owe much to him and much to Hobbes, and for my own translation can claim no merit other than the questionable one of modernity. Thucydides himself is alive, and it would be a pity if any reader were deterred from studying him by any misapprehension about his antiquity.
Finally I must express my gratitude to Professor Kitto, of Bristol University, for his great kindness in reading the proofs, in detecting error, and in making many valuable suggestions. My belief was based on the fact that the two sides were at the very height of their power and preparedness, and I saw, too, that the rest of the Hellenic world was committed to one side or the other; even those who were not immediately engaged were deliberating on the courses which they were to take later.
This was the greatest disturbance in the history of the Hellenes, affecting also a large part of the non-Hellenic world, and indeed, I might almost say, the whole of mankind. For though I have found it impossible, because of its remoteness in time, to acquire a really precise knowledge of the distant past or even of the history preceding our own period, yet, after looking back into it as far as I can, all the evidence leads me to conclude that these periods were not great periods either in warfare or in anything else.
There was no commerce, and no safe communication either by land or sea; the use they made of their land was limited to the production of necessities; they had no surplus left over for capital, and no regular system of agriculture, since they lacked the protection of fortifications and at any moment an invader might appear and take their land away from them.
Thus, in the belief that the day-to-day necessities of life could be secured just as well in one place as in another, they showed no reluctance in moving from their homes, and therefore built no cities of any size or strength, nor acquired any important resources.
Where the soil was most fertile there were the most frequent changes of population, as in what is now called Thessaly, in Boeotia, in most of the Peloponnese except Arcadia , and in others of the richest parts of Hellas.It certainly would be very odd if two decrees proposed on the same day by one and the same person manifested different spellings and different terms.
These islanders were Carians and Phoenicians, by whom most of the islands were colonized, as was proved by the following fact. In a sense.
In this part of the continent the Corinthians now came to anchor, and formed an encampment. Finally, judgement of Pericles depends on Thucydides. These included events involving human suffering. For kindness opportunely shown has a greater power of removing old grievances than the facts of the case may warrant. To describe their character in a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.
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