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ALIMOUS (Ancient demos) ALIMOS
Thucydides (Thoukudides). The great Athenian historian, the son of Olorus or Orolus and Hegesipyle. He is said to have been connected with the family of Cimon; and we know that Miltiades, the conqueror of Marathon, married Hegesipyle, the daughter of a Thracian king called Olorus, by whom she became the mother of Cimon; and it has been conjectured with much probability that the mother of Thucydides was a granddaughter of Miltiades and Hegesipyle. According to a statement of Pamphila, Thucydides was forty years of age at the commencement of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 431), and accordingly he was born in 471. There is a story in Lucian of Herodotus having read his History at the Olympic Games to the assembled Greeks; and Suidas adds that Thucydides, then a boy, was present, and shed tears of emulation--a presage of his own future historical distinction. But this celebrated story ought probably to be rejected as a fable. Thucydides is said to have been instructed in oratory by Antiphon, and in philosophy by Anaxagoras; but whether these statements are to be received cannot be determined. It is certain, however, that, being an Athenian of a good family, and living in a city which was the centre of Greek civilization, he must have had the best possible education; that he was a man of great ability and cultivated understanding his work clearly shows. He informs us that he possessed gold-mines in that part of Thrace which is opposite to the island of Thasos, and that he was a person of the greatest influence among those in that part of Thrace. This property, according to some accounts, he had from his ancestors; according to other accounts, he married a rich woman of Scaptesyle, and received it as a portion with her. Thucydides left a son called Timotheus; and a daughter also is mentioned, who is said by some to have written the eighth book of the History of Thucydides. Thucydides was one of those who suffered from the great plague of Athens, and one of the few who recovered. We have no trustworthy evidence of Thucydides having distinguished himself as an orator, though it is not unlikely that he did, for his oratorical talent is shown by the speeches that he has inserted in his history. He was, however, employed in a military capacity, and he was in command of an Athenian squadron of seven ships, at Thasus, B.C. 424, when Eucles, who commanded in Amphipolis, sent for his assistance against Brasidas, who was before that town with an army. Brasidas, fearing the arrival of a superior force, offered favourable terms to Amphipolis, which were readily accepted, for there were few Athenians in the place, and the rest did not wish to make resistance. Thucydides arrived at Eion, at the mouth of the Strymon, on the evening of the same day on which Amphipolis surrendered; and though he was too late to save Amphipolis, he prevented Eion from falling into the hands of the enemy. In consequence of this failure, Thucydides became an exile, probably to avoid a severer punishment; for Cleon, who was at this time in great favour with the Athenians, appears to have excited popular suspicion against him. There are various untrustworthy accounts as to his places of residence during his exile; but we may conclude that he could not safely reside in any place which was under Athenian dominion, and as he kept his eye on the events of the war, he must have lived in those parts which belonged to the Spartan alliance. His own words certainly imply that, during his exile, he spent much of his time either in the Peloponnesus, or in places which were under Peloponnesian influence; and his work was the result of his own experience and observations. His minute description of Syracuse and the neighbourhood leads to the probable conclusion that he was personally acquainted with the localities; and if he visited Sicily, it is probable that he also saw some parts of southern Italy. Thucydides says that he lived twenty years in exile, and as his exile commenced in the beginning of 423, he may have returned to Athens in the beginning of 403, about the time when Thrasybulus liberated Athens. Thucydides is said to have been assassinated at Athens soon after his return; but other accounts place his death in Thrace. There is a general agreement, however, among the ancient authorities that he came to a violent end. His death cannot be placed later than 401.
The time when he composed his work has been a matter of dispute. He informs us himself that he was busy in collecting materials all through the war from the beginning to the end, and of course he would register them as he got them. Plutarch says that he wrote the work in Thrace; but the work in the shape in which we have it was certainly not finished until after the close of the war, and he was probably engaged upon it at the time of his death. A question has been raised as to the authorship of the eighth and last book of Thucydides, which breaks off in the middle of the twenty-first year of the war (411). It differs from all the other books in containing no speeches, and it has also been supposed to be inferior to the rest as a piece of composition. Accordingly, several ancient critics supposed that the eighth book was not by Thucydides: some attributed it to his daughter, and some to Xenophon or Theopompus, because both of them continued the history. The words with which Xenophon's Hellenica commence (meta de tauta) may chiefly have led to the supposition that he was the author, for his work is made to appear as a continuation of that of Thucydides. But this argument is in itself of little weight; and, besides, both the style of the eighth book is different from that of Xenophon, and the manner of treating the subject, for the division of the year into summers and winters, which Thucydides has observed in his first seven books, is continued in the eighth, but is not observed by Xenophon. The rhetorical style of Theopompus, which was the characteristic of his writing, renders it also improbable that he was the author of the eighth book. It seems the simplest supposition to consider Thucydides himself as the author of this book, since he names himself as the author twice; though it is probable that he had not the opportunity of revising it with the same care as the first seven books. It is stated by an ancient writer that Xenophon made the work of Thucydides known, which may be true, as he wrote the first two books of his Hellenica, or the part which now ends with the second book, for the purpose of completing the history. The work of Thucydides, from the commencement of the second book, is chronologically divided into winters and summers, and each summer and winter make a year. His summer comprises the time from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, and the winter comprises the period from the autumnal to the vernal equinox. The division into books and chapters was probably made by the Alexandrian critics. The history of the Peloponnesian War opens the second book of Thucydides, and the first is introductory to the history.
He begins his first book by observing that the Peloponnesian War was the most important event in Grecian history, which he shows by a rapid review of the history of the Greeks from the earliest period to the commencement of the war. After his introductory chapters he proceeds to explain the alleged grounds and causes of the war: the real causes were, he says, the Spartan jealousy of the Athenian power. His narrative is interrupted, after he has come to the time when the Lacedaemonians resolved on war, by a digression on the rise and progress of the power of Athens; a period which had been either omitted by other writers, or treated imperfectly, and with little regard to chronology, as by Hellanicus in his Attic history. He resumes his narrative with the negotiations that preceded the war; but this leads to another digression of some length on the treason of Pausanias, and the exile of Themistocles. He concludes the book with the speech of Pericles, who advised the Athenians to refuse the demands of the Peloponnesians; and his subject, as already observed, begins with the second book.
A history which treats of so many events, which took place at remote spots, could only be written, in the time of Thucydides, by a man who took great pains to ascertain facts by personal inquiry. In modern times facts are made known by printing as soon as they occur; and the printed records of the time, such as newspapers, are often the only evidence of many facts which become history. When we know the careless way in which facts are now reported and recorded by incompetent persons, often upon very indifferent hearsay testimony, and compare with such records the pains that Thucydides took to ascertain the chief events of a war with which he was contemporary, in which he took a share as a commander, the opportunities which his means allowed, his great abilities, and serious, earnest character, it is a fair conclusion that we have as exact a history of a long eventful period by Thucydides, as we have of any period in modern times.
The work of Thucydides shows the most scrupulous care and diligence in ascertaining facts; his strict attention to chronology, and the importance that he attaches to it, are additional proof of his historical accuracy. His narrative is brief and concise to a degree which makes the thought, or the crowd of thoughts, concentrated in a short and involved sentence often hard to understand; it generally contains bare facts expressed in the fewest possible words, but this stern and apparently passionless brevity is able to produce a pathos unsurpassed by any prose-writer. This is seen most notably in his account of the Athenian catastrophe at Syracuse. Few can read it (and there are other passages almost as moving in the history) without agreeing with the opinion of Macaulay, that nothing finer has been written in prose. But it is still more important to notice that Thucydides is the founder of philosophical history. He first showed that a great historian should not merely narrate events accurately, should not even content himself with a critical examination of his authorities, but should also try to trace the causes of events, and their consequences, their teaching in politics, and the light which they throw upon character. Many of his speeches are political essays, or materials for them; they are not mere imaginations of his own for rhetorical effect; they contain in many cases the general sense of what was actually delivered as nearly as he could ascertain, and in many instances he had good opportunities of knowing what was said, for he heard some speeches delivered; but they are employed to show the motives and sentiments of the speakers and of their partisans or countrymen.
The number of existing manuscripts of Thucydides is about fifty, the oldest being the Codex Laurentianus (Florence) of the tenth century. Among the best are the Codex Cassellanus (Cas sel), dated 1252, the Codex Augustanus (formerly at Augsburg, now in Munich), the Codex Cantabrigiensis (Cambridge), the Codex Palatinus (Heidelberg) of the eleventh century, and a Codex Vaticanus of somewhat later date. A manuscript (Codex Italus) collated by Bekker at Paris in 1812 is now lost.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Thucidides (Thoukudides), the historian, belonged to the demos Halimus, and Halimus
belonged to the Leontis. He simply calls himself an Athenian (Thuc. i. 1). His
father's name was Olorus (iv. 104). Marcellinus, and some other later writers,
say that the name was Orolus. The two forms are easily confounded, and we assume
the true name to be Olorus. Herodotus (vi. 39) mentions a Thracian king called
Olorus, whose daughter Hegesipyle married Miltiades, the conqueror of Marathon,
by whom she became the mother of Cimon. The ancient authorities speak of consanguinity
between the family of Cimion and that of Thucydides, and the name of the father
of Thucydides is some presumption of a connection with this Thracian king. The
mother of Thucydides was also named Hegesipyle, though Marcellinus is the only
authority for his mother's name. It is conjectured that Hegesipyle may have been
a granddaughter of Miltiades and Hegesipyle, but there is no evidence to show
who the mother of Thucydides was, nor how his father was connected with the family
of Miltiades. It is also said that there was consanguinity between the family
of Thucydides and the Peisistratidae; but this also cannot be satisfactorily explained.
A statement by Pamphilus, which is preserved by Gellius (xv. 23), makes Thucydides forty years of age at the commencement of the Peloponnesian war or B. C. 431, and accordingly he was born in B. C. 471. The historian says that he lived to see the end of the war, and the war ended in B. C. 404. Kuruger attempts to show, on the authority of Marcellinus, that Thucydides was only about twenty-five years of age at the commencement of the war; but he relies too much on his own interpretation of certain words of Thucydides, which are by no means free from ambiguity (v. 26, aisthanomenos tei helikiai). There is a story in Lucian's Herodotus or Aetion of Herodotus having read his History at the Olympic games to the assembled Greeks; and Suidas (s. v. Thoukudides) adds that Thucydides, then a boy, was present, and shed tears of emulation; a presage of his own future historical distinction. This story was first doubted by Bredow and has since been critically discussed by others, and most completely by Dablman who rejects it as a table. The truth of the story is maintained at great length, and with greater tediousness, by Kruger. It is of little importance what any man thinks of the story: it is enough to remark that the direct evidence in surport of it is very weak, and there are many plausible objections to be urged against it. Kruger has collected in his essay on Thacydides all that he could say in support of the story.
Antiphon of Rhamnus, the most distinguished orator of the time, is said to have been the master of Thucydides in the rhetorical art; and as Antiphon was a contemporary of Thucydides and older, there is no internal improbability in the statement. But the evidence for it, as Kruger shows, is really nothing more than this, that Caecilius in his life of Antiphon conjectures that Thucydides must have been a pupil of Antiphon's, because he praises Antiphon. Cicero, in his Brutus (c. 12), speaks of the eloquence of Antiphon, and cites Thucydides as evidence, and it seems very unlikely that, if he knew Thucydides to have been a pupil of Antiphon, he would not have mentioned it. Anaxagoras also is named by Marcellinus, on the authority of Antyllus, as one of the teachers of Thucydides, as to which we may observe that it is possible that he was, for Anaxagoras was some time at Athens, and Thucydides might have had the advantage of his instruction.
That Thucydides, an Athenian, of a good family, and living in a city which was the centre of Greek civilisation, must have had the best possible education, may be assumed; that he was a man of great ability and cultivated understanding his work clearly shows. He informs us that he possessed gold mines in that part of Thrace which is opposite to the island of Thasos, and that he was a person of the greatest influence among those in that part of Thrace (iv. 105). This property, according to some accounts, he had from his ancestors: according to other accounts he married a rich woman of Scaptesyle, and received them as a portion with her. Kruger has a conjecture that Cimon, who took these mines from the Thasians, got an interest in them, and gave a part to that branch of his family to which Thucydides belonged.
Suidas says that Thucydides left a son, called Timotheus; and a daughter also is mentioned, who is said to have written the eighth book of the History of Thucydides. Thucydides (ii. 48) was one of those who suffered from the great plague of Athens, and one of the few who recovered.
We have no trustworthy evidence of Thucydides having distinguished himself as an orator, though it is not unlikely that he did, for his oratorical talent is shown by the speeches that he has inserted in his history. He was, however, employed in a military capacity, and he was in command of an Athenian squadron of seven ships, at Thasus, B. C. 424, when Eucles, who commanded in Amphipolis, sent for his assistance against Brasidas, who was before that town with an army. Brasidas, fearing the arrival of a superior force, offered favourable terms to Amphipolis, which were readily accepted, for there were few Athenians in the place, and the rest did not wish to make resistance. Thucydides arrived at Eion, at the mouth of the Strymon, on the evening of the same day on which Amphipolis surrendered; and though he was too late to save Amphipolis, he prevented Eion from failing into the hand of the enemy (iv. 102, &c.).
In consequence of this failure, Thucydides became an exile, probably to avoid a severer punishment, that of death, for such appears to have been the penalty of such a failure as his, though he may have done the best that he could. According to Marcellinus, Cleon, who was at this time in great favour with the Athenians, excited popular suspicion against the unfortunate commander. Thucydides (v. 26) simply says that he lived in exile twenty years after the affair of Amphipolis, but he does not say whether it was a voluntary exile or a punishment. If it was voluntary, we may assume that he did not return to Athens, because he knew what fate awaited him.
There are various untrustworthy accounts as to his places of residence during his exile; but we may conclude that he could not safely reside in any place which was under Athenian dominion, and as he kept his eye on the events of the war, he must have lived in those parts which belonged to the Spartan alliance. His own words certainly imply that, during his exile, he spent much of his time either in the Peloponnesus or in places which were under Peloponnesian influence (v. 26); and his work was the result of his own experience and observations. His minute description of Syracuse and the neighbourhood leads to the probable conclusion that he was personally acquainted with the localities; and if he visited Sicily, it is probable that he also saw some parts of southern Italy, and an anonymous biographer speaks of Thucydides having been at Sybaris. But it is rather too bold a conjecture to make, as some have done, that Olorus and his son Thucydides went out in the colony to Thurii, B. C. 443, which was joined by Herodotus and the orator Lysias, then a young man. Timaeus, as quoted by Marcellinus, says that Thucydides during his exile lived in Italy; but if he means during all the time of his exile, his statement cannot be accepted, for it would contradict the inference which may be fairly derived from a passage in Thucydides that has been already referred to. Timaeus, and other authorities also, affirmed that Thucydides was buried at Thurii; as to which Kruger ingeniously argues, that if he lived there for some time, there is nothing strange in a story being invented of his having been buried there, especially as he might have had a tomb built with the intention of occupying it.
Thucydides says that he lived twenty years in exile (v. 26), and as his exile commenced in the beginning of B. C. 423, he may have returned to Athens in the beginning of B. C. 403, and therefore at or about the time when Thrasybulus liberated Athens (Xen. Hellen. ii. 4.22-38). It may accordingly be conjectured that Thucydides joined Thrasybulus, and in company with him effected his return to his native country. Pausanias indeed (i. 23.9) states that Thucydides was recalled by a psephisma proposed by Oenobius, but this account creates some difficulty, because it appeared from a critical enumeration of the authorities cited by Marcellinus, that there was a general permission for all the exiles to return after the conclusion of peace with the Laedaemonians, B. C. 404. Thucydides himself says that he was twenty years in exile, and therefore he did not return till B. C. 403, unless we assume that his " twenty years " was merely a round number used to signify nineteen years and somewhat more; or unless we assure that he did not return as soon as he might have done, but a few months later, so that the full term of twenty years was completed.
There is a general agreement among the ancient authorities that Thucydides came to a violent end; Zopyrus and Didymus, quoted by Marcellinus, affirm this; and Plutarch (Cimon 4), and Pausanias (i. 23.9) tell the same story. But there is a great diversity of evidence as to the place where be died; and it is doubtful whether it was Thrace or Athens. Plutarch says, it is reported that he was killed in Scaptesyle in Thrace, but that his remains were carried to Athens. and his tomb is pointed out in the burial-place of Cimon, by the side of the tomb of Elpinice, the sister of Cimon. Pausanias, who was well acquainted with Athens, says that his tomb was then not far front the Pylae Melitides; and that he was assassinated after his return (hos kateei), words which seem to imply that he did not long survive his restoration. Marcellinus, on the authority of Antyllus, quotes the inscription on his tomb at Athens:
Thoukudides Olorou (Orolou) Halimousios (enthase keitai).
We cannot doubt that there was a tomb of Thucydides at Athens, and he probably died there the testimony of Timaeus that he died in Italy, is of little value.
The question as to the time of the return of Thucydides to Athens, and of the place of his death and interment, is discussed by Kruger with a wearisome minuteness, and with uncertain results. As to the time of the death of Thucydides, he concludes that it could not be later than the end or about the middle of the 94th Olympiad, that is, in any event not later than B. C. 401. His own direct testimony (v. 26) simply shows that he was living after the war was ended (B. C. 404). Dodwell argues that the third eruption of Aetna, which Thucydides (iii. 116) alludes to was tire eruption of B. C. 399 or the 95th Olympiad; but Thucydides means to say that the eruption, of which he does not fix the date, was prior to the two eruptions (B. C. 425 and 475) of which he does fix the dates. There is no doubt about the true interpretation of this passage.
The time when he composed his work is another matter of critical inquiry. He was busy in collecting materials all through the war from the beginning to the end (i. 22); but we do not know from his own evidence whether he wrote any portion of the work, as we now have it, during the continuance of the war, though he would certainly have plenty of time during his exile to compose the earlier part of his history. Plutarch says that he wrote the work in Thrace; and his words mean the whole work, as he does not qualify them (ton polemon ton Peloponnesion kai AtheWaion en Thrakei peri ten Skapten hulen, and this is consistent with Plutarch's statement that he died in Thrace. Marcellinus says that he gave the work its last polish in Thrace; and that he wrote it under a plane tree: this is very particular, and it is not improbable that he might write under a shady tree in fine weather, but such particularities are very suspicious. The most probable opinion is that he was engaged on the work till the time of his death. In the very beginning of his history (i. 18) he mentions the end of the war in a passage which must have been written after B. C. 404. A passage in the first book (i. 93), when rightly interpreted, shows that it was written after the wall round the Peiraeeus was pulled down (Xen. Hellen. ii. 2). In the second book (ii. 65) he speaks of the Sicilian expedition, and the support which Cyrus gave to the Lacedaemonians, and of the final defeat of the Athenians in this war; all which passages consequently were written after the events to which they refer. A passage in the fifth book also (v. 26), mentions the end of the war, the duration of which, he says, was twenty-seven years. Thucydides undoubtedly was collecting his materials all through the war, and of course he would register them as he got them; but the work in the shape in which we have it, was certainly not finished until after the close of the war.
A question has been raised as to the authorship of the eighth and last book of Thucydides, which breaks off in the middle of the twenty-first year of the war (B. C. 411); and with the remark that, " when the winter which follows this summer shall have ended, the one and twentieth year of the war is completed." It differs from all the other books in containing no speeches, a cirenmstance which Dionysius remarked, and it has also been supposed to be inferior to the rest as a piece of composition. Accordingly several ancient critics supposed that the eighth book was not by Thucydides: some attributed it to his daughter, and some to Xenophon or Theopompus, because both of them continued the history. The words with which Xenophon's Hellenica commence (meta de tauta) may chiefly have led to the supposition that he was the author, for his work is made to appear as a continuation of that of Thucydides: but this argument is in itself of little weight; and besides, both the style of the eighth book is different from that of Xenophon. and the manner of treating the subject, for the division of the year into summers and winters, which Thulcydides has observed in his first seven books, is continued in the eighth, but is not observed by Xenophon. The rhetorical style of Theopompus, which was the characteristic of his writing, renders it also improbable that he was the author of the eighth book. It seems the simplest supposition to consider Thucydides himself as the author of this book, since he names himself as the author twice (viii. 6, 60). Cratippus, a contemporary of Thucydides, who also collected what Thucydides had omitted, ascribes this book to Thucydides, remarking at the same time that he has introduced no speeches in it. Marcellinus and the anonymous author of the life of Thucydides also attribute the last book to him. The statement of Cratippus, that Thucydides omitted the speeches in the last book because they impeded the narrative and were wearisolme to his readers, is probably merely a conjecture. If Thucydides, after writing speeches in the first seven books, discovered that this was a bad historical method, we must assume that if he had lived long enough, he would have struck the speeches out of the first seven books. But this is very improbable a man of his character and judgment would hardly begin his work without a settled plan; and if the speeches were struck out, the work would certainly be defective, and would not present that aspect of political affairs, and that judgment upon then, which undoubtedly it was the design of the author to present. Some reasons why there should be no speeches in the eighth book, in accordance with the general plan of Thucydides, are alleged by Kruger; and the main reason is that they are not wanted. Whatever may be the reason, the only conclusion that a sound critic can come to is, that the eighth book is by Thucydides, but that he may not have had the opportunity of revising it with the same care as the first seven books.
A saying (legetai) is preserved by Diogenes that Xenophon made the work of Thucydides known (eis doxan egagen), which may be true, as he wrote the first two books of his Hellenica, or the part which now ends with the second book. for the purpose of completing the history. The statement in Diogenes implies that the work of Thucydides might have been lost or forgotten but for Xenophon's care; and if the statement is true, we may conclude that the manuscript of Thucydides in some way came into his possession, and probably the materials which the author had collected for the completion of his history.
The work of Thucydides, from the commencement of the second book, is chronologically divided into summers and winters, and each summer and winter make a year (ii. 1). His summer comprises the time from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, and the winter comprises the period from the autumnal to the vernal equinox. The division into books and chapters was probably made by the Alexandrine critics. In the second book he says at the beginning of the 47th chapter, " such was the interment during this winter, and after the winter was over, the first year of the war was ended." He then goes on to say: " now in the commencement of the summer," which is evidently the beginning of a new year, and of a new division, if he made any division in his history. Again, at the end of the eightieth chapter, ie mentions the end of the second year of the war ; and again in the last chapter of the second book he mentions the conclusion of the third year of the war. The third book begins just in the same manner, " In the following summer," as the eighty-first chapter of the second book. There is, then, nothing in the work itself which gives the least intimation that the division into books was part of the author's design; and in fact, the division into books is made in a very arbitrary and clumsy way. The seventh hook ought to end with the sixth chapter of the eighth book; and the seventh chapter of the eighth book ought to he the first. We may conclude from the terms in which Cratippus alludes to the eighth book (ta teleutaia tes historias) that the division into books was not then made; but it existed in the time of Dionysius, and when Diodorus wrote (xii. 37, xiii. 42).
There was a division of the work also into nine books (Diod. xii. 37); and a still later division into thirteen books. The title of the work, as well as the division into books, is also probably the work of the critics or grammarians. The titles vary in the MSS., but the simple title Sungraphe is that which is most appropriate to the author's own expression, Thoukudides Athenaios xunegrapse ton polemon, &c. (i. 1).
The history of the Peloponnesian war opens the second book of Thucydides, and the first is introductory to the history. He begins his first book by observing that the Peloponnesian war was the most important event in Grecian history, which he shows by a rapid review of the history of the Greeks from the earliest period to the commencement of the war (i. 1--21). His remarks on the remote periods of Grecian history, such as Hellen and his sons, the naval power of Minos, and the war of Troy. do not express any doubt as to the historical character of these events; nor was it necessary for the author to express his scepticism ; he has simply stated the main facts of early Grecian history in the way in which they were told and generally received. These early events are utterly unimportant, when we view history, as the author viewed the object of his history, as matter for political instruction (i. 22). He designed his work to be "an eternal possession," and such it has proved to be. After his introductory chapters (i. 1-23) he proceeds to exaplain the alleged grounds and causes of the war : the real causes were, he says, the Spartan jealousy of the Athenian power. His narrative is interrupted (e. 89-118), after he has come to the time when the Lacedaemonians resolved on war, by a digression (ekbole) on the rise and progress of the power of Athens; a period which had been either omitted by other writers, or treated imperfectly, and with little regard to chronology, as by Hellanicus in his Attic history (c. 97). He resumes his narrative (c. 119) with the negotiations that preceded the war; but this leads to another digression of some length on the treason of Pausanias (c. 1281-134), and the exile of Themistocles (c. 135-138). He concludes the book with the speech of Pericles, who advised the Athenians to refuse the demands of the Peloponnesians; and his subject, as already observed, begins with the second book. Mr. Clinton, in his Fasti, has a chapter " On the Summary of Thucydides," or that part of his first book which treats of the period between B. C. 478 and 432. The Peloponnesian war began B. C. 431.
A history which treats of so many events, which took place at remote spots, could only be written, in the time of Thucydides. by a man who took great pains to ascertain facts by personal inquiry. In modern times facts are made known by printing as soon as they occur; and the printed records of the time, newspapers and the like, are often the only evidence of many facts which become history. When we know the careless way in which facts are now reported and recorded by very incompetent persons, often upon very indifferent hearsay testimony, and compare with such records the pains that Thucydides took to ascertain the chief events of a war, with which he was contemporary, in which he took a share as a commander, the opportunities which his means allowed, his great abilities, and serious earnest character, it is a fair conclusion that we have a more exact history of a long eventful period by Thucydides than we have of any period in modern history, equally long and equally eventful. We are deceived as to the value of modern historical evidence, which depends on the eye-sight of witnesses, by the facility with which it is produced and distributed in print. But when we come to examine the real authority for that which is printed, we seldom find that the original witness of an important transaction is a Thucydides; still less seldom do we find a man like him who has devoted seven and twenty years to the critical (enumeration of the events of as many years. A large part of the facts in Thucydides were doubtless derived from the testimony of other eye-wit-nesses, and even in some cases not directly from eye-witnesses; and that is also true of all modern histories, even contemporary histories; but again, how seldom have we a Thucydides to weigh the value of testimony either direct or indirect (i. 22). His whole work shows the most scrupulous care and diligence in ascertaining facts; his strict attention to chronology, and the importance that he attaches to it, are additional proof of his historical accuracy. His narrative is brief and concise : it generally contains hare facts expressed in the fewest possible words, and When we consider what plaints it must have cost him to ascertain these facts, we admire the self-denial of a writer who is satisfied with giving facts in their naked brevity without ornament, without any parade of his personal importance, and of the trouble that his matter cost him. A single chapter must sometimes have represented the labour of many days and weeks. Such a principle of historical composition is the evidence of a great and elevated mind. The history of Thucydides only makes an octavo volume of moderate size; many a modern writer would have spun it out to a dozen volumes, and so have spoiled it. A work that is for all ages must contain much in little compass.
He seldom makes reflections in the course of his narrative: occasionally he has a chapter of political and moral observations, animated by the keenest perception of the motives of action, and the moral character of man. Many of his speeches are political essays, or materials for them; they are not mere imaginations of his own for rhetorical effect; they contain the general sense of what was actually delivered as nearly as he could ascertain, and in many instances he had good opportunities of knowing what was said, for he heard some speeches delivered (i. 22). His opportunities, his talents, his character, and his subject all combined to produce a work that stands alone, and in its kind has neither equal nor rival. his pictures are sometimes striking and tragic, an effect produced by severe simplicity and minute particularity. Such is the description of the plague of Athens. Such also is tile incomparable history of the Athenian expedition to Sicily, and its melancholy termination.
A man who thinks profoundly will have a form of expression which is stamped with the character of his mind; and the style of Thucydides is accordingly concise, vigorous, energetic. We feel that all the words were intended to have a meaning, and have a meaning none of them are idle. Yet he is sometimes harsh and obscure; and probably he was so, even to his own countrymen. Some of his sentences are very involved, and the connection and dependence of the parts are often difficult to seize. Cicero, undoubtedly a good Greek scholar, found him difficult (Orator. c. 9): he says that the speeches contain so many obscure and impenetrable sentences as to be scarcely intelligible; and this, he adds, is a very great defect in the language of political life (in oratione civili).
The first thing that is requisite in reading Thucydides is to have a good text established on a collation of the MSS., and this we owe to I. Bekker. Those who were accustomed to read Thucydides in such a text as Duker's, can estimate their obligations to Bekker. For the understanding of the text, a sound knowledge of the language and the assistance of the best critics are necessary; and perhaps nearly all has been done in this department that call be done. But after all, a careful and repeated study of the original is necessary in order to understand it. For the illustration of the text a great mass of geographical and historical knowledge is necessary; and here also the critics have not been idle. To derive all the advantage from the work that may be derived for political instruction, we must study it; and here the critics give little help, for Politik is a thing they seldom meddle with, and not often with success. Here a man must c, his own commentator; bit a great deal might be done by a competent hand in illustrating Thucydides as a political writer.
The Greek text was first published by Aldus, Venice, 1502 fol., and the Scholia were published in the following year. The first Latin translation, which was by Valla, was printed before 1500, and reprinted at Paris, 1513, fol., and frequently after that date. The first edition of the Greek text accompanied by a Latin version, was that of H. Stephens, 1564, fol. : the Latin version is that of Valla, revised by Stephens. This well printed edition contains the Scholia, the Life of Thucydides by Marcellinus, and an anonymous Life of Thucydides. The edition of 1. Bekker, Berlin, 1821, 3 vols. 8vo. forms an epoch in the editions of Thucydides, and, as regards the text, renders it unnecessary to consult any which are of prior date. Among other editions are that of Poppo, Leipzig, 10 vols. 8vo., 1821--1838, of which two volumes are filled with prolegomena; of Haack, with selections from the Greek Scholia and short notes, Leipzig, 1820, 2 vols. 8vo.; of Goller, 2 vols. 8vo., Leipzig, 1826; and of Arnold, 3 vols. 8vo., Oxford, 1830--1835.
The translations into modern languasres are numerous. It was translated into French by Claude Seyssel, Paris, 1527, fol. The English version of Thomas Nicolls, London, 1550, fol. was made from the version of Seyssel. The Biographic Universelle mentions an anonymous English version, published at London in 1525. The English version of Hobbes appears to be mainly founded on the Latin versions, as a comparison of it with them will show. Hobbes translated it for the political instruction which it contains. Thucydides was afterwards translated by W. Smith, 1753, whose translation is generally exact; and again by S. T. Bloomefield, London, 1829. The most recent German translation is by H. W. F. Klein, Munich, 1826. 8vo. Thucydides was translated into French by Levesque, Paris, 1795, 4 vols. 8vo.; and by Gail, 1807, &c. Gail published the Greek text of Thucydides, the Scholia, the variations of thirteen manuscripts of the Bibliotheque du Roi, a Latin version corrected, and the French version already mentioned, with notes historical and philological. The French version of Gail has been printed separately, 4 vols. 8vo.
The authorities for the Life of Thucydides have been generally referred to, and they are all mentioned and criticised in the Untersuchungen uber das Leben des Thucydides, Berlin, 1832, by K.W. Kruger. The " Annales Thucydidei et Xenophontei," &c. of Dodwell, Oxford, 1 702, 4to., may also be consulted. The criticism of Dionysius of Hlalicarnassus on Thucydides has itself been much criticised : most of his censure will not receive the approbation of just criticism.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited July 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Charles D. Morris, Commentary on Thucydides
Though we have several ancient biographies of Thucydides, our trustworthy knowledge of the circumstances of his life rests almost exclusively on a few notices casually imparted by himself. Everything else that we are told of him either by his biographers or in the occasional remarks of other writers has the character of uncertain conjecture based upon fragmentary tradition. The more we examine these scanty testimonies, the stronger becomes the impression that Thucydides seldom appeared in person in public life, and that except in a few instances he withdrew from the gaze of the world. We may infer, therefore, that the rhetorical exaggerations of the later biographies have very slight value for us; and only a few definite statements, which present themselves here and there, appear to be derived from trustworthy sources. In the following survey of his life, therefore, we must take as the basis of the narrative only the circumstances reported by himself, and endeavour to combine them into a whole with a cautious use of material coming from other quarters.
Thucydides belonged by birth to a family which by its wealth secured him complete independence, and by its foreign possessions early directed his gaze beyond the borders of Attica to the relations of distant nations. The Attic deme Halimus, on the coast between Phalerum and Colias, in the tribe of Leontis, is mentioned as the place of his birth. He tells us himself (iv.104.15) that his father's name was Olorus; and his grave was undoubtedly in the family vault of Cimon, near that of Elpinice, Cimon's sister, as Plutarch evidently saw it himself (Cim. c. 4); and we may accordingly assume it as certain that Olorus, the father of Thucydides was a near kinsman of the Thracian prince of that name, whose daughter Hegesipyle was wife of the great Miltiades (Hdt. vi. 39) and mother of Cimon; but the degree of relationship cannot be more nearly defined. It is only Marcellinus who gives to his mother the name of the mother of Cimon, Hegesipyle; while Plutarch makes no such statement where he could hardly have failed to do so, had he been aware of the fact; and we must, therefore, be content with the knowledge that Cimon's grandfather Olorus was an ancestor (progonos in Plutarch)--from the similarity of the name we may perhaps infer the grandfather--of the younger Olorus, the father of the historian. That this Olorus was in full possession of Athenian citizenship appears probable from the way in which his son designates himself (iv.104.15), Thoukudiden ton Olorou, for here, where he introduces himself as a strategos, it is only as an Athenian citizen that his father could be mentioned in the official style. Cimon no doubt owed his wealth to the possessions of his mother's family on the Thracian coast, which may have been enlarged by the reduction of the neighbouring Thasos (B.C. 463; i. 101. § 3); and so Thucydides by the same relationship came into the possession of his Thracian property, which consisted in goldmines near Scapte Hyle. The assertion of Marcellinus, that he married a rich woman of that region and so became possessed of the gold-mines, can hardly be anything else than an idle guess.
On the whole it seems likely that Thucydides was of near kin to Cimon, and younger by one generation. We may conjecture that as boy and youth he looked up with reverence to his noble kinsman, while he was in the full strength of his manhood and at the height of his renown. If no other information were at hand, we might assume that when Cimon died (B.C. 449) about sixty years of age--greater exactness is not attainable--Thucydides was a young man between twenty and thirty. But as to the time of his birth two statements are made. The one is in Marcellinus (§ 34), of extreme vagueness: (legetaipausasthai ton bion huper ta pentekonta ete me plerosanta tes sungraphes ten prothesmian. The other is due to Pamphila, who in the time of Nero made a great compilation of the results of learning. A Gellius (N. A. xv. 23) writes as follows: Hellanicus, Herodotus, Thucydides historiae scriptores in isdem fere temporibus laude ingenti floruerunt, et non nimis longe distantibus fuerunt aetatibus. nam Hellanicus initio belli Peloponnesiaci fuisse quinque et sexaginta annos natus videtur, Herodotus tres et quinquaginta, Thucydides quadraginta. scriptum est hoc in libro undecimo Pamphilae. Marcellinus's remark is plainly of no use for any certain inference. How much beyond fifty years is one to go back to reach the birth-year of Thucydides? It is hardly more than the result of an approximate calculation, that Thucydides, who represents himself (i. 1. § 1; v.26.24) as of competent judgment at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, and who must have died in any case after the end of it in B.C. 404, must have been born before B.C. 454. One who wrote huper ta pentekonta ete clearly had himself no accurate knowledge. As to the testimony of Pamphila, Diels indicates the proper way of looking at it in his Untersuchungen uber Apollodors Chronika (Rhein. Mus. 31, p. 1-54). The dates given are no doubt taken from Apollodorus, whose chronological handbook had reached among the Greeks and Romans an almost canonical acceptance. He adopted the method usual among Alexandrian scholars of determining the akme or floruit of historical personages by reference to any circumstance the date of which was known; and as this akme was regularly assumed to be the 40th year, probably on the basis of Pythagorean doctrines, it was easy from it to deduce the year of birth. The akme of Herodotus was placed by Apollodorus probably at the time of his settlement at Thurii (B.C. 444), and accordingly his birth would be in 484, and his age is given as 53 at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. The akme of Thucydides may have been fixed by Apollodorus on the ground of his own assertion (i. 1. § 1; v.26.23) as to the maturity of his judgment at the beginning of the war. Diels therefore is right in saying that these considerations forbid us to regard the dates assigned to Herodotus and Thucydides as based on anything stronger than more or less probable hypothesis. If we cannot, however, find in the testimony of Pamphila any positive basis for inferring the exact year of the birth of Thucydides, it is nevertheless not without importance that in the exposition of his own words we reach the same conclusion as Apollodorus. Thucydides says of himself (v.26.23) that he lived through the whole war aisthanomenos tei helikiai kai prosechon ten gnomen hopos akribes ti eisetai, and it is clear that he did not make this remark at the close of the twenty-seven years' war in order to set his readers at rest as to his mental power and his capacity for observation at that time--the whole work, with the completion of which he was then engaged, was ample evidence of that,--but to insist upon the circumstance which was much more likely to be called in question, that nearly 30 years before he was possessed of all the qualities requisite for the undertaking of so great a work with a full consciousness of its importance; and so was justified in asserting that he had lived through the whole of it with his power of observation and inquiry at their best. And it is just this clearness of vision and maturity of judgment that Thucydides asserts of himself in the opening words of his history: arxamenosxungrapheineuthus kathistamenou kai elpisas megan te esesthai kai axiologotaton ton progegenemenon, tekmairomenos kthe. It is plain that an author could not so write of himself unless he felt that at the time of which he speaks he was able to exercise on important questions an independent judgment founded on experience of life and a wide-reaching survey of the relations of things. Of course it cannot be asserted that for this an age of 40 years is indispensable; but still less can it be denied that such a maturity is in excellent harmony with expressions of this character.
If we adhere to the testimony of Pamphila, which goes back to Apollodorus, that Thucydides was born about B.C. 470, the first forty years of his life, about which we possess no further knowledge, divide themselves into two portions; the period namely in which, mainly under the guidance of Cimon, Athens created her Hegemony externally, during the self-effacement of Sparta; and that in which, under the imperial administration of Pericles, she enjoyed the freest internal development and at the same time took up and cultivated all the elements of the noblest intellectual life.How closely Thucydides stood related to public life, [p. 6] particularly in the second period, during which his self-consciousness must have been fully awake, is a matter on which we have not the slightest information. But in his history we find evidence, that, though his family traditions must have inclined him to a moderate aristocracy, his full love and admiration were given to the intellectual greatness of Pericles. If, as is probable, he did not discharge any public duties under Pericles, he must have followed with his liveliest sympathy the public administration of that great man and have rejoiced in the results accomplished by his creative spirit; certainly he heard from his own lips those speeches of which he has given us imperishable records, and in them trustworthy outlines for forming a true picture of the mind of Pericles. It is, however, a probable conjecture that Thucydides, not only at a later time during his banishment, but also in his earlier life, often passed his time on his Thracian estates, which no doubt frequently required the presence and oversight of the owner for the ergasia ton chruseion metallon. Only in this way could he gain the high regard among the Thracian dynasts from which Brasidas feared results injurious to his purposes (iv.105.2). It seems also very natural that the position of independence, which under these circumstances Thucydides enjoyed also in Athens, may have exerted an important influence on the calmness of spirit and the impartiality of judgment with which he surveyed and described for posterity the relations of the Greek States and the events of his time.
If we try to form a picture of the early training of Thucydides as we may conceive it between Ol. 80 and 82, B.C. 460-450, when we examine the scanty notices which seem at first to promise a fuller knowledge, we find ourselves limited to what we can gather from our acquaintance with the intellectual life in Athens at that epoch. The often repeated story that Thucydides as a boy was present at a recitation by Herodotus at Olympia or elsewhere, and was moved thereby to tears, plainly is of later origin than the time of Lucian, who in his account of the powerful effect produced by Herodotus at Olympia would certainly not have failed to mention this story if he had known it; later too than the better portion of the biography of Marcellinus, which also does not notice it. The story is found in Suidas, s.v. organ and Thoukudides, in Photius, Bibl. n. 60, and in the last part of the biography of Marcellinus, § 54; though only Suidas mentions Olympia as the scene of it. All are derived from one and the same confused statement, the chief purpose of which was to retain in remembrance the unusual expression in the assumed exclamation of Herodotus, o Olore, orgai he phusis tou huiou sou (or orgosan echei ten psuchen, ten phusinpros mathemata. Even if we pay no regard to the chronological difficulties, which cannot be surmounted unless we give up the testimony of Pamphila, it cannot be said that Kruger (Untersuchungen, p. 30 ff.) has succeeded in giving credibility to a story so late and so ill-attested. The recitation of Herodotus at Olympia with all its embellishments in Lucian Dahlmann is no doubt right in regarding as a fiction. If Herodotus recited portions of his work at Athens, the most probable date is that furnished by Eusebius,15 Ol. 83. 3, B.C. 446; and that Thucydides may have been among his listeners--yet not as a boy of 10 years but as a young man of between 20 and 30 years--is very credible. He may have then received an abiding impression that an engaging narrative of entertaining events may be well enough adapted for a single recitation before an assembled crowd, but not so a strict historical representation, which is based on painstaking inquiry; and this may explain his somewhat bitter assertion, i.21.4, hos logographoi xunethesan epi to prosagogoteron tei akroasei e alethesteron, and gives fuller meaning to the famous contrast of his own history as a ktema es aei to an agonisma es to parachrema akouein (i.22.19).
Whether the statement of Marcellinus, § 22, that Thucydides studied philosophy with Anaxagoras and rhetoric with Antiphon, rests upon authentic grounds, is of little importance for us; these two men are so decidedly representatives of the new spirit, which in both these departments made its way into Athens in their time and exercised a powerful influence on all who had any share of culture, that we should be forced to assume for Thucydides a relation of this sort, even if there were no testimony for it. Both lived at a time quite compatible with this assumption. Anaxagoras, who was probably born in Ol. 70, about 500 B.C., sojourned permanently in Athens between 470 and 450 B.C., and lived on terms of intimacy with Pericles: Antiphon, born about 485 B.C., and therefore some 10 years older than Thucydides, must have stood before his eyes as the pattern of manly and energetic expression and may have been in nearer personal relations with him; and accordingly the historian in the terms in which he describes the character of Antiphon (viii.68.5) has left a testimony to his merits in which personal affection is unmistakable. An influence on the training of Thucydides of a similar character may be presumed to have been exercised also by the Sophists Protagoras, Prodicus, and Gorgias, who from the middle of the fifth century exerted themselves for a longer or shorter time in Athens to spread abroad, by formal instruction and by lectures, that adroitness of thought and speech which they had acquired by manifold study and practice. We are told by Marcellinus, and it is in itself sufficiently credible, that Thucydides appropriated and employed for his own style many of the results of the close attention which these men paid to the forms of speech and their relation to thought. Philostratus too says expressly that he borrowed to megalognomon kai ten ophrun from Gorgias, who no doubt visited Athens before the famous embassy of 427 B.C.; and Spengel proves by many particular instances the influence exerted on the language of Thucydides by the theories of Prodicus on synonymy. We must remember, besides, that the Athens in which Thucydides passed his boyhood and youth was full of the noblest efforts and most glorious products of poetry, sculpture, and architecture; that he must have seen the aged Aeschylus before his departure to Sicily, have been acquainted with Sophocles and Euripides in the highest maturity of their artistic activity, and have seen Phidias and his disciples creating their immortal works before his eyes. When we recollect these things and consider besides what has been said about his relation to the great statesmen of that time, we may form a tolerably complete conception of the influences which worked upon his mental development. There can be no doubt that he expresses his own love and admiration for these intellectual blessings in the delineation of Attic culture and Attic genius which is found in the funeral oration of Pericles, especially in ii. 38 and 40. In the joyous recognition of the pleistai anapaulai ton ponon to be found in the agosi kai thusiais dietesiois we may perceive his delight in the splendour and brilliancy of the Attic stage and the panathenaic processions; and in the charge (ii.43.7) ten tes poleos dunamin kath' hemeran ergoi theasthai kai erastas gignesthai autes we can recognize his pride not merely in the well-equipped warlike power of Athens but also in the glorious buildings of the Acropolis, which daily looked down on the citizens. We may conceive, then, that all the means of cultivation which the Athens of Pericles offered, as no other spot in the world has ever offered them within the same limits, and intercourse with men of eminence in all directions, combined to excite and forward the intellectual development of Thucydides up to the maturity of his manhood.
But the question still remains whether and to what extent he took an active part in the public life of his native city in peace or war. As an answer to it we cannot be satisfied with the statement of Marcellinus, § 23, ouk epoliteusato ho sungrapheus oude proselthe toi bemati, or with the assertion of Dionysius, Ep. ad Cn. Pomp., 3. 9, p. 770, en protois egonautonAthenaioi strategion te kai ton allon timon axiountes. All precise knowledge of his early life is wanting; but while on the one hand we cannot doubt that, if Thucydides had taken any prominent part in public affairs, we should have learned the fact either from himself or from some other source, and while it is not at all improbable that his Thracian interests often kept him at a distance from Athens; still on the other hand it is certain that he must have recommended himself to his fellow-citizens by some manifestation of capacity before B.C. 424, since he was then elected one of the 10 Strategi. The inference of K. F. Hermann (Gottingen Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1847, p. 1383) from the minuteness of the narrative of the expedition of Myronides against Megara (i. 105. § 5, 6), that Thucydides may have been personally concerned in it, is to be rejected on chronological grounds. For he could not then (B.C. 460) have been more than 11 years old, even assuming the earliest date, B.C. 471, which is assigned as the year of his birth.
We shall not be very far from the truth if we conceive the life of Thucydides, till the occurrence of those events which directed the whole power of his mind to a new task, to have been passed more in the pursuit of private interests than of the career of a statesman, whatever may have been the sympathy with which he observed public events. But the relations in which he was placed must have been eminently calculated to keep his attention alert in all directions and to make him susceptible to the influences of a rich and energetic life. In this way he gained that maturity of mind with which, as he tells us himself, he recognized from the very beginning the importance of the momentous war and devoted himself with unintermitting interest and attention to the observation of its course.
Twice in the course of the war events occurred which give him occasion to mention himself. In ii.48.15 he introduces his precise and vivid description of the plague at Athens with the words tauta deloso autos te nosesas kai autos idon allous paschontas. He must therefore have been at Athens during that fearful visitation, B.C. 430-29, and his account is derived from his own experience and observation.
In the eighth year of the war, B.C. 424, when he was 48 years old, he was, as he tells us iv.104.15, charged as strategos with the care of the Thracian coast (ho heteros strategos ton epi Thraikes), when Brasidas was threatening Amphipolis, the most important possession of Athens in those parts. In the late autumn of B.C. 424 he lay with seven triremes in the harbour of Thasos, and at the first summons of his colleague Eucles, who was in command at Amphipolis, hastened to his aid. But the town had surrendered before Thucydides could reach it. The town of Eion, however, at the mouth of the Strymon, which he reached the same evening, he occupied in good time, and made his preparations so skillfully that the assault made by Brasidas by land as well as by water was successfully resisted (iv. 107. § 2).
The results for himself personally which followed this misfortune Thucydides reports with the same reserve with which he excludes from his narrative everything which does not belong to the course of the war; mentioning them not at this place but only casually in v. 26. § 5, in order to found thereon a remark important for the character of his history. As in that passage by the words epebion . . . eisomai he asserts from one point of view his competence as the historian of the Peloponnesian war, so, in order to show the advantage he possessed in wide local knowledge and personal observation of the matters in hand, he adds the statement: kai xunebe moi pheugein ten emautou ete eikosi meta ten es Amphipolin strategian, kai genomenoi par' amphoterois tois pragmasi, kai ouch hesson tois Peloponnesion dia ten phugen, kath hesuchian ti mallon aisthesthai. It is certain from this passage that Thucydides, in consequence of his failure to save Amphipolis, had to leave his country for 20 years, and that he employed a portion of this time in visiting the scenes of the war on both sides, particularly in the territory of the Peloponnesians. Everything else, however, which passes beyond this distinct testimony of Thucydides, rests on conjecture; it is probable, though it cannot be proved, that Cleon, who was then at the height of his influence, caused the adoption of the decree for the banishment of Thucydides; it is possible also that the charge brought against him may have been prodosia, as is asserted by Marcellinus, § 55, and the anonymous [p. 12] biographer, § 2, and is apparently implied by Aristophanes Vesp. 288; and that he may have withdrawn himself by a voluntary exile from the penalty of death thereby incurred. His own expression, xunebe moi pheugein, admits this view; and the precise statement of Pausanias, that Thucydides was at a later time recalled from banishment on the motion of Oenobius can only thus be understood. If he had been simply banished by a decree of the people, the peace of Lysander would of itself have given to him, as to other exiles, permission to return home. But if he was subject to a severer sentence, there was need of a special decree; and that such was made under the rule of the Thirty is not incredible in view of the character of their government. Though we may not with Pliny assume that it was due to admiration for his merits as a writer, there can be no doubt that Thucydides, having been persecuted by the extreme democratical party, had his friends among the ruling faction, to which Oenobius, otherwise unknown, must have belonged. His own statement that his exile lasted twenty years, since it must be reckoned from the end of B.C. 424, leads us to the last months of 404 for the time of his recall. This took place, accordingly, before the Thirty, after the destruction of Theramenes, gave themselves up to insolent and wanton violence, at a time when the forms of a legal government, and therefore that of recalling by a psephisma, were still observed.
The most important fact, however, which we learn from Thucydides himself about his exile, and which he wished his readers specially to note for the appreciation of his merit as an historian, is this: that, having from the beginning of the war a clear insight into its importance, in order to attain the most accurate knowledge, he availed himself of every opportunity of personal observation and inspection during those twenty years, which brought with them the most important and decisive actions. His course in this respect, as he himself describes it in general terms in i. 22. § 2 (ta d' erga ton prachthenton . . . peri hekastou epexelthon), the combination of careful inquiry from trustworthy witnesses with the results of his own knowledge, gains a clearer light from the statement in v. 26. § 5. He used the period of his banishment to inspect in person the scene of events, and took special pains (ouch esson) to visit the Peloponnesian lands which would otherwise have been closed to him; and the result of his exertions was, kath' hesuchian ti auton mallon aisthesthai, that he attained a clearer insight into the facts by being in repose, i.e. remote not only from the party strifes of Athens, but also from the excitement which would probably prevail during or immediately after occurrences on the spot where they took place.
In this way, from the scanty notices Thucydides himself has given us of his personal relation to the history, we gain a view of his aim and method. In mature manhood,--so the most probable testimony leads us to believe;--in possession of external advantages which secured him a position of independence and rendered easy for him an unprejudiced observation and judgment of public affairs and the persons engaged in them; penetrated by all the influences of the intellectual culture which made Athens at that time the paideusis tes Hellados; filled with the conviction that only by the ascendency of truly great statesmen and by the moderation and docility of the citizens could his mother-city, to which he was devoted with love and admiration, be maintained on her eminence; he understood from the very beginning the task of writing the history of this war, and at once commenced his preparations for it.
The first seven years of the war, excepting that time which he necessarily devoted to the management of his Thracian property, the ergasia ton metallon, he spent beyond doubt in Athens; and there can be no question that he stood in near connexion with the leading statesmen, and was present at the deliberations and decisions of the public assemblies. The speeches of Pericles which he has given us in outline, and the imperishable testimony he has left (ii. 65) of the activity of that great statesman, reflect the vivid impression made on the mind of the historian by that mighty personality; and there can be no doubt that at a later time he was present as an eye-witness at the discussions about Mitylene (iii. 36-49) and about Pylos (iv. 16 ff.); and in all probability he took part in one or more of the expeditions which preceded his own strategia, perhaps in the naval operations of Phormio in the Corinthian Gulf (ii. 80-92), or the movements of Demosthenes in Aetolia and Acarnania (iii. 94 ff.). The statesmen, too, who succeeded Pericles, though they failed to replace him, Nicias, Cleon, Demosthenes, he has succeeded in placing before our eyes in clear outlines. And the young Alcibiades (born B.C. 451), with the brilliancy and haughtiness of his ambitious character, must have early attracted his attention, so vividly does he place him before us in his later speeches and actions. On the other hand, the twenty years which followed the unfortunate result of his strategia in B.C. 424, were probably passed by Thucydides, so far as the circumstances of the war allowed, mainly on his Thracian property, except at such times as travelling was required by his investigations. It is not likely that the change of control, by which in B.C. 412 (viii. 64) the island of Thasos and the neighbouring coast also probably passed into the possession of the Lacedaemonians and was at a later time (Xen. Hell. i.4.9) recovered by Thrasybulus for the Athenians, interfered at all with his residence there. We are told by Plutarch, and the compiler of the biography of Marcellinus says in two places, that Thucydides wrote his work on his estate in Thrace. This may rest only on conjecture; but it is a conjecture which would be naturally formed by every reader acquainted with the circumstances. We can hardly doubt that it was here mainly that he carried out the work so early undertaken and prosecuted so uninterruptedly; and this not only by the working up of his accumulated materials, but also by the journeys which he undertook from thence for the purpose of closer inquiry into the scenes and the events of the war. We may assume with certainty that he visited not only the various parts of Greece which the war had rendered notable, but also the islands, as well as Italy and Sicily. Besides his own testimony couched in general terms (genomenoi par' amphoterois tois pragmasi kai ouch hesson tois Peloponnesion), we have as evidence the vividness of his delineations of the most important events; and the surprising notice, adduced by Marcellinus, § 25, from Timaeus, that after his banishment he lived in Italy (hos phugon oikesen en Italiai), which in § 33 goes further and asserts his burial there (en Italiai auton keisthai), is explained most naturally by the assumption that Thucydides made a long stay in those parts.
Unfortunately, we cannot gain any clear insight into the gradual growth and completion of this incomparable work. The reason of this is, in part at least, the fact that it was not brought to an end by its author. The history suddenly breaks off in the midst of the most exciting events of the Ionic-Decelean war. The most natural conjecture as to the reason of this, that the author was called away from his work by a sudden death, is confirmed by trustworthy evidence. Plutarch says that it was commonly reported that he died a violent death in Scapte Hyle. Pausanias tells us that he was treacherously murdered on his journey home from exile, and that his tomb was to be seen at Athens not far from the Melitid gate. Marcellinus, however, was aware of two different reports: one, which was plainly the most general and is referred to Zopyrus and Cratippus, that Thucydides died in Thrace; the other, for which Didymus is the authority, and which Marcellinus himself adopts, that after his return from exile he died and was buried in Athens. The anonymous biographer leaves the place of his death undefined, saying, "after his death he was buried in Athens, near the Melitid gate, . . . whether it was that he himself after the expiration of the term of his exile returned to Athens and there died, or that only his bones were brought from Thrace after his death there; for both accounts are given." When we examine these statements closely, we see that the assumption that Thucydides died at Athens rests only on the well-attested fact of his tomb being found there with an often-quoted inscription. For as his death in a foreign land would naturally be connected with his continued exile, so an honorable burial in Athens would seem to imply that he died there. Pausanias, in order evidently to reconcile the apparent contradiction of his death abroad with his well-known tomb in Attica, devised the harmonizing story that he perished on his homeward journey, for only this can be the meaning of hos kateiei. This solution, however, cannot be accepted; for Thucydides himself speaks so definitely of the end of his banishment--xunebe moi pheugein ten emautou ete eikosi, which could have been written only after it was over--and he refers so often, and particularly in v. 25 and 26, to the conclusion of the whole war, that he must have lived a considerable time after this, and therefore after his recall, which was subsequent to it; and accordingly we must seek for some other way of explaining the apparent contradiction in the accounts we have. The facts may have been as follows: Thucydides returned in the autumn of B.C. 404 to Athens, six months after the city had surrendered to Lysander. He himself indicates in i. 93. § 5 that the walls round the Piraeus lay in ruins, in accordance with the harsh terms of the peace. He can hardly, however, have remained there long, under the increasing severity of the rule of the Thirty; and he may probably have sought again the peace and repose of his Thracian estate, where he had so long been engaged in the preparation of the material he had collected for the history of the war. Though it is probable that large portions of his work, particularly such as were prominent and almost independent parts of the larger whole,--e.g. the war of the first ten years to the peace of Nicias, and the expedition to Sicily,--were composed and written down before, still, from the even character and unbroken connexion of the eight books as we have them, it seems likely that Thucydides gave the whole its present form in a long period of repose after the end of the war, which a resi dence in enslaved Athens was little calculated to offer. A sudden death overtook him while thus engaged.
How long a time was granted him for the final revision cannot be defined with exactness; but a reasonable inference allows us to fix the year 396 B.C. as the extreme limit of his life. In iii. 116. § 2, Thucydides tells us, no doubt after a careful inquiry into the facts, that the eruption of Aetna which took place in the spring of B.C. 425 was the third on record. Accordingly the one which occurred in B.C. 396 (Diod. xiv.59.3) could not have been known to him; for as he had given attention to the subject, it is hardly likely that he could have remained in ignorance of it. We may, therefore, conceive that his life extended to about this date, i.e. to his 75th year. We get in this way a period of from six to seven years during which we may imagine that the old man, with that repose and clearness which a powerful spirit obtains from many-sided culture in youth and the experience of good and evil fortune in maturity, was devoted to his great undertaking and engaged in combining the materials he had collected into one completed whole, which with reasonable self-consciousness he designates a ktema es aei. It is very possible that during these last years Thucydides may have undertaken other journeys and have more than once revisited Athens; but it is most natural to suppose that he carried on his proper work in the quietness of his Thracian estate. With this, too, best agrees the statement that he met a violent death by assassination, which is made by Plutarch, Pausanias, and Marcellinus, in reliance on early authorities. An event of the kind in Athens is hard to conceive, and could scarcely have remained without attestation. On the contrary, an attack by robbers on a lonely and wealthy residence on the Thracian coast is easily credible; and thus also is explained the variation in the accounts as regards the place; distance sufficiently accounts for the conflicting opinions of those not immediately interested. But if Thucydides, as is very probable, was slain in Scapte Hyle by the hand of a robber, the second alternative of the anonymous biographer is to be accepted, that his bones were conveyed to Athens and laid in the sepulchre of Cimon, where Plutarch saw his tomb, whether the inscription he quotes be genuine or not: Thoukudides Olorou Halimousios enthade keitai. The difficulty raised by Didymus as to the unauthorized burial of a banished person in his native soil disappears on the hypothesis above given. On the other hand, the suddenness of a death by assassination explains fully the condition in which his history remains to us; the thread of the narrative is broken off before the end of the twenty-first year of the war, in the midst of an account of a subordinate circumstance. The way in which the incomplete work was preserved and became known will be discussed later.
[Classen at this point proceeds to discuss at length the theory of F. W. Ullrich as to the composition of the history of Thucydides which was put forth in his Beitrage zur Erklarung des Thukydides, Hamburg, 1845. This theory may be thus stated nearly in Ullrich's words: Thucydides regarded the first ten years of continuous war as terminated by the Peace of Nicias; and accordingly after the conclusion of that peace began to compose the history of this war, which by itself was sufficiently remarkable: beginning with the preface of the first book, he wrote this book, the second, the third, and the first half of the fourth in exile, before he could have had knowledge of the later war: then, towards the middle of the fourth book, being overtaken by the march of events, when the war between Athens and Sparta began again before Syracuse, and was afterwards in the Decelean and Ionian war carried on more actively than before through the participation of all the Hellenes including even the Argives and the Greeks of Italy and Sicily, he discontinued his work in order to await the result of this second war: while these events, however, were taking place, he was constantly making preparations for the continuation of his work by collecting information about facts and by prosecuting inquiries; and after a break of from ten to eleven years, i.e. from the beginning of the Decelean war to his return to Athens, he took up again the thread of his narrative. With this view is connected the conjecture that, as Thucydides completed the first three books and half the fourth after his banishment and during the Peace of Nicias, i.e. in about eight years, so the composition of the second portion, which he did not begin till after the conclusion of the whole war, may have required about as much more time. This will accord very well with the assumption made that B.C. 396 must be regarded as the extreme limit of his life.
Ullrich argues that, on the assumption that Thucydides did not begin the final redaction of his work until the end of the twentyseven-years' war, the whole of it must have been written with the consciousness of the final result, and could not therefore contain any statements which are incompatible with this assumption. Such statements are however, according to Ullrich, discoverable in the former part of the history (as far as v. 26) and not in the latter; and he infers, therefore, that the former half must have been written substantially as we have it between the end of the ten-years' war and the Sicilian expedition. He admits, indeed, that these earlier books contain certain passages which imply a knowledge of the whole war, but regards them as later insertions made by Thucydides himself in the work he had already substantially completed.
The passages which Ullrich cites, as having been penned by a writer who could not have known the final issue of the war, are the following: i. 10. § 2; 23. § 1-3; ii. 1. § 1; 8. 1; 34. 20; 54. § 3; 57. 7; iii. 86. § 2; 87. 5; iv. 48. § 5. All of these are fully discussed by Classen, and it is shown by him at the least that they come very far short of supporting the inference which Ullrich deduces from them. The whole question is discussed with great lucidity and fairness by A. Schone, in Bursian's Jahresbericht, Vol. III. p. 823-848. He is inclined on general grounds of probability to adopt Ullrich's opinion as to the actual mode of composition of the history; but of the passages above referred to he finds only one (iii.87.5) which favours decidedly, and another (i. 23. § 1-3) which favours partially the conclusion Ullrich bases upon them. Under these circumstances it does not seem worth while to reproduce in this edition the lengthy discussion which Classen devotes to the question. In giving his adhesion in the main to the view of Ullrich rather than to that of Classen, which will be stated immediately, Schone is influenced to a great degree by the consideration that it is improbable that Thucydides, though he might have anticipated with a high degree of assurance the failure of the Peace of Nicias and a renewal of the war, would have allowed this six-years' period of comparative quiet to pass without availing himself of it to work up the materials he had already collected for the history of the ten-years' or Archidamian war. But Classen nowhere asserts or implies any such neglect of opportunity on the part of the historian. Though he believes that the work as it has come down to us took its final form from the hand of the writer after the conclusion of the whole war, he admits to the fullest extent the probability that portions of it had been worked up into substantially their present shape at an earlier period. Such portions may in all likelihood have been those which most readily admitted of treatment as wholes, e.g. the Archidamian war and the Sicilian expedition.
In the introduction to the fifth book, where it was necessary to make clear the connexion and the special character of it, Classen expresses the following opinion: "Though I am convinced that the whole work was written in the shape in which we have it after the conclusion of the Peloponnesian war, and that Thucydides was called away from life when engaged in the last revision and combination of the portions which he had noted down and sketched in outline from the beginning of the war, yet I do not believe that all parts of the work received an equally thorough review. I think that the masterly introduction, which makes our first book, was first completed with the full knowledge of the disastrous result of the twenty-seven-years' war; that then the history of the ten-years' war, and the Sicilian expedition, for which it is likely that the results of laborious inquiry were already at hand more or less perfectly worked out, received their final touches; and that after this, before the thread of the narrative was taken up again with the Ionic-Decelean war, the intervening period of the eirene hupoulos was described."
This opinion as to the mode of the composition of the work of Thucydides rests on two simple propositions. (1) Thucydides followed the course of the Peloponnesian war from its beginning to its close with minute attention, and committed to writing with more or less completeness notes of all its circumstances, particularly of the Archidamian war and the Sicilian expedition, which were in themselves relatively distinct wholes. (2) After the close of the whole war and his recall from banishment, he took in hand the composition of the whole history of the war with a clear view of the relation of its several parts; composed the first book as a general introduction to his work; and combined into an organic whole the material already collected and partially reduced to formal shape, continuing his narrative to the first year of the Ionian war, at which point in his labours his life came to an end. Classen's view as above stated agrees in the main with that of Kruger, Unterss. p. 74, and Epikrit. Nachtr. p. 37.
It may be worth while to give here a list of the chief publications on this question which have been issued within the last few years.
The following writers adopt the Ullrichian hypothesis with more or less variation in detail.
L. Cwiklinski: Quaestiones de tempore etc. Diss. inaug. Gnesnae, 1873; also an article in Hermes, 12, p. 23-87.
P. Leske: Ueber die verschiedene Abfassungszeit etc. Liegnitz, 1875.
J. Helmbold: Ueber die successive Entstehung etc. Colmar, 1876.
F. Vollheim: Zur Entstehungsgeschichte etc. Eisleben, 1878.
J. Steup: Quaestiones Thucydideae. Bonnae, 1868.
Muller-Strubing: Aristophanes und die historische Kritik (p. 529 ff.). Leipzig, 1873.
Glogau: Die Entdeckungen des Thukydides. Neumark, 1876.
The following are in substantial agreement with Classen.
A. Kuprianos, Peri tes oikonomias tou Thoukudidou, in Philistor, Athens, 1862, p. 193-210; 1863, p. 1-19.
J. J. Welti, Ueber die Abfassungszeit etc. Winterthur, 1869.
J. M. Stahl: in the preface to the B. Tauchnitz edition of Thucydides, p. v. ff.
H. Steinberg: in the Philologische Anzeiger, 6, p. 20 ff.
L. Herbst: in Philologus, 38, p. 535 ff.
The last-mentioned article examines with great minuteness the use of ho polemos with and without a demonstrative pronoun; and shows that in all the passages where ho polemos hode occurs in books ii. to v. 24 inclusive the ten-years' war is referred to, though in many places a knowledge of the whole war is evidently implied; whereas in book i. ho polemos hode does not occur at all; but hode ho polemos (11 times) and ho polemos with houtos (twice) refer to the war the writer is going to describe in opposition to other wars and without thought of its duration; and the same is true of the later books where hode ho polemos occurs. In the later books, vi., vii., viii., ho polemos hode refers to the then existing war; whereas hode ho polemos occurs only three times and evidently with the same implication as before. It is also noted that in book v. (39. 19; 51. 11; 56. 20; 81. 11; 83. 22) in the designation of the successive years of the hupoptos anokoche the demonstrative pronoun is omitted as well as the usual mention of the writer; whereas in vi.7.25 the full formula occurs again. Herbst, therefore, agrees so far with Ullrich as to admit that Thucydides regarded the Archidamian (dekaetes) war as a unit; but argues convincingly that the whole history took its present form after the conclusion of the whole war.]
The extraordinary significance of the history of Thucydides may be recognized in its effects. The picture he has drawn for us of a period of history so important and so rich in consequences, with its incomparable vividness in the delineation of events and of characters, is secure of its place for all time in the memory of mankind, and not only surpasses in its life-like truthfulness all other historical narratives of antiquity, but is outdone by the work of no modern historian. We become the more sensible of this if we compare our knowledge of the period Thucydides has described with that we possess of the times immediately preceding or following, or if we endeavour to leave out of our conception of the characters he has depicted the traces which are due to him, and to realize Pericles and Cleon, Nicias and Alcibiades, from the writings of Xenophon, Plutarch, and Diodorus.
We possess no distinct evidence that the exceeding merit of Thucydides was adequately recognized in his own time or in that immediately succeeding. Neither by the orators whose works we have, nor in the writings of Plato and Aristotle, is any mention made of him. The judgment of Theophrastus, which Cicero has preserved for us, is only of a general character, and hardly answers to our own high estimate. But out of this silence of earlier antiquity there comes to us, only the more welcome and important, the single notice, that the orator Demosthenes copied the books of Thucydides eight times with his own hand. It was his own kindred spirit which attracted him above all to the essential truthfulness of the great historian. The pre-eminent effect of his work, however, is shown by the fact that a series of successors, Xenophon, Cratippus, Theopompus, essayed to continue it, but no one ventured to take up again the material handled by him or to throw it into a different form; until, when a later time called for a general review or instructive entertainment, men fastened upon Thucydides, though often with deficient judgment and insight, as the most trustworthy source for the period treated by him. Among the Romans the masterly character of his work was thoroughly recognized, in spite of the difficulty caused by his language and style; his statesmanlike insight attracted them and excited their admiration. Sallust exhibits the clearest proofs of conscious imitation; Cornelius Nepos follows by preference his testimony; and Cicero studied him persistently and closely; Quintilian expresses in few words an excellent judgment about him as regards his style.
The grammarians and critics of the Alexandrian school knew how to rate his value; especially did they recognize his work as one of the models of Attic speech; and to their careful treatment we are indebted for the relatively excellent preservation of it in numerous copies, as well as for the diligent observation of his style, which is everywhere to be seen in later lexicographical writings. On the other hand, the scholastic rhetoric of the later age, as it was practised and brought into currency by learned Greeks particularly at Rome, was ill-adapted to comprehend and appreciate the most peculiar characteristics of Thucydides, his complete self-surrender to his subject and the determination of the form only by the nature of the matter. From the most important representative of this tendency, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, we possess two treatises (peri tou Thoukudidou charakteros kai ton loipon tou sungrapheos idiomaton and peri ton Thoukudidou idiomaton, the second being a more detailed development of a section of the former) in which he exclusively, and a third (pros Gnaion Pompeion epistole) in which he partially (3), undertakes a thorough examination of the work of Thucydides as to form and matter. Interesting and instructive to us as these writings are, as furnishing us with a living picture of the way in which literary and grammatical criticism was practised by the rhetoricians of that day, and as containing in detail many useful remarks, yet the criticisms themselves, whether we regard the choice and arrangement of the material or the way in which it is handled and discussed, are wholly without value for us. Dionysius has so little conception of the task of history, to bring to light the actual course of events as it would disclose itself to unbiassed inquiry, that he actually makes it a reproach to Thucydides that he selected as his subject the history of a war which was unsuccessful. He imputes to a passion for singularity the division of the war-years into summer and winter which Thucydides adopted. He blames him for arranging particular parts without having regard to their best rhetorical effect; e.g. that the funeral oration is placed where it is and not after some important event of the war. He is displeased that events are not treated at all times on a scale proportionate to their relative importance. He even attributes it to the arbitrary will of the writer that the work is broken off before the end of the war. In general he fails to find a skilful distribution of the material or any proper employment of rhetorical arrangement and ornament. In fact in the whole criticism the same contrast finds expression as is to be seen between the historical writing of Thucydides and that of Dionysius himself; in the latter, a dressing up of facts to suit arbitrary assumptions and subjective theories; in the former, an absolute subordination of the record to the facts which are to be narrated.
We have already noticed the circumstances in the life of Thucydides which specially favoured him as the writer of the history of his time. With these unusual advantages were united all the qualities of mind which go to make up a great historian; of these two may be indicated as the most important: the moral earnestness of his view of the world and of life, and the temperate good sense of his own nature, by which he maintains at all times his simple and incorruptible appreciation of the real truth.
Thucydides shares with many profound characters a reluctance to expose
to view and announce in express language his own secret feelings, particularly
as regards the divine administration of things; but any one who enters with true
insight into the character of his narrative will recognize everywhere as its fundamental
tone a sense, that, while man is responsible for his actions, the conduct and
decision of human affairs is subject to the control of the deity. We shall probably
not be mistaken if we attribute to the influence of the philosophical conception
of the order of the world, which Anaxagoras made current among the most prominent
men of Athens, that religious view which apprehends the agency of the gods not
so much in the immediate indications of a personal presence, which was so natural
to Herodotus and the earlier chroniclers, as in a controlling power, which is
indeed withdrawn from human sight, yet is nevertheless to be reverenced with the
feeling of complete dependence. It is true that, in the expression of this, the
customary language of the popular belief and of the traditional forms of worship
is not abandoned. The personal name, theos, theoi, appears most frequently either
as a collective designation of those generally venerated divinities under whose
protection the people feel themselves to be, whose feasts they celebrate and by
whom they swear (i.71.21; 78. 13; ii.15.21; 71. 21; iii.59.10; iv.87.9; v.30.10;
vi.54.29; viii.70.5), or in application to particular deities who are understood
without their being named, as the Delphian Apollo (i.25.3; 118. 20; 123. 8; ii.54.13;
iii.92.19; iv.118.7; v.32.6), Athene (i.126.5; ii.13.36; 15. 17; iv.116.11), or
the Eumenides, hai semnai theai, (i.126.37). Only once, in a Boeotian religious
formula, is daimones used for theoi, (iv.97.17). Yet the belief which rises above
the forms of special worship to the general conception of divine government finds
distinct expression in some places. It is to the writer an infallible symptom
of extreme disturbance in the order of society if awe of the divine is broken
down, whether, as in ii. 53. § 4, this is the result of the fearful plague at
Athens (theon phobos e anthropon nomos oudeis apeirge), or, as in iii. 82. § 6,
of the virulence of party hatred (tas es sphas autous pisteis ou toi theioi nomoi
mallon ekratunonto e toi koinei ti paranomesai). In the remarkable debate between
the Athenian envoys and the council of the Melians (v. 85. ff.), on the one side
the consciousness of a good cause manifests itself by confidence in protection
from above (to theion), and on the other the exaltation of brute strength above
every other consideration shows how the sense of right and wrong had become confused.
In the same sense Nicias in his last speech (vii.77.17) is represented as basing
his hope on this theion. The real sentiment of Thucydides is expressed in the
noble words with which Pericles (ii.64.9) urges his fellow-citizens to meet the
uncertain future: pherein chre ta te daimonia anankaios ta te apo ton polemion
andreios. What in this passage--and only here--probably with some allusion to
the language of the philosophers--is called ta daimonia, i.e. everything which
in the life of man is sent by a higher hand and is withdrawn from the calculation
and control of human prudence, Thucydides usually embraces under the term tuche,
as an operative power, and tuchai as the manifestation of it; the former in i.140.11;
144. 24; ii.42.25; iii.45.22; 97. 6; iv.12.12; 18. 20; 64. 7 (hes ouk archo tuches);
86. 21; v.16.16; 75. 12 (tuchei men hos edokoun kakizomenoi, gnomei de hoi autoi
eti ontes); 111. 17; vi.23.11; 78. 15 (ouch hoion te hama tes te epithumias kai
tes tuches ton auton homoios tamian genesthai); vii.33.29; 67. 23; 68. 1: the
latter in i.69.26; 78. 5; 84. 19 (tas prospiptousas tuchas ou logoi diairetas);
ii.87.11; iv.18.15; v.102.2; vi.11.22: and in the same sense ta tes tuches or
apo tes tuches, ii.87.6; iv.55.16; vii.61.12.59 It is of no importance for a critical
examination of Thucydides's use of language whether these expressions are found
in his own narrative or are placed by him in the mouths of his speaking characters.
Everywhere we are to understand by tuche a power superior to man, which is not
blind chance, but exercises control in accordance with a higher order; on which
man can never calculate, but the operation of which he cannot without damage disregard.
If tuche is opposed to gnome, as in i.144.24; v.75.12, this is from the human
point of view, which finds its calculations at fault; but it is by no means intended
to assert the superiority of the latter. In the remarkable declaration on the
death of Nicias (vii.86.24), hekista de axios on ton ge ep' emou Hellenon es touto
dustuchias aphikesthai dia ten pasan es areten nenomismenen etitedeusin, Thucydides
does not conceal that it will not always be easy for the human understanding to
reconcile itself to the incomprehensible administration of the divine omnipotence.
It is characteristic that nowhere is tuche more distinctly referred to its divine
source than by the Melians in their fruitless struggle against the doctrine of
the right of the strongest. Twice, v.104.4; 112. 7, we find the significant expression
he tuche ek tou theiou.
In the view of the world which all these passages imply there is unmistakably a pious feeling of dependence on the divine power, though any deeper penetration into the laws and relations of its operation is not granted to man. And while it is the aim of the writer in the spirit of Anaxagoras to inquire into the causes of surprising incidents,--as of the eclipse of the sun, ii.28.2; of a flood consequent upon an earthquake, iii.89.18; of the eclipse of the moon, in contrast with the superstitious terror (theiasmos) of Nicias, vii.50.27; of violent tempests, in contrast with the alarm of the dispirited Athenians, vii.79.10;--still he does not venture to draw the line between the province of positive human knowledge and that where the obscure operation of the gods makes itself felt in human things. Accordingly, while he is far from unconditionally ascribing validity to omens and oracles, and even allows himself to make a critical examination of their true meaning (ii.17.11; 54. 9), and in v.16.21 plainly admits the assumption that even the utterances of the Delphian oracles could be corruptly procured, still his bringing forward instances of omens and oracles actually verified (v.26.20; vi.27.9), and in general his frequent mention of predictions, portents, and marvellous occurrences (i.118.21; 134. 18; ii.8.7; 77. 22; 102. 27; iii.88.8; 92. 18; 96. 3; 104. 2; iv.52.1; v.32.6; 45. 20; vi.70.2), proves that he does not mean to deny the possibility of supernatural operations. Just as he views tuchai, so he allows to the supersensible world no influence over the judgment and action of men, and therefore for practical purposes leaves it out of account. It is very intelligible to him that in times of excitement men should look about for miraculous instruction (ii.8.7) or help (ii.47.15); but he himself attaches no importance to such things, and has had no experience of useful results therefrom; and his real opinion would probably coincide with that of the Athenian envoys, v.103.7, whose advice to the Melians is: me homoiothenai tois pollois, hois paron anthropeios eti soizesthai, epeidan piezomenous autous epiliposin hai phanerai elpides, epi tas aphaneis kathistantai, mantiken te kai chresmous kai hosa toiauta met' elpidon lumainetai.
Clearness and definiteness were essential to Thucydides; and accordingly the proper sphere of his observation and inquiry was man, his action and his history. The less he tried to penetrate into the secret course of the divine government of the world, so much the more earnest was he to attain the most exact knowledge of everything which makes up the life of man; the motives of his action as well as their external manifestation; the efforts and conduct of individuals as well as the great movements which take place in the life of states. His judgment of human affairs, however, is controlled by one principle, that it is power of mind which makes up the value of the individual, just as it conditions the result of every activity.
With decision and clearness Thucydides recognizes the opposition between body and spirit, which found its most definite expression in Anaxagoras. He is fully alive to the weakness of human nature, and often insists upon its limitations (e.g. iii.45.30; 84. 10; v.68.6); and yet he is penetrated with the conviction that the spirit of man can attain the mastery over the agitating influences of the surrounding world and nature, and is competent in large measure to define and shape its own life as well as the fortunes of states. The views of Thucydides may thus have been influenced by the doctrines of Anaxagoras; yet his use of language manifests independence, and deserves a special examination so far as it touches the phenomena of the mind. The centre of all the mental power of man is for Thucydides the power of thought and cognition, from which come the energetic will and resolutions which press to action. This power, however, is not called nous, which word occurs in Thucydides only in the less pregnant sense of the perceiving and observing faculty, but rather gnome, which has in our author a very wide range of meaning. It includes the aggregate of psychical powers, intellectual as well as emotional, as opposed to the body (cf. especially i.70.19; ii.38.2); sometimes, however, it denotes on the intellectual side insight and cognition in general (cf. i.70.10; 75. 2; 77. 9; 91. 25; ii.13.21; 34. 17; 43. 21; 62. 30; 65. 32; iii.37.21; 83. 4; etc.); or a view, opinion, judgment, in reference to a particular matter (cf. i.32.17; 33. 17; 45. 1; 53. 7; 62. 8; 78. 2; 79. 5; 140. 28; ii.20.1; 86. 17; iii.31.11; 36. 5; 92. 3; 96. 8; iv.18.7; 32. 23; 58. 5; 59. 3; etc.); sometimes on the moral side it denotes disposition, temper, decision, as a quality (cf. i.71.4; 90. 10; 130. 10; ii.9.1; 11. 21; 20. 18; 59. 4, 8; 64. 32; 65. 3; 87. 9; 88. 7; iii.9.8; 10. 6; 12. 2; etc.), or a determination in a particular case (cf. hai gnomai, i.140.4; ii.89.50; iii.82.16; gnomen poieisthai, i.128.27; ii.2.24; vii.72.8). In the same way the verb gignoskein, and its compounds with dia, epi, kata, meta, pro, is used sometimes with an intellectual meaning, apprehend, understand (cf. i.25.1; 36. 3; 86. 2; 91. 5; 102. 15; 126. 21; 134. 5; ii.40.7; 43. 10; 60. 17, 19), sometimes with a moral reference, resolve, determine (cf. i.70.7, 26; 91. 23; ii.61.12; iii.40.18; 57. 3; etc.). By the side of this verb dianoeisthai often occurs in the same sense (cf. i.1.7; 18. 18; 52. 6; 93. 22; 124. 18; 141. 2; 143. 22; ii.5.16; 93. 16; 100. 20; iii.2.5; 75. 18; 82. 35; iv.13.16; etc.), and it is notable that while nous remains on the lower plane, dianoia is placed nearly on a par with gnome, as well in the sense of a perfected intellectual power and state of mind (cf. ii.43.3; 61. 12; 89. 23; v.111.9; vi.15.15; 21. 3; vii.73.2), as in that of its employment in a particular case, thought, plan, purpose (cf. i.84.17; 130. 9; 132. 20; 138. 2; 140. 10; 144. 5; ii.20.19; iii.36.12; 82. 22; iv.52.10; v.9.19; 105. 21; vi.11.23; 31. 6; 38. 19; 65. 2; 76. 5; vii.60.2, 25). Other compounds of nous, both substantival and verbal, occur frequently in Thucydides, always with reference to mental action.61 As to meaning xunesis stands very [p. 33] close to gnome, but only in the intellectual sense of clear insight and circumspection (cf. i.138.11; 140. 8; ii.62.32; 97. 33; iii.37.23; 82. 50; iv.18.22; 81. 10; 85. 21; vi.72.5). (On the combination gnomes xunesis in i.75.2, see the note on the passage.) Thucydides uses the verb xunienai only in i.3.20, of acquaintance with a language; but the adjective xunetos is his usual word to describe a man of clear insight (cf. i.74.4; 79. 8; 84. 15; 138. 8; iii.37.18; 82. 27; iv.10.2; vi.39.1; viii.68.25), while from gignoskein or noein no corresponding epithet is formed; and sophos occurs only in iii.37.19 with the unfavourable sense of crafty, over-wise; so sophistes, iii.38.31, and sophisma, vi.77.6, have a similar implication. Thucydides uses phronein absolutely only a few times (v.7.10; vi.89.26; phronein ti, have insight); elsewhere with defining adverbs (cf. ii.22.2; iii.38.30; v.89.7; vi.36.2). He does not employ phronesis and phronimos: but phronema occurs in the sense of self-consciousness, confidence (cf. i.81.14; ii.43.28; 61. 13; 62. 27; iii.45.17; iv.80.15; v.40.16; 43. 7; vi.18.22). logos is in Thucydides most commonly word or speech in a wide as well as in a restricted sense; and only as derived from this has it sometimes the meaning of an expressed reason (cf. i.76.14; ii.101.13; v.18.57; 98. 2; vi.61.5; 92. 20), or of consideration based upon this (cf. v.37.11; dikaia en toi anthropeioi logoi apo tes ises anankes krinetai, 89. 8; perhaps also i.102.16). This last meaning of a reasonable consideration or calculation is distinctly prominent in the phrases kata logon (cf. ii.89.25; iii.39.24; vi.25.13) and para logon (cf. i.65.3; 140. 11; ii.64.8; 91. 15; iv.26.11; 55. 17; 65. 18; vi.33.31; vii.71.42), as well as in the compounds alogos, alogos (cf. i.32.11; ii.65.39; v.104.9; 105. 20; vi.46.10; 79. 9; 84. 10; 85. 2; viii.27.10) and eulogos (cf. iii.82.29; iv.61.28; 87. 12; vi.76.8; 79. 10; 84. 6). The verb logizesthai and its compounds with ana, ek, dia (cf. i.76.13; ii.89.24; iii.82.49; iv.28.25; 73. 17; v.15.2; 26. 18; 87. 1; vi.18.20; 31. 34; 36. 11; vii.73.19; 77. 21; viii.2.20), and [p. 34] the noun logismos (cf. ii.11.30; 40. 14, 23; iii.20.18; iv.10.6; 92. 10; 108. 23; 122. 9; v.68.7; vi.34.25; viii.57.11), belong to the same sphere (they often, however, refer to a literal reckoning with numbers); while krinein, which is used chiefly of judicial decision (cf. iii.48.5; 57. 3; 67. 20; iv.130.30; v.60.29; vi.29.3; 40. 16), is not seldom transferred to any judgment based on reason (cf. i.21.11; 22. 19; 138. 15; ii.34.15; 40. 15; 53. 13; iii.65.11; iv.60.3; v.79.12; 89. 9; viii.2.13). To logos in the sense of an intelligent course of reasoning is related boule, of prudent consideration (cf. i.138.12; v.101.3; 111. 27; vi.9.5), with the compounds or derivatives aboulos (i.120.25), aboulia (i.32.17; v.75.11), euboulos (i.84.11), euboulia (i.78.11; iii.42.4; 44. 4), epiboule (i.93.23; vii.70.36; viii.24.38), bouleuein, bouleuesthai, diabouleuesthai, epibouleuein, probouleuein, etc. Thucydides uses psuche almost exclusively of physical life (cf. i.136.19; iii.39.42; viii.50.29); only in ii.40.15 (kratistoi ten psuchen) is it employed in a moral sense, though this is the constant meaning of the compounds eupsuchos (cf. ii.11.23; 39. 7; 43. 23; iv.126.38; v.9.2) and eupsuchia (cf. i.84.12; 121. 16; ii.87.19; 89. 11; vi.72.21; vii.64.15). While thumos is used by him only for passionate excitement (cf. i.49.11; ii.11.31; v.80.7), and correspondingly thumousthai (cf. vii.68.5), epithumia (cf. ii.52.8; iv.81.12; v.15.3; vi.13.6; 15. 10; 24. 15; 33. 10; 78. 14; vii.84.8), and epithumein (cf. i.80.3; 124. 13; iii.84.5; iv.21.3; 108. 22; 117. 8; v.36.17; 41. 19; vi.10.2; 15. 7; 92. 16; vii.77.37), he is fond of enthumeisthai to express clear apprehension or profound consideration (cf. i.42.1; 120. 27; ii.43.9; iii.40.26; v.32.5; 111. 4, 25; vi.30.14; 78. 3; vii.18.17; 63. 11; 64. 11).
This review of the language employed by Thucydides in the field of psychology, and especially the perception of the large range of gnome and expressions connected with it, is calculated to convince us that in his conception of the basis of morality he must in one important point have approximated closely to that of his great contemporary Socrates. As he referred all human virtue to knowledge and therefore regarded it as capable of being taught and learnt, so with Thucydides the capacity of men on which he sets the highest value rests first of all on clearness and acuteness of insight, which judges correctly the existing relations of things, and thus is able to take a sure glance into the future. See especially the description of Themistocles, i. 138, in whom the oikeia xunesis resulted in his being not only kratistos gnomon ton parachrema but also aristos eikastes tou genesomenou. Pericles also is legein kai prassein dunatotatos (i.139.24) because he is gnomei xunetos (ii.34.17, 22), and because, as being dunatos toi te axiomati kai tei gnomei (ii.65.31), he had clearly foreseen the importance of the war (ii.65.21, prognous ten dunamin . . . egnosthe he pronoia autou es ton polemon). Out of a right understanding flow all the qualities on which efficient action depends, and chiefly self-control and moderation (he sophrosune: i.32.16; 68. 3; 84. 5, 12; iii.37.16; 84. 3; viii.64.21; to sophron: i.37.7; iii.62.10; 82. 26; sophronein: i.40.8; 86. 8; iii.44.3; iv.60.2; 61. 1; 64. 16; vi.11.29; 79. 9; 87. 20; viii.24.21); this forms the basis of all moral order, and is lost if the passions are allowed to rule. Thucydides gives us in iii. 82, on the occasion of the party warfare in Corcyra, a grand picture of the utter disturbance of all the relations of life which takes its rise from confusion of ideas. As long as hai te poleis kai hoi idiotai ameinous tas gnomas echoisi (iii.82.15), matters of external order are maintained with stability; but when the orgai ton pollon take the place of gnome, all discipline and morality are overthrown. Again, it is no doubt the writer's own conviction which he puts into the mouth of Pericles (ii.40.11), diapherontos kai tode echomen hoste tolman te hoi autoi malista kai peri hon epicheiresomen eklogizesthai ho tois allois amathia men thrasos, logismos de oknon pherei. On the other hand it is an indication of the vulgarity of Cleon's character that he considers that that state has the surest basis in which the citizens unite want of knowledge and culture, amathia, with sophrosune, which last in such a connexion is degraded to a stupid indifference.
It is the natural result of a correct insight to recognize that righteousness, regard namely for law and contracts and the performance of duty, is the surest support of civil order and the reciprocal relations of states. The general term to express this is to dikaion (cf. i.25.11; iii.10.1; 47. 18; 56. 8; 82. 61; iv.61.15; 62. 11; v.86.6; 90. 2; 107. 2; vi.79.1); while the abstract dikaiosune occurs only in iii.63.21. But since in human affairs it is only seldom that right and wrong can be estimated with perfect exactness, the recognition and defence of one's own interest is a necessary condition of self-preservation. Not only Cleon (iii. 37. ff.) but also Diodotus (iii. 42. ff.) maintains the policy of interest; and even the Plataeans seek to move the Spartans to mercy (iii. 56. § 7) by the apprehension of their real advantage. But how little Thucydides sympathized with the cynical doctrine of the right of the stronger which the Athenians proclaim in their dialogue with the Melians (v. 85-113) is shown unmistakably by the manner in which he allows it to be displayed in all its revolting recklessness at that very point in his narrative where the Athenian empire received its last petty accession, and the Sicilian expedition was about to be undertaken which was destined to result in its overthrow. He rather shows with abundant clearness the high regard he has for that temper which even in political matters gives a hearing not merely to strict right but also to considerations of humanity and compassion. This magnanimity, which does not allow the weaker to feel the full weight of superior power, but rather lays him under obligation by benefit, is called by him chiefly arete (cf. i.37.8; 69. 8; ii.40.18; 51. 20; 71. 18; iii.10.1; 56. 27; 57. 10; 58. 2; iv.19.12; 81. 10; 86. 19; v.105.16; vi.54.21). Compassion and mercy are in his eyes noble feelings. It is true that he makes Cleon reject them with unfeeling roughness (iii.40.6, me trisi tois axumphorotatois tei archei, oiktoi kai hedonei logon kai epieikeiai, hamartanein); but where they are recklessly outraged, the tone of his narration allows his condemnatory judgment to be felt, e.g. in the execution of the Plataeans, iii. 68, and in the mournful fate of the captured Athenians, vii. 86, 87. Not less clearly does Thucydides represent the motive of honour as a noble and worthy one in the dealings of men. The feeling itself he calls aidos in i.84.12; in other places aischune (cf. i.84.12; ii.51.20; iv.19.15; v.104.8; 111. 16); and he sets high value upon it, just as in his finest speeches he gives a prominent place to a regard for fame among contemporaries and posterity (cf. ii. 41. § 4; 64. 27; iii. 57. § 2). A noble bearing, which unselfishly keeps in view the [p. 37] higher aims of human life, is described by Thucydides chiefly as kalon (cf. i.38.10; ii.35.2; 53. 9; 64. 28; iii.42.12; 55. 11; 94. 16; iv.126.26; v.46.7; 69. 10; 107. 2; vi.79.8; vii.70.46; 71. 4; viii.2.8; 12. 8), and the opposite character by aischron (cf. i.38.12; 122. 16; ii.40.4; 64. 29; iii.42.11; 58. 5; iv.20.6; vi.21.7; vii.48.28); in which we see a preparation for the more strictly ethical usage of Plato. The combination kalos kagathos, which became so current at a later time, Thucydides uses once (iv.40.8) in a moral sense, and once (viii.48.37) as a designation of the aristocratical party.
But while Thucydides thus concedes the fullest right to moral worth and the nobler sentiments of humanity, he yet finds the highest quality of a statesman in the controlling power of the thinking mind, in gnome or xunesis, which gives a clear insight into the reality of things. Only by help of this do all the other qualities appear in their true import. It is in Pericles that this power is seen most conspicuously. As in his first speech (i. 140-144) he sweeps away all the self-deception of peace-loving optimists and shows that with the position of parties in Greece war is inevitable, so his last speech (ii. 60-64) contains incontrovertible evidence that his estimate of the power of Athens for the attainment of the end in view was perfectly correct, if only it was employed with composure and steadiness; and Thucydides himself, in view of the later events, adds his own confirmation of the words of the orator (ii. 65. § 7 ff.).
This same quality, which he had learnt by his own observation to admire in the great statesman--the calm consideration of reality and the clear recognition of its importance in things as well as persons,--it is this which he has himself striven after as the highest for his own task of writing history. A simple unbeguiled feeling for the real truth controls his apprehension of things--his judgment of the actions of men and their results, as well as his delineation itself, both in its general method and in the details of form and expression. With this intelligent appreciation of the relation of things he recognized the importance of the impending war at its very beginning; and devoted the closest attention to the ascertainment of all its events. He asserts this himself in i.1.3 (arxamenos euthus, sc. xungraphein, where the verb is to be understood of the collection of material and of every sort of preparation) and also in i. 22, where he depicts his zealous diligence and strict conscientiousness in making use of every source of information; and once more in v. 26. § 4, where he repeats that from the beginning of the war he found himself in a position to observe its course with judicious scrutiny, that he kept his eyes open at all times for what was remarkable, and that he used the period of his twenty years' exile in visiting the scenes of the war, on the Peloponnesian side as well as the Athenian, and in uninterrupted inquiry. As therefore he had at his command under the most favourable circumstances all the means for enlarging and certifying his knowledge of the real relations of things, so in his mental culture and in his experience and knowledge of affairs he possessed all that was requisite for applying the standard of a just judgment to the persons engaged. The necessity he felt to see even things remote in time and space in the light of their real existtence is shown especially when he seeks to reduce to their true value the traditional reports of legend and poetry (cf. i. 10, 11; ii. 15; 102; vi. 2); he endeavours by the help of facts (tois ergois, i.11.18) to oppose the reality of events to pheme and to the dia tous poietas peri auton kateschekos logos, and if exact proof cannot be brought forward for the true opinion, he does his best to attain the eikos (cf. i.10.20, 29; ii.48.10), as one of the most important criteria for the historical inquirer. This unceasing demand of Thucydides for the real facts is no doubt the reason why he shows himself incredulous and even unjust to Epic poetry. He handles it only in reference to its historical contents, and its indispensable epi to meizon kosmein (i.10.20; 21. 3) is to him only a disfigurement of the truth. He seeks not for any other ground of its value. So he feels himself in direct opposition to the work of the so-called logographers which precedes his own, because it aims epi to prosagogoteron tei akroasei e alethesteron, and with full consciousness that his work will suffer in its entertaining qualities, he claims for it (i. 22. § 4) the higher merit of setting forth the unadorned reality, feeling assurance however that it will be a pattern for all time.
This whole mass of historical material he lays before his readers with the utmost truth of delineation. He is so completely devoted to his subject that he takes no pains to arrange and mould it according to his own notions of propriety, but allows it to unfold and develop itself. The living picture which he sees of the course of events and of the way in which they were influenced by the persons engaged in them he cannot help embodying in a narrative which by the simplest means is charged with life and truth. If we examine his most famous delineations,--the siege of Plataea (ii. 71-78), the escape of the Plataeans (iii. 20-24), the battles in the Corinthian gulf (ii. 83-92), the Acarnanian expedition of Demosthenes (iii. 105-114), the affair of Pylos (iv. 3-14), the preparations for the Sicilian expedition and its departure (vi. 26; 30-32), the siege and defensive operations of Syracuse (vi. 98 ff.), the battles in the harbour of Syracuse (vii. 36-41; 52-54; 70, 71), the fate of the retreating army of the Athenians (vii. 75-87),--we see that it is not any artistic disposition of the subject, no rhetorical adornment, which is presented to our eyes, but the simplest narrative, which accompanies the events as they advance from day to day and leaves no gap in their natural sequence, so that we receive the impression of being actual witnesses of them. The course of the narrative adhering thus closely to the progress of events has, therefore, little in common with the easy-going manner of Herodotus, who at every turn breaks off the thread of his story to introduce as an episode some circumstance of which he has been reminded. The few digressions which we find in Thucydides (i. 126; 128 ff.; 135 ff.; ii. 15; 96 f.; 99 f.; iii. 104; vi. 1 ff.; 54 ff.) have always a definite occasion and contribute materially to a correct judgment of the circumstances narrated.
It is with the view of keeping as close as possible in his narrative to the actual course of events that Thucydides made use of the division of time that he has employed. This is neither that of the astronomical nor that of the civil year, but one which corresponds to the actual conditions of the carrying on of war; the larger part of the year, in which the weather permits freely all operations and especially maritime ones, is opposed to the shorter portion, in which all more important undertakings must be suspended. He narrates therefore kata there kai cheimonas (ii.1.5; v.20.10), because the occurrences of war actually so divide themselves and are distributed over two unequal periods, which may vary in length according to the conditions of the seasons. This is the meaning of the expression in v.20.11, ex hemiseias hekaterou tou eniautou ten dunamin echontos, i.e. hekaterhoutou te therous kai cheimonosten dunamin echontos ex hemiseias tou eniautou, "each of the two divisions of the year being reckoned as equal on an average to half a year;" in other words, the two portions, though unequal in length, will always together make up a year. The climatic conditions of Greece and the Grecian seas are such that during four months-- the menes tessares hoi cheimerinoi of vi.21.14, i.e. Maimakterion to Anthesterion (nearly = November to February)--little or nothing can be done in the field or at sea; while the eight remaining months--Elaphebolion to Puanepsion (nearly = March to October), --which include ear and metoporon (vii.79.10; viii.108.9) or phthinoporon (ii.31.1; iii.18.15; 100. 6), form the theros or the time for active warfare. To this division of the year, which rests on natural relations, correspond the particular subdivisions of the theros which are taken from the progress of vegetation, particularly of field-crops. Cf. ii.19.5, tou therous kai tou sitou akmazontos. iv.1.1, peri sitou ekbolen. iv.2.1, prin ton siton en akmei einai. iv. 6. 5, tou sitou eti chlorou ontos. iii.15.11, en karpou xunkomidei. iv.84.3, oligon pro trugetou. It would be a mistake to regard these definitions of time as absolutely fixed for every year; they are in the natural course of things approximately fixed, but they varied no doubt with the actual phenomena of each particular year.
In his delineation of persons Thucydides shows them to us in their actions, in the part they take in the promotion of decisive resolutions and in the carrying out of plans adopted. He is sparing indeed in the expression of any definite judgments of his own about prominent men;--we have only, among the contemporaries of the Peloponnesian war, the brief description of Archidamus, i.79.8; of Pericles, ii. 65. § 5 ff.; of Cleon, iii.36.27; iv.21.9; v.16.5; of Brasidas, ii.25.13; iv. 81. § 1 ff.; 108. 11; of Nicias, v.16.9; vii.86.24; of Alcibiades, v.43.5; vi.15.5; of Hermocrates, vi.72.4; of Phrynichus, viii.27.26; of Antiphon, viii.68.5; and a few more casual notices,--but every susceptible reader will find that the plain narrative of their actions sets the persons engaged vividly before us. The transactions themselves are so naturally developed that, as if we were eye-witnesses, we cannot help forming a judgment about the men we read of as to their skill or incapacity, their profound insight or their intellectual poverty, the purity of their characters or the duplicity of their motives, their energetic decisiveness or their hesitating irresolution. Besides this, however, Thucydides uses with the greatest effect another means of vivid presentation, which was not indeed used first by him, but which he employed in the most masterly way, that namely of introducing speeches supposed to be made by the most important personages, wherein they give expression to their innermost thoughts and the motives of their actions.
The employment of direct speech as a means of expressing feelings and thoughts formed the most effective mode of presentation in the Epic poetry of Homer, and reached its highest freedom and completeness in the Attic drama. The same method was resorted to with the happiest results also in the most strict historical writing to give expression to the inner side of the transactions recorded; and it may be added that, as this method gives objective utterance to the psychological side of historical representation, so in philosophical dialogue the clearest statement of the dialectical development of thought was effected in the same way. Thucydides sets himself to adhere as exactly as possible to the speeches actually delivered; of this his own words in i. 22. § 1 leave no doubt. But that this effort is directed rather to the thoughts than to the form of what was said he states himself distinctly in the words echomenoi hoti engutata tes xumpases gnomes ton alethos lechthenton. Indeed at this time a verbally accurate report of the words uttered is not conceivable. In default, therefore, of an exact account of the language actually used Thucydides supplied what was lacking, hos an edokoun autoi hekastoi peri ton aei paronton ta deonta malist' eipein. In the free use of this principle he allows himself to bring forward a speaker to controvert views and reasons which have been put forth by a different speaker at another place and time. We find unmistakable examples of this sort in the speech of the Corinthian ambassadors, i. 120. ff., as compared with that of Archidamus, i. 80. ff., and in the first speech of Pericles, i. 140. ff., in reference to the Corinthian speech just mentioned. So there can be little doubt that to the writer is due the reservation of a part of his material which Pericles announces in i.144.5 (all' ekeina men en alloi logoi hama tois ergois delothesetai) and its subsequent introduction in ii. 13. § 2 ff. It is a natural result, therefore, of this mode of treatment that, while the language of the Thucydidean speeches, both in the structure of sentences and in particular expressions, has a uniform character, viz., that of the writer, still in each separate speech the character and mode of thought of the assumed speaker are clearly manifested. This is true of all the speeches without exception, and no less so of the debate between the Athenian envoys and the representatives of the island of Melos (hoi ton Melion xunedroi), v. 85-111. Grote,69 it is true, has great doubts of the accuracy of this report, and ascribes the larger part of it to the "dramatic genius and arrangement" of the writer. But we may very well assume that on this occasion a report or minute of the discussion was made by the Athenian deputies and generals, which was kept in the archives of the senate at Athens and of which Thucydides even in his own absence could have obtained an accurate knowledge, as he did of other documents which he records and of the letter of Nicias, vii. 11-15. We may assume also in regard to reports of shorter utterances, that they rest upon authentic transmission. Cf. iii. 113. § 2 ff.; viii. 53. § 3; ii.12.14. The few statements of this character, which are introduced in direct or indirect speech, have the effect of great vividness and present to us an important crisis with high distinctness. When, however, events develop themselves in rapid succession and the press of circumstances forbids the employment of set speeches, the brief and condensed resumes of what was said serve to enliven the narrative. Compare the considerable extracts from the second speech of Pericles, ii. 13; from Cleon's speeches, iv. 22. and 28. It is probably for this reason that in the eighth book, when the changes are so rapid and the character of many transactions there recorded is so peculiar that they did not lend themselves to formal treatment, the thoughts and purposes of the agents are communi-cated indirectly (cf. viii. 27; 46; 53; 63; 67; 76; 81) and we find no complete speeches.
But more than all by his use of speeches Thucydides has secured to his narrative the character of the highest impartiality. He does not indeed occupy the position of an indifferent spectator of events and their results; we are everywhere conscious how completely he is an Athenian in sentiment, and how deeply he sympathizes with the fortunes of Athens, though he never gives expression to this feeling; he belongs indeed by birth and by social position to the aristocratical party, but looks for welfare only in a well-tempered form of government, and is always inclined to those statesmen who unite force of character with good sense and moderation. This sentiment appears in definite expressions as well as by many other indications; but Thucydides always concedes to those entertaining views opposed to his own the right of expressing their reasons; and in the conviction that in human affairs error is always associated with truth, that in political matters absolute right and truth are never wholly on one side, he presents speech and counter-speech with equally clear and careful elaboration. At the very beginning the speeches of the Corcyraeans (i. 32-36) and the Corinthians (i. 37-43) give us an insight into a conflict which from the irritation of the parties no longer admits a peaceable settlement; and the opposition appears with yet greater intensity in the speeches made at Sparta by the Corinthians (i. 68-71) and the Athenians (i. 73-78). At Sparta too the peace party and the war party find their living utterance in the speeches of Archidamus (i. 80-85) and Sthenelaidas (i. 86); but it is felt that passion has now the better of moderation. With excellent effect, therefore, the pre-eminent position of Pericles is set before us. He proves incontestably (i. 140-144) the necessity of the war from a consideration of the dignity and power of Athens, and in a short review (ii. 13) sets forth the sufficiency of her means; and when the beginning of the war does not answer their expectations, he is able in his incomparable funeral oration (ii. 35-46) to keep his fellow-citizens up to the fulness of resolve by the stimulation of a noble and justifiable self-respect; and when undeserved misfortune has bowed their spirit and confidence, in his farewell speech (ii. 60-64) he raises their courage again by calling to mind all the greatness of the past and the present. Not less clearly do we become acquainted with the way in which other leading men thought and acted, from their speeches whether longer or shorter; e.g. Phormio, ii. 89; Demosthenes, iv. 10; Brasidas, iv. 85-87, of whom it is said, en de oude adunatos, hos Lakedaimonios, eipein; Hippocrates, iv. 95; Hermocrates, iv. 59-64; Nicias, vi. 68; vii. 61-64; 77; Gylippus, vii. 66-68; Alcibiades in Sparta, vi. 89-92. But the art of Thucydides in setting forth with objective clearness the reasons pro and con of controverted questions is shown most conspicuously in the speeches of Cleon and Diodotus, iii. 37-40; 42-48, on the Lesbian affair; of the Plataean and Theban deputies, iii. 53-59; 61-67, on the Plataean question; of Nicias and Alcibiades, vi. 9-14; 16-18; 20-23, on the Sicilian expedition; of Hermocrates and Athenagoras, vi. 33-34; 36-40, on the defence of Syracuse; of Hermocrates and the Athenian ambassador Euphemus, vi. 76-80; 82-87, on the accession of Camarina. Without our own choice we find ourselves involved in the conflict of interests, and are put in a position to form judgment for ourselves from the situation of affairs and the feeling of parties. Very seldom does the historian himself add a word of comment. The most remarkable instance of his doing so is found in the declarations which he makes with regard to the transactions in which Cleon takes part; in iii. 36. § 6, on the decision about the Lesbians; and in iv. 21. § 3; 22. § 2; 28. § 3 ff.; 39. § 3, about Pylos and the consequent proposals of peace made by the Lacedaemonians. The strong aversion which Thucydides manifests when he describes the person and actions of Cleon has been attributed in ancient as well as in modern times to the personal reason that Cleon was probably the cause of the banishment of the historian; and this is regarded as a violation of historical impartiality. Grote expresses this opinion most decidedly. But the assumption of any hostile movement on Cleon's part against Thucydides rests only on conjecture, and appears in fact not necessary to explain the unconcealed aversion felt by the historian to Cleon. Thucydides a little more than a year after the death of Pericles, who is the object of his love and admiration, says of Cleon, iii.36.26, on kai es ta alla biaiotatos ton politon toi te demoi para polu en toi tote pithanotatos, and in iv.21.9, with nearly the same words, aner demagogos kat' ekeinon ton chronon on kai toi plethei pithanotatos. We have in these words only the application to a concrete case of the bitter feeling which had already (ii. 65. § 7 ff.) found expression in general terms, where the melancholy contrast is drawn out between the ergoi hupo tou protou andros arche and the ruinous conduct of those who oregomenoi tou protos hekastos gignesthai etraponto kath' hedonas toi demoi kai ta pragmata endidonai. Those judgments about Cleon, whose nature had not a trace of the exalted magnanimity of Pericles, are the legitimate expression of the historian's profound sorrow at the decline of his country, which he saw, after being controlled so gloriously by Pericles, surrendered to the selfseeking ambition of unworthy men. He points thus prominently at Cleon because there can be no doubt that before the Lesbian affair--he was even then toi demoi pithanotatos--he had attained great influence with the mob and had probably embittered the last years of Pericles. If from the speeches in Thucydides the same picture of various personalities presents itself to us as the historian had formed in his own mind, the highest aim is reached which any historian can attain. Genuine impartiality does not exclude judgment and personal conviction in regard either to the wisdom or the moral value of purposes and actions. But it is necessary that we should be furnished with the materials for forming our own opinions independently of the previous judgment of the writer. Thucydides has done this for us to an extent and in a manner which probably no other historian has equalled; and in this lies his imperishable value for all time.
In close correspondence with the effort the historian is evidently always making to get as close as possible to men and things in their real relations, is his expression in language, which he has, we may say, moulded to suit his great task. To form a just appreciation of its peculiarities we must consider first of all that Thucydides was the first to employ the Attic speech for the purposes of historical narrative. It may be said in general that Attic prose as a written language was then in the first stage of its development. It cannot, it is true, be doubted that in the period from Solon to Pericles with its momentous political changes the Attic speech had in the manifold needs of public and private life formed itself to that character of simplicity, clearness, and definiteness by which it is distinguished above all the other Greek dialects. It must have been employed in the literary efforts of the Pisistratidae for many sorts of records; and it is still more certain that after the restoration of freedom the living word of the great statesmen from Clisthenes to Cimon must have exerted the most potent influence on the cultivation and settlement of the language. But this is again in its kind a phenomenon without parallel in history, that a people so rarely dowered as the Greek could live through a long period, crowded with the highest human interest and calling into play all forms of political and intellectual activity, without leaving any evidences of its existence except in artistic form. While the tragedies of Phrynichus and Aeschylus were charming and elevating the Athenian people by the noblest matter in the noblest form, Attic prose was used for hardly any other purposes than those of business.
We cannot decide how much of speeches delivered in the assembly or the courts at an earlier time was either previously or subsequently noted down; in any case the language retained probably longer than any other its character of originality and its capacity of receiving new refinements. It still possessed this union of ripeness and power of fresh development when the first orators, who paid regard to the theory of their art, and Thucydides made use of it. It has been stated above, p. 7 ff., that Thucydides had consciously allowed himself to be influenced by the recent elements of culture, which had been introduced in his youth by philosophers and rhetoricians, and employed by orators like Antiphon; and it is interesting to observe here and there indications of this influence; but it is the chief charm of the language of the his torian that he used it as a master for the freest expression of his personal judgment. There is no trace in his style of blind following of worn-out tradition or of phrases made to a pattern. Whatever his mind at the moment concentrated itself upon, finds a corresponding expression in his words. Accordingly the fundamental character of the language of Thucydides is the greatest simplicity and naturalness. Everything in it that occasions trouble to the understanding of the reader is due to the effort of the writer to give to the expression the most exact correspondence with the matters to be represented. The solution of the difficulty, therefore, is to be found by penetrating into the connexion of fact and thought; the more we are able to do this, the better shall we succeed in getting at the true sense of the words.
The free position which Thucydides occupies in regard to the still unsettled language is seen as well in the choice of particular words as in the order in which they are placed. We find in him a considerable number of expressions which occur only in later imitators; but we must not attribute to him on this account a conscious seeking after what is unusual or antiquated. In some cases our judgment is at fault, because we do not know what was usual in the cultivated speech of his time at Athens; and herein Dionysius himself also was at a loss. We have to make allowance for the creative power of a master mind which is not content to take the inherited material of language as all-sufficient for every need of expression, but understands how to employ new forms according to the necessities of his thought. Thucydides may rightly claim the poietikon ton onomaton and the polueides ton schematon which Dionysius (24. 6) attributes to him; but he is far from abusing in an arbitrary and capricious way the right of innovation which a language in the fresh [p. 49] ness of its vigour concedes to a subtle and accurate thinker, though this is what Dionysius with little insight, charges him with. A list of all the words which are peculiar to Thucydides or nearly so will show such forms only as are in accordance with the spirit of the Greek language; and a close examination will, in all cases, make manifest their fitness for use in their several places. In proof of this attention may be called to two of the usages which are of especially frequent occurrence. He uses probably oftener than any other writer the neuter singular of adjectives and participles as abstract substantives; e.g. to piston, to bradu, to tolmeron, to epieikes, to xuneton, to dedios, to boulomenon, to orgizomenon, to epithumoun, to thumoumenon, etc. There is in this no capricious mannerism; but he is striving to clothe the abstract idea in a dress which may render it in the particular case more easy of apprehension, while at the same time the neuter secures the maintenance of that indefiniteness which pertains to the notion itself. To a similar effort to elevate general conceptions as far as possible to distinct apprehension is due his tendency to employ verbal nouns in -tes and -sis. Examples of the former occur in i.70.10; 138. 14; of the latter, i.141.6; iii.82.20-30. Dionysius ascribes this tendency to mere wilfulness. Hermogenes shows a better judgment when he attributes the frequent employment of nominal forms instead of verbal ones to an effort to give to the expression of the thought greater dignity and elevation than could be secured by the use of the corresponding verbs.
The position of words is of yet more importance in the style of Thucydides. It is a law of the Greek language that the order of internal importance shall as far as possible be manifested in the order of external position; not indeed that the external arrange ment defines the importance of the words; but the oral utterance obeys its own special laws, and natural feeling permits these to be treated with freedom. Here much must be left to the observation of the reader; but a few observations of far-reaching application may be offered.
(1) Thucydides is fond of placing at the beginning of a sentence the principal object in the accusative, giving thus as it were in a single word the theme of the discussion. In these cases the grammatical connexion is often relaxed and sometimes wholly abandoned. Cf. i.32.18, and the examples there cited. Similarly portions of the predicate are placed before the conjunction which introduces the sentence. Cf. i.19.3; 77. 6; ii.65.7.
(2) A general predicate noun is placed first in connexion with a following superlative, as noted on i.1.8; by this arrangement the noun becomes as it were the text of the following remark.
(3) Of a different kind are the numerous cases in which a noun without the article is placed before a qualifying participle or adjective with the article; for this throws the principal stress on the qualifying word; for examples see on i.1.6. This order is frequent also in Herodotus, but comparatively rare in other Attic writers.
(4) Partitive genitives, as representing the principal notion, generally stand before the governing nouns, particularly in designations of places, when the name of the country usually precedes that of a portion of it. See on i.100.15. So the objective genitive stands between a preposition and the noun on which it depends. See on i.32.8.
(5) Two clauses closely related and connected by a copula --as two objects of the same verb, two verbs with the same object, two predicates--are often separated by another word of importance. This is not peculiar to Thucydides but is a favourite arrangement with him. The effect of it is not to dislocate the structure, but the interposed obstruction forces into notice the essential connexion of the separated clauses. Examples of this occur on nearly every page; as in i.69.4 (eleutherias), 17 (tina), 18 (ten auxesin).
(6) Conversely a parallelism in structure occasionally is found where there is no exact correspondence in thought. Cf. i.33.12; 69. 32; 138. 18; ii.61.19; 74. 16.
(7) Great weight is sometimes laid upon an adverbial expression by its position at the close of the sentence, an arrangement often used by Demosthenes. Cf. i.28.12; 77. 19; 133. 8; ii.7.18.
Thucydides has made large use of the period with its complete structure of protasis, apodosis, and subordinate clauses. But in the simple narrative he prefers to allow the circumstances of an event to follow one another in coordination. We often find, accordingly, a long series of short sentences, united together by various connective particles, which everywhere demand attentive consideration, and none of them to a greater degree than the apparently insignificant te, the effect of which has often been pointed out in the commentary. By a paratactic arrangement of sentences he often produces a greater effect than we should have expected. See on i.26.16,81 and the examples there cited. We may notice also that it is taken for granted that attention to the course of the narrative when it is clearly stated will suffice to prevent confusion, when, without special notice, the subject is changed, as is more frequently done than is usual with us; and even within the limits of the same sentence the extension of the subject is enlarged or narrowed, when the circumstances introduced require such a modification, so that at the end the same term is to be taken in a wider or a more restricted sense than it was at the beginning. See on i.18.21; 61. 9; 124. 7; ii.54.4; iii.23.1; 53. 17; iv.6.3; etc.
The transition from the paratactic arrangement to the period proper is found in the annexing of an explanatory member with gar at the beginning of a long sentence. This is not indeed so frequent as it is in Homer (see Classen, Beobachtungen uber den homerischen Sprachgebrauch, p. 6 ff.) and in Herodotus, but is found often enough in Thucydides (see on i.31.7); and the examples noted on i.72.1; 115. 14 show how closely this arrangement approximated to the actual period. It is in such passages that we best apprehend the effort of the writer to give complete expression to his thought by means of a vehicle not yet reduced to entire flexibility. Thucydides shares with all energetic thinkers the desire to use no superfluous words. It is not surprising, therefore, that we cannot without trouble penetrate through the condensed phrase to the full apprehension of his meaning, especially in those cases where the most hidden processes of thought and feeling are to be indicated. It cannot be asserted that Thucydides aims at brevity and finds pleasure in dark expressions. The truth is that in the department in which he laboured the Greek language had little or nothing previously worked out, and that he had often to wrestle painfully with a resisting material to find satisfactory expression for what he desired to say. The evidence of this laborious effort is to be seen in many inequalities in the work. Still, where the text is not certainly corrupt, honest and resolute effort will always succeed in grasping the true sense of the writer even in the most difficult passages. The task of understanding Thucydides in all his parts and all his peculiarities is, it is true, no light one, but it well repays the effort. It bestows in preeminent degree the satisfactory feeling of sharing the labour of thought with a profound and noble intellect. We can observe how in particular cases the thought of the writer has even in the very moulding of his sentence taken a direction different from that he started with, and thus has shifted into inconsistency of expression. See on i.4.7; 18. 18; 23. 11; 38. 11; 40. 8; 69. 33; 70. 18; 72. 9; etc. It is this occasional divergence from the customary rule that creates the greatest difficulty in following the course of the thought of the writer with intelligence and sympathetic appreciation.
As we could reach no certainty with regard to the end of the life of Thucydides, so the early history of the work he left must remain in darkness. Modern scholars are at variance even as to the form in which the eighth book was left. Some regard the absence of speeches as a proof that its author had not given it its final form: others find this fact sufficiently explained by the character of the events recorded in it. The latter view is probably correct: yet there are many points of style and matter which seem to indicate that the book did not receive the last revision of the author, particularly the fact that it breaks off in the midst of a narrative uncompleted. This, combined with the divergent statements as to the manner and place of the death of the writer, gave occasion even in antiquity to various conjectures, which are recorded by Marcellinus, § 43, 44; as that a daughter of Thucydides wrote the book, or Theopompus, or Xenophon. There is no probability internal or external for any one of these. There may be so much truth as this: that the daughter of Thucydides, after her father's sudden death by an attack of robbers, saved his unfinished work from destruction, and gave it for publication to some person who by his interest or personal position was fitted for the task. The names of Theopompus and Xenophon are evidently mentioned only because each of them was known to have continued the history of Thucydides. Theopompus, indeed, could have been hardly born at the time of the death of Thucydides. As to Xenophon, we read in Diog. Laert. ii.6.57, legetai hoti kai ta Thoukudidou biblia lanthanonta huphelesthai dunamenos autos eis doxan egagen. This statement that Xenophon made known to fame the books of Thucydides when he might have suppressed them, may suggest that they were intrusted to him by the historian's daughter: but to treat this as an established fact is to go too far; yet Letronne has done this when, assuming that Xenophon could have published the history of Thucydides only before his own expedition to Asia in 400, he fancies that he has thus secured a fixed limit for the life of Thucydides. Certainty on these points cannot be attained even by the most acute combination.
The division of the work into eight books is founded upon a just consideration of the facts. The first book contains the introduction proper and all preliminary notices; the second, third, and fourth contain the first nine years of the Archidamian war, three in each; the fifth, the concluding year of the same with the intermediate period of eirene hupoulos; the sixth and seventh, the Sicilian expedition from its hopeful beginning to its disastrous close; the eighth, all that follows this in the Decelean and Ionian wars, so far as the history extends. This division, however, was probably not made by Thucydides himself; for, if it had been, it is not likely that any others would have obtained currency, which Marcellinus, § 58, asserts to have been the case, one division being into thirteen books. It was probably introduced, like similar divisions of other works, in Alexandria, and maintained itself in use from that time on, since Dionysius and other grammarians commonly make use of it. Dionysius is wont also to define particular portions of the work by the number of their lines or stichoi. For example, the first chapters amount to 2000 stichoi (De Thuc. iud. 10. 5); the proem alone, i. 1-23, to 500 (ibid. 19. 1); the reflexions on the Corcyraean sedition, iii. 82, 83, to 100 (ibid. 33. 1). We see that the lines of his Ms. contained a number of letters less by about a sixth than those of our ordinary editions. The passages named above contain in Bekker's stereotype edition about 1700, 440, and 85 lines respectively.
This text is cited August 2004 from Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Sources for Thucydides:
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, tr. Richard Crawley.
F. M. Cornford, Thucydides Mythistoricus.
Gregory Crane, The Case of Plataia: Start of a World War and an End of History
John M. Finley, Three Essays on Thucydides.
Thomas Hobbes, On the Life and History of Thucydides.
The e-texts of the works by Thucydides are found in Greece (ancient country) under the category Ancient Greek Writings .
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