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VINE VOICEon 24 November 2013
The ancient author is accused of cynicism sometimes. He is a realist, observing the events and errors of his time in which he had played a part as a commander who had failed in carrying out a mission and had been exiled. A chilling first hand observation of an impossible war of almost 30 years, which crushed Athens. Most chilling is his two volume description of the disastrous Athenian attack on Sicily, no detail spared, based on lack of information and mistruth. This bears comparison with the present day. Why his work remains unfinished is unknown. The account of the last few years is by his contemporary, Xenophon.
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on 8 June 2006
Far too often, Herodotus takes this title, and it really should be applied to Thucydides rather than him. Do not get me wrong, Herodotus is a fascinating read, and as such is highly recommended, but this, in my eyes, is the first, true, history.

As the title suggests, this is a history of the Peloponnesian War, (of which there were actually three at the minimum), and sadly, his narrative breaks off half way through the final war, after covering a period from roughly 480 BC at the end of the Persian Wars, right up to around about 411BC. The period from 480 to 432, covering the successes of the Greeks in freeing Ionia from Persia, the foundation of the Delian League and the first Peloponnesian war, is sadly very poor, and it can be very hard to make out what is going on, often due to his pro Athenian bias. However, from 432 with the outbreak of the first Archidamian war, he is first class.

Having just studied this text as part of an Ancient History A level, i can recommend it whole heartedly. Though not as easy to read as other writers of the Classical period, he is certainly an author who should be read just because. Combined with Herodotus' "Histories" and Xenophon's "A history of my times", you can cover the whole period and gain a fascinating insight into the views and lives of those in Ancient Greece
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 January 2014
Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War is an absolute must for anyone who has read or wishes to read classical history. Herodotus, who wrote of the earlier Persian war, may be recognised as the father of history, but it is Thucydides' book that became the template for classical history as a genre, a genre that would endure into the Byzantine empire and thus for a good millennium. The prose is elegant, the account well paced, the historian self-effacing. His history has both narrative depth and a bird's eye overarching coherence. Indeed, though Thucydides would have many imitators, there is an argument that he never found an equal.

The History of the Peloponnesian War tells the history of the long war between Athens and Sparta, and their respective allies, that took place between 431 and 404 BC. This is a blow-by-blow military history interspersed with diplomacy, and transcripts of the treaties themselves, as well as reports of the decision-making processes in each camp. It provides a matchless panorama of contemporary power relations and political mores. It is also a gripping account, including such episodes as the dramatic isolation and capture of an elite Spartan contingent on the island off Pylos that almost lost them the war, and of the disastrous Athenian expedition to Sicily. Be aware, however, that Thucydides' narrative ends on the twenty-first year of the war (for reasons that are unclear, since the author writes in several places that the war lasted twenty-seven years), so that if you want to follow the narrative until the end, you will need to reed Xenophon's continuing A History of My Times.

One of Thucydides' innovations was to introduce speeches in his account. These rarely were verbatim reproductions of what by said by the actors, but more often consisted of what Thucydides thought they had said or even 'what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions'. This is important, because the use of speeches was imitated by classical authors sometimes quite clumsily and to the point of making some histories semi-fictional. With Thucydides, however, the speeches often serve to convey the historian's view of the parties' relative positions, the causes of events, or his analysis of their choices. It seems that he was loath to introduce such outside material in the narrative itself, and that the speeches were his remedy to the problem.

Though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was exiled at some point for having mismanaged a campaign in Thrace. This explains both his ability to obtain information on the Lacedaemonian side of the war and his restraint from overt partisanship. He seems to have been in favour of democracy over oligarchy, unlike many contemporary or near-contemporary Greek writers, but even that is difficult to establish, such was his control over his text. There are tantalising hints, finally, that the conflict he describes was more than what he made of it: Athens led a confederacy of mostly Ionian Greeks, and Lacedaemon Dorian Greeks. Many or most of Athens's allies were democracies, while those of Sparta were oligarchies. We will never know to what extent the war may have been an ethnic or an ideological clash, however: Thucydides' history is the only surviving account.
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It is always fascinating to pick up what is regarded as a classic and read through it in a naive manner, not as a specialist but someone who just wants to learn. There are always surprises.

In contrast to the looser Herodotus, his near contemporary, Thucydides sought to record an "objective truth" of the great war between Athens and Sparta, in the 5C BC. He consulted multiple sources and carefully judged what to include and what not to include, in accordance with his evolving idea of what really happened. While some of the forms, such as made-up speeches, differ from what we would do today, he set a new standard for accuracy. THe result is a work of genius, the first serious attempt at writing history rather than merely storytelling.

Reading this is not always fun. There are long sections that are lists of occurences, with references to individuals who appear and disappear without followup. But there are also penetrating analyses of remarkable characters, such as Perikles, Alcidiades, and other great generals, who became reference points to the present day. Thucydides also covered political science - how institutions actually functioned - in new ways, with demonstrations of how the unleashing of passions led to their corruption or distortion. Finally, there are chilling sections with timeless insight in human conduct in war, with the full horror of the breakdown of all order and law.

THis translation is also emminently readable, far better than the rigid and more literal one I first read in college. THucydides is quite eloquent in this version. There is also a good introduction to put the work in perspective.
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on 19 August 2013
Unprecedented! No one before him documented historic events in so detailed a maner and so objectively. Futher, this work contains the germ of historic analysis as evidenced in his profuse comments. Absolutely essential in the development of western thought.
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on 8 June 2015
It's hard to believe Thucydides lived millenia ago, suc hprecise, no nonsense history. Loved to reread the Melian dialogue. Might makes right!
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on 6 November 1999
Thucydides is an unforgiving historian, who seems to hold all of Athens in equal contempt, with the exception of Perecles and, strangely, the turncoat Alcibiades. He also seems to have the foresight of Prometheus himself and whinges constantly about how different things would have been if only the ecclesia had listened to him. He is not as aimiable or as diversionary as Herodotus, whose Histories directly precede the time that Thucydides addresses, and is probably the better introduction to the period. However Thucydides approaches the subject in a more rigourous and scientific manner, and his history benefits for that. It is an excellent account of a fascinating period of history, its only a pity that he never got round to finish it.
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on 29 September 2014
Thucydides' incomparable social study of the Ancients, in Rex Warner's engrossing, readable, lively translation!
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on 16 November 2013
bought for my son who is studying history at university (his selection). He is very pleased with it he says.
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on 14 June 2015
Studied this for A 'level Classics. Was good to have my own copy.
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