Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE)
a. Athens VS Sparta
b. 27 year long war
c. Brief truce 421-416
Thucydides born and raised in Athens. Was of noble birth. Around
Elected general in 424.
Family connections in Thrace.
Thucydides chose voluntary exile for not deflecting Amphipolis to
Wrote on account of his own time, unlike Herodotus, was a man of
action. He was actively involved in the events.
Influenced by his literary predecessors.
a. Homer – like Herodotus, takes idea of Kleos (glory)
Thucydides explicitly mentions Homer in preface “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 it was far from
equaling ours.” – Thucydides is stating that the Peloponnesian
war is more important than the Trojan War. His account is
more accurate than poem (like Homer)
b. Sophists – taught that on any given issue. 2 opposing
arguments could be devised. Used distinct arguments. More
faith in human reason/perception than divine cause.
c. Greek medical writers – rejected divine causes for illness.
Turned medicine into a real science/skill as we think of it
today. These medical writers prided themselves on making
precise notes for symptoms of illnesses. Useful to deliver
diagnosis & prognosis. Can be seen in Thucydides decision to
diagnose civic problems, and prognosis of their outcomes.
Skeptical at times, that carefully recording/studying
symptoms can properly cure people.
d. Herodotus – both wrote about major wars. Relies on
Herodotus writing tragedies (i.e. speeches) Starts his account
right by Herodotus leaves. Thucydides arrives at conclusions
that are exact. Thucydides states that “some I heard myself,
others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult
to carry them word for word in one’s memory, so my habit
has been to make…” Thucydides striving for accuracy. He
relying on principle of likelihood
starts off with a long preface “the archaeology” preface followed by synopsis of events leading up to Peloponnesian
argues 2 main points (Peloponnesian War greatest war ever fought,
Thucydides because he was writing of events of his own time (&
was involved) he was an extremely accurate reporter. Much more
accurate than Herodotus.
From the very first sentence, makes these 2 points.
1. Also sets out the use of his work is. His work lacks romance.
Herodotus has plenty of stories of romance/adventure. Thucydides
stressing his work useful to aid the future (similar to practice of
medical writers) History will repeat himself, there are patterns that
can be observed.
ktema ês aei (possession for always/possession for all time)
At the end of the preface, he lays out 2 causes for the war
a. aitiai (immediate cause) Athenians quarrels with Sparta.
Visible causes for war.
b. alêthestatê prophasis (real cause/truest cause) is Sparta’s
fear of the growing power of Athens. Term prophasis used by
medial writers for underlying cause – influence of medical
writers on Thucydides
Sparta calls assembly – declare war on Athens
Peloponnesian League VS Delian League
Pericles encourages Athens to go to war by showing that they are
stronger in every war; reminds Athenians their ancestors fought for
freedom. states that Spartans overly cautious, Athens adventurous.
Athens rich, Sparta poor. Athens effective assembly to get things
done. Inspired by Pericles vote to go to war
States of Greece choose sides. Athens sends fleets to attack Sparta.
Athens better by sea, Sparta better on land.
Pericles delivers funeral speech. Based on likelihood. Attem