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The Core Curriculum

Thucydides

460 BCE – 395 BCE
Dates are approximate

Bust of Thucydides. 3rd c. BCE (Artstor/Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives)Bust of Thucydides. 3rd c. BCE (Artstor/Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives) The Athenian Thucydides was an historian of the Peloponnesian War (431 – 404 BCE) between Athens and Sparta, in which he also fought. The first historian to write about his own times, Thucydides in antiquity was a paradigm for accuracy, and today he is a paradigm for vivid narrative, as well as for unsentimental “realist” political analysis. Thucydides gives some scant information about his own life in his History: he owned mines and had some influence in Thrace (4.105.1), and suffered from the plague in Athens (2.48.3). He also served as one of the board of ten elected Athenian generals in 424 BCE, and was sent to defend the northern Greek city of Amphipolis from Spartan attack. However, he arrived too late (4.102–4.108). In a subsequent passage (5.26) he adds that he was exiled from Athens after this campaign. Given this information, it seems that Thucydides' portraits and judgments of Athenian leaders would have been based on personal knowledge, and perhaps political alliances. He reports that after his exile he spent time among Athens’ enemies (5.26); whether he returned to Athens at war's end is uncertain, but it is usually assumed that his history was cut short by death soon after.

Works Consulted:

Adapted from Oxford Encyclopedia of Greece and Rome