24.10.16

Thucydides

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Thucydides, (born 460 bc or earlier?—died after 404 bc?) greatest of ancient Greek historians and author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which recounts the struggle between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century bc. His work was the first recorded political and moral analysis of a nation’s war policies.
Thucydides manuscript, 3rd century bc (Hamburg, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, P. …
Courtesy of Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Hamburg

He has also been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcome of relations between states as ultimately mediated by and constructed upon the emotions of fear and self-interest. His text is still studied at both universities and advanced military colleges worldwide. The Melian dialogue remains a seminal work of international relations theory while Pericles' Funeral Oration is widely studied in political theory, history, and classical studies.

More generally, Thucydides showed an interest in developing an understanding of human nature to explain behaviour in such crises as plague, massacres, as in that of the Melians, and civil war.

All that is certainly known (perhaps all that ancient scholars knew) of Thucydides’ life is what he reveals about himself in the course of his narrative. He was an Athenian, old enough when the war began to estimate its importance and judge that it was likely to be a long one and to write an account of it, observing and making notes from its beginning. He was probably born, therefore, not later than 460—perhaps a few years earlier since his detailed narrative begins, just before 431, with the events which provoked the war. He was certainly older than 30 when he was elected stratēgos, a military magistrate of great importance, in 424. Hence, he belongs to the generation younger than that of the Greek historian Herodotus.

His father’s name was Olorus, which is not known as an Athenian name; Olorus was probably of Thracian descent on his mother’s side. Thucydides was related in some way to the great Athenian statesman and general Miltiades, who had married the daughter of a Thracian prince of this name. He himself had property in Thrace, including mining rights in the gold mines opposite the island of Thasos, and was, he tells us, a man of influence there.

He was in Athens when the great pestilence of 430–429 raged; he caught the disease himself and saw others suffer. Later, in 424, he was elected one of the 10 stratēgoi of the year and, because of his connections, was given command of the fleet in the Thraceward region, based at Thasos. He failed to prevent the capture of the important city of Amphipolis by the Spartan general Brasidas, who launched a sudden attack in the middle of winter. Because of this blunder, Thucydides was recalled, tried, and sentenced to exile. This, he says later, gave him greater opportunity for undistracted study for his History and for travel and wider contacts, especially on the Peloponnesian side—Sparta and its allies.

He lived through the war, and his exile of 20 years ended only with the fall of Athens and the peace of 404. The time and manner of his death are uncertain, but that he died shortly after 404 is probable, and that he died by violence in the troubled times following the peace may well be true, for the History stops abruptly, long before its appointed end. His tomb and a monument to his memory were still to be seen in Athens in the 2nd century ad.

The remaining evidence for Thucydides's life comes from rather less reliable later ancient sources. According to Pausanias, someone named Oenobius was able to get a law passed allowing Thucydides to return to Athens, presumably sometime shortly after the city's surrender and the end of the war in 404 BC.[15] Pausanias goes on to say that Thucydides was murdered on his way back to Athens. Many doubt this account, seeing evidence to suggest he lived as late as 397 BC. Plutarch claims that his remains were returned to Athens and placed in Cimon's family vault.[16]

The abrupt end to Thucydides's narrative, which breaks off in the middle of the year 411 BC, has traditionally been interpreted as indicating that he died while writing the book, although other explanations have been put forward.

Inferences about Thucydides's character can only be drawn (with due caution) from his book. His sardonic sense of humour is evident throughout, as when, during his description of the Athenian plague, he remarks that old Athenians seemed to remember a rhyme which said that with the Dorian War would come a "great death". Some claimed that the rhyme was actually about a [death by] "famine" or "starvation" (limos – Greek λιμός), and was only remembered as [death by] "pestilence" (loimos – Greek λοιμός) due to the current plague. Thucydides then remarks that should another Dorian War come, this time attended with a great dearth, the rhyme will be remembered as "dearth," and any mention of "death" forgotten.

Thucydides admired Pericles, approving of his power over the people and showing a marked distaste for the demagogues who followed him. He did not approve of the democratic mob nor the radical democracy that Pericles ushered in but considered democracy acceptable when guided by a good leader. Thucydides's presentation of events is generally even-handed; for example, he does not minimize the negative effect of his own failure at Amphipolis. Occasionally, however, strong passions break through, as in his scathing appraisals of the demagogues Cleon and Hyperbolus. Cleon has sometimes been connected with Thucydides's exile.

That Thucydides was clearly moved by the suffering inherent in war and concerned about the excesses to which human nature is prone in such circumstances is evident in his analysis of the atrocities committed during civil conflict on Corcyra, which includes the phrase "War is a violent teacher" (Greek πόλεμος βίαιος διδάσκαλος).

The History, which is divided into eight books, probably not by Thucydides’ design, stops in the middle of the events of the autumn of 411 bc, more than six and a half years before the end of the war. This much at least is known: that three historians, Cratippus (a younger contemporary), Xenophon (who lived a generation later), and Theopompus (who lived in the last third of the 4th century), all began their histories of Greece where Thucydides left off. Xenophon, one might say, began the next paragraph nearly as abruptly as Thucydides ended his.

So it is certain that Thucydides’ work was well known soon after publication and that no more was ever published other than the eight books that have survived; it may reasonably be inferred from the silence of the available sources that no separate section of the work was published in his lifetime. It may also be inferred that parts of the History, and the last book in particular, are defective, in the sense that he would have written at greater length had he known more and that he was trying still to learn more—e.g., of internal Athenian politics in the years of “uneasy truce.” His existing narrative is in parts barely understandable without some imaginative guesswork.

It may be assumed, then, that there are three fairly definable stages in his work: first, the “notes” he made of events as they occurred; secondly, the arrangement and rewriting of these notes into a consecutive narrative, as a “chronicle,” but by no means in the final form that Thucydides intended; thirdly, the final, elaborated narrative—of the preliminaries of the war (Book i), of the “Ten Years’ War,” and of the Athenian expedition to conquer Sicily. Thucydides supplemented his note stage throughout the project; even the most elaborated parts of the History may have been added right up to the time of his death—certainly many additions were made after the war was over.

All this is significant because Thucydides was writing what few others have attempted—a strictly contemporary history of events that he lived through and that succeeded each other almost throughout his adult life. He endeavoured to do more than merely record events, in some of which he took an active part and in all of which he was a direct or indirect spectator; he attempted to write the final history for later generations, and, as far as a man can and as no other man has, he succeeded.

It is obvious that he did not rush his work; the last of the complete narrative (stage three, above) took him to the autumn of 413, eight and a half years before the end of the war, the last of stage two, to six and a half years before. During these last years he was observing, inquiring, writing his notes, adding to or modifying what he had already written; at no time before the end, during all the 27 years of the war, did he know what that end would be nor, therefore, what would be the length and the final shape of his own History. It is evident that he did not long survive the war since he did not leave any connected account, even at stage two, of the last six years. But in what he lived to complete, he wrote a definitive history.

Thucydides believed that the Peloponnesian War represented an event of unmatched magnitude.As such, he began to write the History at the onset of the war in 431. His intention was to write an account of the events of the late fifth century which would serve as "a possession for all time".The history breaks off near the end of the 21st year of the war and does not elaborate on the final conflicts of the war. This facet of the work suggests that Thucydides died whilst writing his history and more so, that his death was unexpected.

After his death, Thucydides's history was subdivided into eight books: its modern title is the History of the Peloponnesian War. His great contribution to history and historiography is contained in this one dense history of the 27-year war between Athens and Sparta, each with their respective allies. This subdividing was most likely done by librarians and archivists, themselves being historians and scholars, most likely working in the Library of Alexandria.

The History of the Peloponnesian War continued to be modified well beyond the end of the war in 404, as exemplified by a reference at Book I.1.13[30] to the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War (404 BCE), seven years after the last events in the main text of Thucydides' history.

Thucydides is generally regarded as one of the first true historians. Like his predecessor Herodotus, known as "the father of history", Thucydides places a high value on eyewitness testimony and writes about events in which he himself probably took part. He also assiduously consulted written documents and interviewed participants about the events that he recorded. Unlike Herodotus, whose stories often teach that a foolish arrogance invites the wrath of the gods, Thucydides does not acknowledge divine intervention in human affairs.

Thucydides exerted wide historiographical influence on subsequent Hellenistic and Roman historians, though the exact description of his style in relation to many successive historians remains unclear.[33] Readers in antiquity often placed the continuation of the stylistic legacy of the History in the writings of Thucydides' putative intellectual successor Xenophon. Such readings often described Xenophon's treatises as attempts to "finish" Thucydides' History. Many of these interpretations, however, have garnered significant scepticism among modern scholars, such as Dillery, who spurn the view of interpreting Xenophon qua Thucydides, arguing that the latter's "modern" history (defined as constructed based on literary and historical themes) is antithetical to the former's account in the Hellenica, which diverges from the Hellenic historiographical tradition in its absence of a preface or introduction to the text and the associated lack of an "overarching concept" unifying the history.

A noteworthy difference between Thucydides's method of writing history and that of modern historians is Thucydides's inclusion of lengthy formal speeches that, as he himself states, were literary reconstructions rather than actual quotations of what was said — or, perhaps, what he believed ought to have been said. Arguably, had he not done this, the gist of what was said would not otherwise be known at all — whereas today there is a plethora of documentation — written records, archives and recording technology for historians to consult. Therefore, Thucydides's method served to rescue his mostly oral sources from oblivion. We do not know how these historical figures actually spoke. Thucydides's recreation uses a heroic stylistic register. A celebrated example is Pericles' funeral oration, which heaps honour on the dead and includes a defence of democracy:

The whole earth is the sepulchre of famous men; they are honoured not only by columns and inscriptions in their own land, but in foreign nations on memorials graven not on stone but in the hearts and minds of men. 2:43

Stylistically, the placement of this passage also serves to heighten the contrast with the description of the plague in Athens immediately following it, which graphically emphasizes the horror of human mortality, thereby conveying a powerful sense of verisimilitude:

Though many lay unburied, birds and beasts would not touch them, or died after tasting them [...]. The bodies of dying men lay one upon another, and half-dead creatures reeled about the streets and gathered round all the fountains in their longing for water. The sacred places also in which they had quartered themselves were full of corpses of persons who had died there, just as they were; for, as the disaster passed all bounds, men, not knowing what was to become of them, became equally contemptuous of the gods' property and the gods' dues. All the burial rites before in use were entirely upset, and they buried the bodies as best they could. Many from want of the proper appliances, through so many of their friends having died already, had recourse to the most shameless sepultures: sometimes getting the start of those who had raised a pile, they threw their own dead body upon the stranger's pyre and ignited it; sometimes they tossed the corpse which they were carrying on the top of another that was burning, and so went off. 2:52

Thucydides omits discussion of the arts, literature or the social milieu in which the events in his book take place and in which he himself grew up. He saw himself as recording an event, not a period, and went to considerable lengths to exclude what he deemed frivolous or extraneous.

History of the Peloponnesian War
The History of the Peloponnesian War (Greek: Ιστορία του Πελοποννησιακού Πολέμου) is a historical account of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), which was fought between the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) and the Delian League (led by Athens). It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian historian who also happened to serve as an Athenian general during the war. His account of the conflict is widely considered to be a classic and regarded as one of the earliest scholarly works of history. The History is divided into eight books.

Analyses of the History generally occur in one of two camps. On the one hand, some scholars view the work as an objective and scientific piece of history. The judgment of J. B. Bury reflects his traditional interpretation of the work: "[The History is] severe in its detachment, written from a purely intellectual point of view, unencumbered with platitudes and moral judgments, cold and critical."

On the other hand, in keeping with more recent interpretations that are associated with reader-response criticism, the History can be read as a piece of literature rather than an objective record of the historical events. This view is embodied in the words of W. R. Connor, who describes Thucydides as "an artist who responds to, selects and skillfully arranges his material, and develops its symbolic and emotional potential."

Philosophical outlook and influences
Paul Shorey thematizes Thucydides' outlook by calling him "a cynic devoid of moral sensibility." In addition, he notes that Thucydides conceived of man's nature as strictly determined by the physical and social environments, alongside basic desires.

Thucydides' work indicates an influence from the teachings of the Sophists that contributes substantially to the thinking and character of his History Possible evidence includes the skeptical ideas concerning justice and morality. There are also elements within the History - such as his views on nature revolving around the factual, empirical, and the non-anthropomorphic - which permit the stipulation awareness, if not subscription to, the views of philosophers like Anaxagores and Democritus. There is also evidence of his knowledge concerning some of the corpus of Hippocratic medical writings.

Thucydides is especially interested in the relationship between human intelligence and judgment, Fortune and Necessity, and that history, as in life, is too irrational and incalculable to predict

Critical interpretation
Scholars traditionally view Thucydides as recognizing and teaching the lesson that democracies need leadership, but that leadership can be dangerous to democracy. Leo Strauss (in The City and Man) locates the problem in the nature of Athenian democracy itself, about which, he argued, Thucydides had a deeply ambivalent view: on one hand, Thucydides's own "wisdom was made possible" by the Periclean democracy, which had the effect of liberating individual daring, enterprise and questioning spirit, but this same liberation, by permitting the growth of limitless political ambition, led to imperialism and, eventually, civic strife.

For Canadian historian Charles Norris Cochrane (1889–1945), Thucydides's fastidious devotion to observable phenomena, focus on cause and effect, and strict exclusion of other factors anticipates twentieth century scientific positivism. Cochrane, the son of a physician, speculated that Thucydides generally (and especially in describing the plague in Athens) was influenced by the methods and thinking of early medical writers such as Hippocrates of Kos.

After World War II, Classical scholar Jacqueline de Romilly pointed out that the problem of Athenian imperialism was one of Thucydides's central preoccupations and situated his history in the context of Greek thinking about international politics. Since the appearance of her study, other scholars further examined Thucydides's treatment of realpolitik.

More recently, scholars have questioned the perception of Thucydides as simply "the father of realpolitik". Instead they have brought to the fore the literary qualities of the History, which they see as belonging to the narrative tradition of Homer and Hesiod and as concerned with the concepts of justice and suffering found in Plato and Aristotle and problematized in Aeschylus and Sophocles.Richard Ned Lebow terms Thucydides "the last of the tragedians", stating that "Thucydides drew heavily on epic poetry and tragedy to construct his history, which not surprisingly is also constructed as a narrative." In this view, the blind and immoderate behaviour of the Athenians (and indeed of all the other actors), though perhaps intrinsic to human nature, ultimately leads to their downfall. Thus his History could serve as a warning to future leaders to be more prudent, by putting them on notice that someone would be scrutinizing their actions with a historian's objectivity rather than a chronicler's flattery.

Authority of his work
He kept to a strict chronological scheme, and, where it can be accurately tested by the eclipses that he mentions, it fits closely. There are also a fair number of contemporary documents recorded on stone, most of which confirm his account both in general and in detail. There is the silent testimony of the three historians who began where he left off, not attempting, in spite of much independence of opinion, to revise what he had already done, not even the last book, which he clearly did not complete. Another historian, Philistus, a Syracusan who was a boy during the Athenian siege of his city, had little to alter or to add to Thucydides’ account in his own History of Sicily. Above all, there are the contemporary political comedies of Aristophanes—a man about 15 years younger than Thucydides with as different a temper and writing purpose as could be—which remarkably reinforce the reliability of the historian’s dark picture of Athens at war. The modern historian of this war is in much the same position as the ancient: he cannot do much more than translate, abridge, or enlarge upon Thucydides.

For Thucydides kept rigidly to his theme: the history of a war—that is, a story of battles and sieges, of alliances hastily made and soon broken, and, most important, of the behaviour of peoples as the war dragged on and on, of the inevitable “corrosion of the human spirit.” He vividly narrates exciting episodes and carefully describes tactics on land and sea. He gives a picture, direct in speeches, indirect in the narrative, of the ambitious imperialism of Athens—controlled ambition in Pericles, reckless in Alcibiades, debased in Cleon—ever confident that nothing was impossible for them, resilient after the worst disaster. He shows also the opposing picture of the slow steadiness of Sparta, sometimes so successful, at other times so accommodating to the enemy.

His record of Pericles’ speech on those killed in the first year of the war is the most glowing account of Athens and Athenian democracy that any leading citizen could hope to hear. It is followed (in, of course, due chronological order) by a minutely accurate account of the symptoms of the pestilence (“so that it may be recognized by medical men if it recurs”) and a moving description of the demoralizing despair that overtook men after so much suffering and such heavy losses—probably more than a quarter of the population, most of it crowded within the walls of the city, died.

Equally moving is the account of the last battles in the great harbour of Syracuse and of the Athenian retreat. In one of his best-known passages he analyzes by a most careful choice of words, almost creating the language as he writes, the moral and political effects of civil strife within a state in time of war. By a different method, in speeches, he portrays the hard fate of the town of Plataea due to the long-embittered envy and cruelty of Thebes and the faithlessness of Sparta, and the harsh brutality of Cleon when he proposed to execute all the men of the Aegean island city of Mytilene. Occasionally, he is forced into personal comment, as on the pathetic fate of the virtuous and much-liked Athenian Nicias.

He had strong feelings, both as a man and as a citizen of Athens. He was filled with a passion for the truth as he saw it, which not only kept him free from vulgar partiality against the enemy but served him as a historian in the accurate narrative of events—accurate in their detail and order and also in their relative importance. He does not, for example, exaggerate the significance of the campaign he himself commanded, nor does he offer a self-defense for his failure. Characteristically, he mentions his exile not as an event of the war but in his “second preface”—after the peace of 421—to explain his opportunities of wider contacts.

Subsequent fame
The story of his later fame is a curious one. It has been mentioned above that in the two generations after his death three historians began their work where he had left off; but, apart from this silent tribute and late stories of his great influence on the orator Demosthenes, Thucydides is nowhere referred to in surviving 4th-century literature, not even in Aristotle, who, in his Constitution of Athens, describes the revolution in Athens in 411 and diverges in many ways from Thucydides’ account.

It was not until the end of the 4th century that the philosopher Theophrastus coupled Thucydides with Herodotus as a founder of the writing of history. Little is known of what the scholars of Alexandria and Pergamum did for his book; but copies of it were being made in considerable numbers in Egypt and so, doubtless, elsewhere, from the 1st to the 5th century ad. By the 1st century bc, as is clear from the writings of Cicero and Dionysius (who vainly disputed his preeminence), Thucydides was established as the great historian, and since that time his fame has been secure.

Versus Herodotus
Herodotus and Thucydides

Thucydides and his immediate predecessor Herodotus both exerted a significant influence on Western historiography. Thucydides does not mention his counterpart by name, but his famous introductory statement is thought to refer to him:

To hear this history rehearsed, for that there be inserted in it no fables, shall be perhaps not delightful. But he that desires to look into the truth of things done, and which (according to the condition of humanity) may be done again, or at least their like, shall find enough herein to make him think it profitable. And it is compiled rather for an everlasting possession than to be rehearsed for a prize. 1:22

Herodotus records in his Histories not only the events of the Persian Wars but also geographical and ethnographical information, as well as the fables related to him during his extensive travels. Typically, he passes no definitive judgment on what he has heard. In the case of conflicting or unlikely accounts, he presents both sides, says what he believes and then invites readers to decide for themselves. The work of Herodotus is reported to have been recited at festivals, where prizes were awarded, as for example, during the games at Olympia.

Herodotus views history as a source of moral lessons, with conflicts and wars as misfortunes flowing from initial acts of injustice perpetuated through cycles of revenge. In contrast, Thucydides claims to confine himself to factual reports of contemporary political and military events, based on unambiguous, first-hand, eye-witness accounts, although, unlike Herodotus, he does not reveal his sources. Thucydides views life exclusively as political life, and history in terms of political history. Conventional moral considerations play no role in his analysis of political events while geographic and ethnographic aspects are omitted or, at best, of secondary importance. Subsequent Greek historians — such as Ctesias, Diodorus, Strabo, Polybius and Plutarch — held up Thucydides's writings as a model of truthful history. Lucian refers to Thucydides as having given Greek historians their law, requiring them to say what had been done (ὡς ἐπράχθη). Greek historians of the fourth century BC accepted that history was political and that contemporary history was the proper domain of a historian. Cicero calls Herodotus the "father of history;" yet the Greek writer Plutarch, in his Moralia (Ethics) denigrated Herodotus, notably calling him a philobarbaros, a "barbarian lover', to the detriment of the Greeks. Unlike Thucydides, however, these authors all continued to view history as a source of moral lessons.

Due to the loss of the ability to read Greek, Thucydides and Herodotus were largely forgotten during the Middle Ages in Western Europe, although their influence continued in the Byzantine world. In Europe, Herodotus become known and highly respected only in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century as an ethnographer, in part due to the discovery of America, where customs and animals were encountered even more surprising than what he had related. During the Reformation, moreover, information about Middle Eastern countries in the Histories provided a basis for establishing Biblical chronology as advocated by Isaac Newton.

The first European translation of Thucydides (into Latin) was made by the humanist Lorenzo Valla between 1448 and 1452, and the first Greek edition was published by Aldo Manuzio in 1502. During the Renaissance, however, Thucydides attracted less interest among Western European historians as a political philosopher than his successor, Polybius, although Poggio Bracciolini claimed to have been influenced by him. There is not much trace of Thucydides's influence in Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince (1513), which held that the chief aim of a new prince must be to "maintain his state" [i.e., his power] and that in so doing he is often compelled to act against faith, humanity and religion. Later historians, such as J. B. Bury, however, have noted parallels between them:

If, instead of a history, Thucydides had written an analytical treatise on politics, with particular reference to the Athenian empire, it is probable that . . . he could have forestalled Machiavelli. . . .[since] the whole innuendo of the Thucydidean treatment of history agrees with the fundamental postulate of Machiavelli, the supremacy of reason of state. To maintain a state said the Florentine thinker, "a statesman is often compelled to act against faith, humanity and religion." . . . But . . . the true Machiavelli, not the Machiavelli of fable. . . entertained an ideal: Italy for the Italians, Italy freed from the stranger: and in the service of this ideal he desired to see his speculative science of politics applied. Thucydides has no political aim in view: he was purely a historian. But it was part of the method of both alike to eliminate conventional sentiment and morality.

In the seventeenth century, the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose Leviathan advocated absolute monarchy, admired Thucydides and in 1628 was the first to translate his writings into English directly from Greek. Thucydides, Hobbes and Machiavelli are together considered the founding fathers of political realism, according to which state policy must primarily or solely focus on the need to maintain military and economic power rather than on ideals or ethics.

Nineteenth-century positivist historians stressed what they saw as Thucydides's seriousness, his scientific objectivity and his advanced handling of evidence. A virtual cult following developed among such German philosophers as Friedrich Schelling, Friedrich Schlegel and Friedrich Nietzsche, who claimed that, "[in Thucydides], the portrayer of man, that culture of the most impartial knowledge of the world finds its last glorious flower." The late-18th century Swiss historian Johannes von Müller described Thucydides as 'the favourite author of the greatest and noblest men, and one of the best teachers of the wisdom of human life.' For Eduard Meyer, Macaulay and Leopold von Ranke, who initiated modern source-based history writing, Thucydides was again the model historian.

Generals and statesmen loved him: the world he drew was theirs, an exclusive power-brokers' club. It is no accident that even today Thucydides turns up as a guiding spirit in military academies, neocon think tanks and the writings of men like Henry Kissinger; whereas Herodotus has been the choice of imaginative novelists (Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient and the film based on it boosted the sale of the Histories to a wholly unforeseen degree) and — as food for a starved soul — of an equally imaginative foreign correspondent from Iron Curtain Poland, Ryszard Kapuscinski.

These historians also admired Herodotus, however, as social and ethnographic history increasingly came to be recognized as complementary to political history. In the twentieth century, this trend gave rise to the works of Johan Huizinga, Marc Bloch and Braudel, who pioneered the study of long-term cultural and economic developments and the patterns of everyday life. The Annales School, which exemplifies this direction, has been viewed as extending the tradition of Herodotus.

At the same time, Thucydides's influence was increasingly important in the area of international relations during the Cold War, through the work of Hans Morgenthau, Leo Strauss and Edward Carr.

The tension between the Thucydidean and Herodotean traditions extends beyond historical research. According to Irving Kristol, self-described founder of American Neoconservatism, Thucydides wrote "the favorite neoconservative text on foreign affairs";[69] and Thucydides is a required text at the Naval War College, an American institution located in Rhode Island. On the other hand, Daniel Mendelsohn, in a review of a recent edition of Herodotus, suggests that, at least in his graduate school days during the Cold War, professing admiration of Thucydides served as a form of self-presentation:

To be an admirer of Thucydides' History, with its deep cynicism about political, rhetorical and ideological hypocrisy, with its all too recognizable protagonists — a liberal yet imperialistic democracy and an authoritarian oligarchy, engaged in a war of attrition fought by proxy at the remote fringes of empire — was to advertise yourself as a hardheaded connoisseur of global Realpolitik.

Another author, Thomas Geoghegan, whose speciality is labour rights, comes down on the side of Herodotus when it comes to drawing lessons relevant to Americans, who, he notes, tend to be rather isolationist in their habits (if not in their political theorizing): "We should also spend more funds to get our young people out of the library where they're reading Thucydides and get them to start living like Herodotus — going out and seeing the world."

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