For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

History of the Peloponnesian War, Volume 1

by Thucydides (1919)

Abstract

Thucydides of Athens, one of the greatest of historians, was born about 471 BCE. He saw the rise of Athens to greatness under the inspired leadership of Pericles. In 430, the second year of the Peloponnesian War, he caught and survived the horrible plague which he described so graphically. Later, as general in 423 he failed to save Amphipolis from the enemy and was disgraced. He tells about this, not in volumes of self-justification, but in one sentence of his history of the warâe"that it befell him to be an exile for twenty years. He then lived probably on his property in Thrace, but was able to observe both sides in certain campaigns of the war, and returned to Athens after her defeat in 404. He had been composing his famous history, with its hopes and horrors, triumphs and disasters, in full detail from first-hand knowledge of his own and others.The war was really three conflicts with one uncertain peace after the first; and Thucydides had not unified them into one account when death came sometime before 396. His history of the first conflict, 431âe"421, was nearly complete; Thucydides was still at work on this when the war spread to Sicily and into a conflict (415âe"413) likewise complete in his awful and brilliant record, though not fitted into the whole. His story of the final conflict of 413âe"404 breaks off (in the middle of a sentence) when dealing with the year 411. So his work was left unfinished and as a whole unrevised. Yet in brilliance of description and depth of insight this history has no superior.The Loeb Classical Library edition of Thucydides is in four volumes.

Key Passage

“For we are lovers of beauty yet with no extravagance and lovers of wisdom yet without weakness. Wealth we employ rather as an opportunity for action than as a subject for boasting; and with us it is not a shame for a man to acknowledge poverty, but the greater shame is for him not to do his best to avoid it. And you will find united in the same persons an interest at once in private and in public affairs, and in others of us who give attention chiefly to business, you will find no lack of insight into political matters. (p.327)

Keywords

Thucydides, Ancient Greece, War, Warfare, Military, Beauty, Wisdom, Poverty, Politics

Themes

Work in Ancient Greece

Links to Reference

Translator

Smith, C. F.

Citation


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