Ancient History & Civilisation


All modern inquiry on Thucydides is based on A. W. Gomme, A. Andrewes, and K. J. Dover’s five-volume A Historical Commentary on Thucydides (Oxford, 1945-1981). TheCommentary is much more than a running guide to the Greek text of Thucydides; in addition it serves as a philologically based history of fifth-century Greece itself. More recently, Simon Hornblower has published the first installment (Oxford, 1991) of a proposed two-volume A Commentary on Thucydides, which is planned to update, but not to replace, Gomme et al., incorporating more recent advances in archaeological discovery and modern secondary historical and philological research. Hornblower has wisely designed his commentary to appeal to the growing number of introductory students working entirely from an English translation of Thucydides.

Both the most recent and the most accessible surveys of Thucydides in English are Simon Hornblower’s Thucydides (Baltimore, 1986), and W. R. Connor’s similarly entitled Thucydides(Princeton, N.J., 1984). Connor’s book is the more approachable for the student, providing an empathetic and often moving account of the historian and his subject matter within a formal summary of the eight books of the history. Hornblower, in contrast, is concerned with introducing the scholarly problems that arise from the specialist’s use of Thucydides. One finds within the latter’s eight chapters an introduction to controversies over methodology, dating, the speeches, and Thucydides’ own notion of history itself.

Literally hundreds of comprehensive articles and books have been written in the last two centuries on Thucydides in the modern European languages. Most are specialist studies of authorship, language, structure, and dating, and many of the best remain untranslated in German. However, some of this valuable work of K. von Fritz, O. Luschnat, E. Schwartz, and W. Schadewaldt can still be accessed in English through derivative criticism in F. Adcock’s well-written Thucydides and His History (Cambridge, 1963); F. M. Cornford’s widely speculative, but at times brilliant Thucydides Mythistoricus (London, 1907); J. de Romilly’s Thucydides and Athenian Imperialism, trans. P. Thody (Oxford, 1963); and especially the essays by A. Momigliano (Studies in Historiography [London, 1966]) and M. I. Finley(Ancient History: Evidence and Models [London, 1985]), which contain random though invaluable insights into Thucydides’ place in the tradition of Greek historiography. Less detailed efforts also draw on the same material in placing the thought and language of Thucydides within the intellectual landscape of his times. The two best shorter summaries still remain J. H. Finley’s Three Essays on Thucydides and K. J. Dover’s brief Thucydides (Oxford, 1973).

Standard encyclopedias of Greek history and literature contain well-summarized entries on Thucydides as historian, philosopher, and literary artist. The four most useful and available articles are found in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, Vol. 1: Greek Literature, ed. P. E. Easterling and B.M.W. Knox (Cambridge, 1985); The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 5: The Fifth Century B.C., ed. D. M. Lewis, J. Boardman, J. K. Davies, and M. Ostwald (Cambridge, 1992); A. Lesky, A History of Greek Literature, trans. J. Willis-C. de Heer (London, 1966); and a brief sketch in W. K. C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, 6 vols. (Cambridge, 1962-1980).

Finally, general accounts of the Peloponnesian War critique Thucydides’ investigative accuracy and his overall value in reconstructing Greek history of the period. The two most engaging summaries of Thucydides as historian of the war between Athens and Sparta are found in D. Kagan’s sober The Archidamian War (Ithaca, 1974), the first volume of a comprehensive and indispensable four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War, and G. E. M. de Ste. Croix’s brilliant but often combative The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (London, 1972). G. B. Grundy’s Thucydides and the History of His Age (Oxford, 1948) was written before many of the important fifth-century Attic inscriptions were published, but it remains a fascinating review of Thucydides’ own knowledge about the military, economic, and social conditions of fifth-century Greece.




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