Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 16 January 2021


, Athenian historian, 2nd half of 5th cent. bce
  • Henry Theodore Wade-Gery,
  • John Dewar Denniston
  •  and Simon Hornblower

Thucydides (2), author of the (incomplete) History of the War (*Peloponnesian War) between Athens and Sparta, 431–404 bce, in eight books.


He was born probably between 460 and 455 bce: he was general (see stratēgoi) in 424 (4. 104) and must then have been at least 30 years old; while his claim in 5. 26. 5 that he was of years of discretion from beginning to end of the war perhaps suggests that he was not much more than grown up in 431. He probably died about 400. He shows no knowledge of 4th-cent. events. The revival of Athenian sea power under *Conon(1) and *Thrasybulus, from 394 on, made the decision of Aegospotami (405: see athens, History) less decisive than it seemed to Thucydides (compare e.g. 5. 26. 1 with Xen. Hell. 5. 1. 35). Of the three writers who undertook to complete his History, only *Xenophon(1) took his view that the story ended in 404 (or 401). *Theopompus (3) took it down to 394, and so probably did *Cratippus (Plut.Mor. 345d). If, as seems likely, the very respectable author Oxyrhynchus Historian is Cratippus (see oxyrhynchus, the historian from), then both his work and Theopompus' are on a very much larger scale than Xenophon's, a scale like Thucydides' own. This fact, as well as considerations of language and outlook, makes it likely that Xenophon wrote his continuation (Hell. books 1–2) earlier than the others, and indeed, before the battle of *Coronea in 394. But if this be so, then Thucydides cannot have lived more than a year or so into the 4th cent. *Marcellinus(2), in his Life, ch. 34, says that Thucydides was ‘over 50’ when he died. If he was born about 455 and died about 400, this will be true. The figure may be from Cratippus, who evidently gave some biographical data: Marcellinus quotes him just before (33) for the view that Thucydides died in *Thrace.

Thucydides, then, was part of that ardent youth whose abundance on both sides seemed to him to distinguish the war he wrote of. Something of his ardour may be felt in 2. 31: his pride in the soldier's profession and his devotion to the great commander, *Pericles(1).

He caught the *plague, some time between 430 and 427, but recovered, and in 424 failed in the task of saving *Amphipolis from *Brasidas. Not to have been a match for Brasidas does not prove him a bad soldier: from his history one receives the impression of a first-rate regimental officer, ashore or afloat, who saw war as a matter of style; perhaps his defence of the generals before *Megara in 4. 73. 4 (cf. 108. 5) says worse of his judgement of problems of high command than his failure against Brasidas. He was exiled for this (424 winter) and returned twenty years later, after the war was over, and died within a few years.

He had property and influence in the mining district of Thrace (4. 105. 1). His father's name was Olorus (4. 104. 4), the name of *Cimon's Thracian grandfather; his tomb was in Cimon's family vault. It is almost certain he was related by blood to Cimon, and probably to *Thucydides(1) the statesman (JHS1932, 210); born in the anti-Pericles opposition, he followed Pericles with a convert's zeal.

Parts of the history

The incomplete history falls into five parts: A, an introduction (book 1); B, the ten years war (2. 1–5. 24); C, the precarious peace (5. 25–end); D, the Sicilian War (6 and 7); E, fragment of the Decelean War (8). It is convenient to take first B and D, the two complete wars.

B is enclosed between two statements that ‘the continuous war has herein been described’. It was therefore provisionally finished (if these are Thucydides' words). It contains one allusion to the fall of Athens (2. 65. 12) and several allusions to events late in the twenty-seven years: these are no doubt additions made to an already existing narrative, since one passage certainly (2. 23. 3) was not written as late as the last decade of the century. The narrative gets rather more summary after Thucydides' exile (424): e.g. after the futile embassy to *Artaxerxes (1) I of *Persia (4. 50) nothing is said of the important negotiations with *Darius II.

D is the most finished portion. As it stands it is adapted to a history of the whole war (6. 7. 4, 6. 93. 4, 7. 18. 4, cf. 7. 9 etc., also 7. 44. 1, 7. 87. 5), and twice at least refers to events of 404 or later (7. 57. 2, 6. 15. 3–4). But these may be revisions and it has been suggested that Thucydides published it separately; and this opinion, though little held now, is not disproved. B and D are connected by C, sequel to B and introduction to D, and provided accordingly with a second preface. For symptoms of incompleteness, see below. C covers five and a half years, very unequally. Its two outstanding features are the description of the Mantinea campaign, and the Melian Dialogue (see mantinea, battles of; melos). The former should perhaps be regarded, with B and D, as a third completed episode. The latter foreshadows the dramatic style of D; but if we read 5. 111 with 8. 27 we shall draw no facile moral (see 8. 27. 5).

E has the same symptoms of incompleteness as C and, moreover, stops abruptly in the middle of a narrative. It is very full, covering barely two years in its 109 chapters.

A consists of (1) 1. 1–23, a long preface, illustrating the importance of Thucydides' subject by comparison with earlier history (the so-called ‘archaeology’) and stating his historical principles; (2) the causes of the war—that is, for the most part, an account of the political manœuvres of 433–432; he adds important digressions, especially 1. 89–117, a history of the years 479/8 –440/39 (see pentekontaetia), partly to illustrate his view that the war was an inevitable result of Athens' power, partly to make his history follow without interval on that of *Herodotus (1) (1. 97. 2). The second motive perhaps explains the length of another digression (1. 128–38) on the fate of *Pausanias (1) and *Themistocles.


E stops in mid-narrative, in winter 411: Thucydides intended to go down to 404 (5. 26. 1). It shares with (roughly) C two peculiarities, absence of speeches and presence of documents, which are thought to show incompleteness; for these see below. The plan to make of BCDE a continuous history of the twenty-seven years is only superficially achieved, even to 411: e.g. there is nothing of Atheno–Persian relations between 424 and 412, vital though these were (2. 65. 12). We shall see below that Thucydides kept his work by him and revised continually; so he left double treatments of the same theme, one of which he meant no doubt to suppress—e.g. the *tyrannicides (1. 20, 6. 54–59); possibly 1. 23. 1–3 is a short early variant of 1. 1–19; 3. 84 of part of 82–3 (Schwartz 286 f.). It may be even suspected that 8. 82. 2 is a less accurately informed version of 86. 4–5 and the two have been merely harmonized by 85. 4. If this last suspicion were just, it would be good evidence that Thucydides' remains were put into shape by an editor, whose hand may be further suspected in the misplacement of 3. 17, in 1. 56–7 (whose author—as it stands—surely misconceived the course of events), perhaps even in 1. 118. 2 (where the last sentence seems to leap from the 450s to 432); an editorial hand has, indeed, been suspected wholesale. Though no single case is quite decisive, it is unlikely Thucydides left his unfinished work in need of no editing. If we look for an editor, one thinks naturally of Xenophon, who wrote the continuation (it seems) immediately after Thucydides' death; the suggestion was made in antiquity (Diog. Laert. 2. 57). His soldierly (if not his intellectual) qualities might commend him to Thucydides, but if it was indeed he, he worked with extreme piety, and his hand is very little apparent. Xenophon's limits and virtues alike disqualify him for the authorship of 1. 56–7.

Speeches and documents

Ancient craftsmen, and Thucydides notably, aimed at exactness; but in his speeches, Thucydides admits (1. 22. 1) that exactness was beyond his powers of memory. Here, then, as in reconstructing the far past (1. 20–1), he had to trust to his historical imagination, whose use generally he planned to avoid (ὡς ἂν ἐδόκουν ἐμοὶ εἰπεῖν, ‘what I think they would have said’: this meant applying to the speeches the sort of rationalizing schematism that, e.g., *Hecataeus(1) applied to *geography); and even here, he promises he will control its use as rigorously as he can by the tenor of the actual words. It is much debated whether he made this profession early or late; and it has been much explained away. But it is unreasonable to doubt that from the start Thucydides took notes himself, or sought for hearers' notes, of the speeches he considered important. But since he used speeches dramatically, to reveal the workings of men's minds and the impact of circumstance, it is clear that verbatim reports would not have served even if he could have managed to get them, and he was bound to compromise (unconsciously) between dramatic and literal truth. It is likely that, as his technique developed, dramatic truth would tend to prevail; it is tempting to put his profession of method early, a young man's intention. Even so, while we cannot suppose that, at a moment when morale was vital, Pericles used the words in 2. 64. 3; while it is unlikely that the Athenian debater at Melos developed exactly the same vein of thought as Phrynichus before Miletus (5. 111–8. 27); while Pericles' first speech (1. 140 ff.) is perhaps composite, and hard to assign to a single occasion; it is yet dangerous to treat the speeches as free fiction: their dramatic truth was combined with the greatest degree of literal truth of which Thucydides was capable. He tried to recreate real occasions.

There are no speeches in E, and (except the Melian Dialogue) none in C: Cratippus (a younger contemporary) says Thucydides had decided to drop their use. Modern critics treat their absence as a symptom of incompleteness; they would have been added had he lived. But it is possible that these parts without speeches are experiments in new techniques. Thucydides may have felt, as many readers do, that the narrative of the ten years is a compromise between the methods of tragedy and of a laboratory notebook, so that between the profoundest issues and the particular detail, the middle ranges (e.g. an intelligible account of strategy) are neglected. In the later narrative the methods are more separated. The Sicilian War was capable of almost purely dramatic treatment; C and E evidently not. And in consequence in E at least a new technique is developed, less like either drama or chronicle, more of an organized narrative, with more of the writer's own judgements of values and interpretations of events. It is questionable if E would be improved by speeches, that is, could be profitably (or at all?) transformed into the style of B or D: was Cratippus perhaps right about Thucydides' intention?

This would not prevent some of the speeches in books 1–4 being composed (or revised) very late. The new experiment would not entail eliminating the dramatic from those books; Thucydides experimented to the end and never solved his problem. It is commonly thought that the Funeral Speech (2. 35 ff.; see epitaphios) was written or rewritten after Athens' fall; and 2. 64. 3 surely was. The *Corcyra debate (1. 31–44), on the contrary, has good chances of being an actual report, written up soon after delivery. Though some speeches aim at dramatic characterization (Gorgiastic (see gorgias(1)), 4. 61. 7: Laconic i.e. Spartan, 1. 86), all are in Thucydides' idiom. But the personalness of this idiom is often overestimated (Finley, Thucydides2).

It is noteworthy that those portions which lack speeches have (instead?) transcriptions of documents: that is, E and (roughly speaking) C1. If, then, we take C and E as experiments in a new method, the experiment begins in the latter part of B. These documents are usually thought (like the absence of speeches) a sign of incompleteness, since they offend against a ‘law of style’ which forbids the verbatim use of foreign matter in serious prose. We need not debate the general validity of this law: with so inventive a writer as Thucydides, his laws of style are to be deduced from his practice, and 5. 24. 2 (cf. 2. 1) suggests that the end of B is provisionally finished. Are they part of the experiment? One may be surprised (though grateful) that Thucydides thought the full text of the Armistice (4. 118–19) worth its room. One of the documents (5. 47) is extant in fragments (IG 13. 83) and confirms the substantial accuracy of the copies. One conflicts gravely with the narrative (5. 23, 5. 39. 3): it would seem the narrative was written in ignorance of the exact terms, and has not been revised.

‘Early’ and ‘Late’

Thucydides says (1. 1. 1) he began to write his history as soon as war started; and it is at least arguable that much of the existing narrative, in all five parts of the work, was written, substantially as we have it, very soon after the events. But he worked slowly, and, as he says at 1. 22. 3, laboriously; correcting in the light of better information (we only detect this process where it is incomplete; e.g. 5. 39. 3 was due for correction in the light of 5. 23) or of later events (1. 97. 2; 4. 48. 5, where the qualification ὅσα γε may have been put merely ex abundanti cautela, from excess of caution, but more likely when the troubles started again in 410). If his point of view, or his method, changed materially during this process, it becomes of importance to know from which point of view this or that portion is written. More than a century ago, Ullrich called attention to this, believing that an important change of approach came with his discovery (announced in the second preface, 5. 26) that the war had not ended in 421.

Two criteria have been used to determine earliness or lateness: (a) reference to, or ignorance of, datable events or conditions; (b) the stage in Thucydides' own development which a passage reveals.

(a) References to late events cannot be written early, but they may be inserted in early contexts: e.g. those who think D early regard 6. 15. 3–4 and 7. 57. 2 as additions. Ignorance of late events is very much harder to establish: those same who think D early may suspect in 6. 41. 3 ignorance of *Dionysius (1) I's tyranny, or even (a very slippery question) in 6. 54. 1 ignorance of Herodotus' history—but cannot prove their suspicions; yet where such ignorance is certain (see below), we may be sure that the narrative (or line of thought) which warrants them was conceived early. The results of this method are modest: e.g. (1) 1. 10. 2 was not written after the catastrophe of 404: therefore the war against which earlier wars are being measured is not the completed twenty-seven years, and the ‘end of war’ mentioned in 1. 13. 3–4, 1. 18. 1, is presumably 421; (2) 2. 23. 3 was not written after the loss of *Oropus in 411: therefore some of the narrative of B was written much as we have it before 411; (3) 2. 65. 12 refers to the fall of Athens: therefore B received additions down to 404 at least.

(b) More has been hoped from the second method. Thucydides worked from his twenties to his fifties, his material growing under his eyes: there must surely be some intellectual or spiritual growth, some change of outlook. The best exponent of this method is Schwartz, who gives (Das Geschichtswerk des Thukydides, 217–42) an eloquent account of Thucydides' growth. The danger of this method is evident: in the ablest hands it yields quite different results (Meyer, Schwartz), and its first postulate may be doubted, namely, that Thucydides' opinion on the ‘true cause’ of the war (1. 23. 6) was not formed till after the fall of Athens. No doubt that was his view after 404; no doubt 1. 23. 6 and 1. 88 were written (inserted?) pretty late. But much the same view is expressed by the Corcyran envoy in 1. 33. 3 (cf. 42. 2); and whether the envoy said it or not it was surely Pericles' view. Pericles believed that if Athens used her opportunity in 433 she was bound to provoke in Sparta an enmity that must be faced; all his career, against Cimon and his successors, he had fought for his conviction that Athens and Sparta were natural enemies and Greece not large enough for both. His admirers held that this clear principle (1. 140. 1) was obscured in debate by the irrelevant particulars (1. 140. 4–141. 1). We have not to consider whether Pericles was right: rather, the effect on Thucydides. The devout disciple saw the story unfold in the terms his master had foreseen (2. 65). How far such a ‘Pericles-fixation’ may have warped Thucydides' judgement, see below.

If this first postulate go, the second will follow it, namely that only after 404 was Pericles given the importance he now has in books 1–2, since after 404 Thucydides started to rewrite his History as a ‘defence of Pericles’ (Schwartz 239). It hardly needs to be said that many hold to these postulates and the present writer's disbelief is as subjective as their belief. If these are untrue, truer postulates may be found: the attempt to recreate Thucydides' experience should (and will) never be dropped.


Perhaps no good historian is impartial; Thucydides certainly not, though singularly candid. His tastes are clear: he liked Pericles and disliked *Cleon. He had for Pericles a regard comparable to Plato's for *Socrates and an equal regard for Pericles' Athens. These things were personal: but in principle, concentrations of energy (like Athens or *Alcibiades) were to his taste. Their impact on a less dynamic world was likely to be disastrous—but whose fault was that? The world's, he says, consistently (1. 99; 1. 23. 6 etc.; 6. 15; 6. 28; cf. 2. 64. 3–5): and though this consistency may surprise us, we need not quarrel with it. Such judgements are rare, since Thucydides conceives his task as like medical research (see below, and cf. 3. 82. 2) where blame is irrelevant; the disconcerting simplicity of 2. 64. 3 (power and energy are absolute goods) is the more striking.

We need not here investigate Thucydides' possible mistakes. The present writer believes that Pericles (having planned an offensive war) lost his striking power, first because *Potidaea revolted, next because of the plague. Forced to the defensive, he left that as his testament. Thucydides was reluctant to face the fact of this failure, and accepted the testament, siding with the defeatist officer class against the revived offensive of Cleon (4. 27. 5, 28. 5, 65. 4, 73. 4; cf. 5. 7. 2). This is why Pericles' huge effort against *Epidaurus (6. 31. 2; motive, cf. 5. 53) is recorded as a minor futility (2. 56. 4); why *Phormion(1)'s first campaign in *Acarnania (2. 68. 7–9; of 432?) is left timeless; why we hear nothing of the purpose of the Megara decree; why, when that nearly bore fruit at last, Thucydides suggests that the capture of Megara was of no great moment (4. 73. 4; but cf. 72. 1).

Such criticisms hardly detract much from his singular truthfulness. Readers of all opinions will probably agree that he saw more truly, inquired more responsibly, and reported more faithfully than any other ancient historian. That is a symptom of his greatness, but not its core. Another symptom is his style: it is innocent of those clichés of which *Isocrates hoped to make the norm of Attic style; in its ‘old-fashioned wilful beauty’ (*Dionysius (7)) every word tells. Like English prose before Dryden and Addison, it uses a language largely moulded by poets: its precision is a poet's precision, a union of passion and candour. After Thucydides history mostly practised the corrupting art of persuasion (cf. Isoc. 4. 8): his scientific tradition survived in the antiquarians, of whom he is the pioneer (1. 8. 1, 2. 15. 2, 3. 104. 4–6, 6. 55. 1), but the instinctive exactness of early Greek observation was lost. To combine his predecessors' candour of vision with his successors' apparatus of scholarship was a necessity laid on him by his sense of the greatness of his subject: he could no more distort or compromise with what he wished to convey than Shakespeare or Michelangelo could.

Thucydides would no doubt prefer to substitute, for these great names, the practice of any honest doctor. He was not modest, but in his statement of his principles he is singularly unaware of his unique equipment, and claims rather that he has spared no pains. The proper context for this statement (1. 20–2) is, first, his very similar statement about his own account of the plague (2. 48. 3), and then the physician *Hippocrates(2)'s maxim, ‘ars longa vita brevis’. The ‘art’ which outlasts individual lives is the scientific study of man: the physician studied his clinical, Thucydides his political, behaviour. To know either so well that you can control it (and civilization is largely made up of such controls) is a task for many generations: a piece of that task well done is something gained for ever (1. 22. 4).


Thucydides (2) , In a famous sentence (Thuc. 24) Dionysius (7) gives as the four ‘tools’ in Thucydides' workshop τὸ ποιητικὸν τῶν ὀνομάτων, τὸ πολυειδὲς τῶν σχημάτων, τὸ τραχὺ τῆς ἁρμονίας, τὸ τάχος τῶν σημασιῶν, ‘poetical vocabulary, great variety of figures, harshness of word-order, swiftness in saying what he has to say’. The first, third, and fourth of these criticisms are undoubtedly true. Thucydides' style has a poetical and archaistic flavour (it is often difficult to distinguish clearly between the two), as a reader sees at once when he turns from Thucydides to *Andocides and *Lysias. His consistent use of αἰεί for ἀεί, ξύν for σύν, and σσ for ττ is one of the signs of this tendency. ‘Roughness’ is to be seen in his bold changes of construction and his violent hyperbata, in which he wrests an emphatic word from its natural place in the sentence to give it more prominence (1. 19 κατʼ ὀλιγαρχίαν, 1. 93. 4 τῆς θαλάσσης). ‘Speed’ is perhaps the most striking of all his characteristics. He achieves an extreme concision, hardly to be paralleled in Greek prose except in the gnomic utterances of *Democritus (cf. gnome). A sentence like δοκεῖ … καταστροφή (2. 42. 2) is gone in a flash, and no orator, composing for the ear, could have risked such brevity. At 2. 37. 1 (μέτεστι … προτιμᾶται) two antitheses are telescoped into one. τὸ πολυειδὲς τῶν σχημάτων is much more open to question, especially as Dionysius has just before credited Thucydides with the use of the θεατρικὰ σχήματα (parisosis (balance of clauses), paronomasia (play on words), and antithesis) affected by *Gorgias(1) and other writers of the sophistic school (see sophists). Thucydides' thought is, it is true, markedly antithetical in cast (e.g. 1. 70. 6), and antithesis is sometimes strained (e.g. 2. 43. 3). But, unlike the Gorgianists, he has no affection for merely external antithesis, and he often deliberately avoids formal balance (e.g. 4. 59. 2). He eschews almost entirely certain other common adornments of style. He is too austere to use metaphor at all freely, or asyndeton (more suited to the spoken word). He does employ certain devices of assonance, neither, like Gorgias, as ἡδύσματα, nor, like Demosthenes, for emphasis pure and simple, but for the emphasizing of a contrast (3. 82. 8 εὐσεβεία…εὐπρεπεία, 6. 76. 2 κατοικίσαι…ἐξοικίσαι, 76. 4 ἀξυνετωτέρου…κακοξυνετωτέρου). He has a strong leaning, as Dionysius observed (Amm. 2. 5), towards abstract expression (e.g. 3. 82–3), sometimes carried to the length of personification (πόλεμος 1. 122. 1, ἐλπίς 5. 103. 1). He probably coined abstracts (especially in -σις) freely, as *Euripides did, according to the fashion of the late 5th cent., and sometimes used them out of season (7. 70. 6 ἀποστέρησιν, and the odd-looking negatived abstracts, 1. 137. 4 οὐ διάλυσιν, etc.). Like *Antiphon (1), he experimented freely with the use of neuter adjective, or even participle (1. 142. 8 ἐν τῷ μὴ μελετῶντι), to convey an abstract idea. His periods are usually loosely constructed (e.g. 3. 38. 4–7), of clauses longer in actual words, and far richer in content, than those of other Greek prose-writers (e.g. 2. 43. 2–6).

Thucydides (2) , [The above entry by Wade-Gery and Denniston, which goes back essentially to 1949, is an established classic, and it seems an impertinence to attempt to replace it. But merely to reprint it would be unhelpful, when Thucydides has been so intensively worked on. What follows is therefore a sketch of work on Thucydides since the 2nd edn. of 1970.]

The most noticeable feature of Thucydidean scholarship since 1970 is the move away from preoccupation with the ‘composition question’ (the identification of layers of the History, with attempts to date them) to study of Thucydides' text as a complete literary whole. There is a parallel here with the move in Homeric scholarship (see homer) over the same period away from ‘analytical’ approaches and towards a ‘unitarian’ interest in the architecture of the two great poems. Of the 1970 Thucydides bibliography, here deliberately reprinted with minimal change, it is striking how many items addressed themselves to questions of composition, a topic to which Wade-Gery's OCD article was itself an influential contribution. One discussion which appeared just too late for the 2nd edn. was the relevant section of O. Luschnat's 1970RE survey. The related question, whether Thucydides' work was finished, has continued to attract study, notably in Andrewes's contribution to the final (1981) volume of Gomme, Andrewes, and Dover, HCT, with Erbse's reply, 1989. (see also ch. 5 of Dover 1973, an admirable general survey of Thucydides.) And Rawlings (1981) has speculated about the possible content of the unwritten books 9 and 10. But even this was part of a wider attempt to detect patterning within the larger existing structure.

It would be absurd, in view of F. M. Cornford1907, to claim that the present generation is the first to repudiate ‘positivism’ and treat Thucydides as a literary text to which methods used on tragedy and epic could be applied; but Cornford was missing from the bibliography in both the 1949 and 1970 editions of this dictionary. Perhaps the trouble was that he also gave hospitality to an anachronistically modernizing thesis about the causes of the Peloponnesian War. A notable absentee from the 1970 edition, which carried items as late as 1970 itself, was Stahl 1966, a book which allotted as much space to narrative as to speeches (now translated, with two additional chapters, as Stahl 2002). And Strasburger's studies of the 1950s (collected now in Strasburger1982) deserved inclusion in 1970 for their insistence on Thucydides' Homeric aspect, as did Kitto 1966 for its examination of Thucydides' tragic effects. Moving on to the post- 1970 era proper, V. Hunter in 1973 set the tone for two decades by her title ‘the artful reporter’; Herodotus had for centuries found himself periodically in the pillory for alleged distortion and invention, but Thucydides' authoritative and apparently scientific manner had usually been respected. Now it was suggested that Thucydides might simply have made things up, particularly his imputations of motive. This approach was also pursued by Schneider 1974. (Cf. below on the narratological problem of ‘restricted access’.) Historical as well as historiographic aspects are affected: thus whereas de Ste. Croix 1972 had sought to justify Thucydides (and threw in an excellent introductory section on Thucydidean methodology), Badian 1993, a collection of essays going back to the 1980s, is in complete contrast, an acute demonstration by a historian of the consequences of distrusting Thucydides.

Now the lid was off. One way of going further was to challenge the premiss that ancient historiography had pretensions to being an exact or any sort of science: perhaps (Woodman1988) it was merely a branch of rhetoric with a different aim from factual description; perhaps, indeed, the ‘facts’ are nothing of the sort. (This is not just an ‘ancient’ problem; cf. the writings of Hayden White; but enough documentary evidence exists to control Thucydides and reassure us that there was indeed a Peloponnesian War.)

Another more acceptable approach has been to disregard the signs of incompleteness in Thucydides and insist in post-modern fashion (Connor1977) on the autonomy of the text: whatever the authorial intention, we have a long speech-punctuated narrative of Greek prose containing patterns, significant repetitions, ring-composition, etc. see Connor1984, but cf. also Hornblower 1987 for an attempt to combine literary criteria with recognition of the composition problem.

The detailed work of Colin Macleod (collected 1983) deserves a special word; there has been no finer treatment of the rhetoric of the Thucydidean speeches. On rhetorical issues note also Pritchett's excellent 1975 edition of Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Thucydides.

More recently still narratology has been tried on Thucydides. Narratology is nothing more frightening than the study of a branch of rhetoric, specifically of the principles underlying narrative texts. First used on modern, then on ancient, novels, it was applied in 1987 to Homer by I. de Jong (see homer; literary theory and classical studies; narrative), who demonstrated how narratology can help us see how Homer achieves his famously objective manner. The technique has been most fully applied to Thucydides by Rood1998, but see already the short essay by Connor1985, using, however, the term ‘narrative discourse’ not narratology. Some narratological terms and insights are familiar to Thucydideans under other names; e.g. ‘restricted access’ means the difficulty encountered by a non-omniscient narrator interested in an agent's motives. The usual response, e.g. in messenger speeches in tragedy (and in Thucydides?) is for the narrator silently to assume an omniscient pose. But the greatest narratological weapon has been focalization, i.e. the point of view or perspective from which an event is described. Choice of Homeric (and Thucydidean?) vocabulary can sometimes be explained by the wish to present events or express emotions from a certain standpoint, which may or may not be that of the author rather than that of the imagined or historical agent. (Dover1988, 74 ff. has ingeniously pointed to one purely linguistic way of determining whether a motive reflects Thucydides' own view or that of an agent.) Again, all this is not quite new: in the 18th cent. Adam Smith in lectures on rhetoric distinguished between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ narration. And Westlake 1989, ch. 14 shows that problems of ‘personal motives in Thucydides’ can be usefully studied in very plain language. There is much work still to be done, but provided it is recognized that there was a relation between what Thucydides says and a real world which existed in the 5th cent. bce, only good can come of the recognition that his text is susceptible to literary ‘close reading’.

The broad trends indicated above do not at all exhaust recent Thucydidean work. There have been commentaries on book 2 by Rusten (markedly linguistic) and books 2–5.24 by Rhodes (markedly historical) which illuminate by exact methods traditionally applied, as does the outstanding monograph of Maurer. On Thucydides’ reception, Nicolai in Rusten 2009, ch. 17 and Hornblower 2010, ch. 15. Otherwise monographs and articles have explored Thucydides' treatment or non-treatment of particular themes such as chance and intelligence (Edmunds 1975), ΑΝΑΓΚΗ (Ostwald 1988), religion esp. Delphi (Hornblower 2010, ch. 1 and 2), money (Kallet-Marx, 1993 and Kallet2001), the tradition of funeral orations (Ziolkowski1981, Loraux1986), and his indebtedness to Herodotus (Pelling1991; Hornblower, Comm. on Thuc. vol. 2 (1996) 19–38, 122–45). This survey may end with the suggestion that two areas still needing more work are Thucydides' detailed intertextual relation to Homer and to Herodotus.


  • H. Stuart-Jones, Thucydidis Historiae. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford: Clarendon, 1898–1902. Repr 1942 with app. crit. rev. J. E. Powell.
  • C. Hude, Thucydidis Historiae. Teubner. Leipzig: Teubner, 1913–25.
  • ed. minor 1920–8.
  • O. Luschnat, Thucydidis Historiae 1. Libri I – II, (1954), bks 1–2.
  • J. de Romilly and R. Weil, La guerre du Péloponnèse (Budé, 1953–72).

G. Alberti, Thucydidis Historiae (bks. 1–2, 1972;Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat bks. 3–5, 1992;Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat bks. 6–8, 2000).Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat For Valla, see bibliog. A new OCT by G. Liberman is projected.Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat

  • C. Hude, Scholia in Thucydidem ad optimos codices collata. (Teubner. Leipzig: Teubner, 1927.
Translations (Eng.)

R. Crawley, History of the Peloponnesian War (1910), repr. 1993Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat with introd. by W. R. Connor.

Jowett's trans., abridged, is used by P. A. Brunt, Thucydides (in Trevor-Roper's ser., The Great Histories, 1963).Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat

  • R. Warner, History of the Peloponnesian War with intro. by M. I. Finley (Penguin, 1972), with intro. by M. I. Finley.
  • S. Lattimore, The Peloponnesian War (corr. 2001).
  • M. Hammond, The Peloponnesian War (World's Classics, 2009), with intro. and nn. by P. J. Rhodes.
Commentaries in Lat.
  • E. F. Poppo, Thucydidis De bello peloponnesiaco, libri octo (rev. J. M. Stahl, 1875–83), in Latin.
  • K. W. Krüger, Thoukydidou Syngraphē (2nd edn., 1858–60), in German.
  • J. Classen, Thukydides (rev. J. Steup, 1892–1922).
  • A. W. Gomme, A. Andrewes, and K. J. Dover, A Historical Commentary on Thucydides (bk. 1, 1945.
  • bks. 2–5. 24, 1956.
  • bks. 5. 25–7, 1970.
  • bk. 8, 1981), in Eng.
  • S. Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides (bks. 1–3, 1991.
  • bks. 4–5. 24, 1996.
  • bks. 5. 25- 8. 109, 2008).
  • Ancient: Cratippus, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 64: Dionysius Halicarnassensis.
  • De Thucydide
  • [cf. ad Amm. de T. idiom., ad Pomp.]
  • (= opuscula, ed. H. Usener and L. Radermacher, Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Thucydides 1. 325 ff. [421 ff., 221 ff.]).
  • Marcellinus, Life of Thucydides., prefixed to most texts of T.
  • F. E. Adcock, Thucydides and his History (1963).
  • C. N. Cochrane, Thucydides and the Science of History (1929. relation to Hippocratics).
  • J. H. Finley, Thucydides2 (1947).
  • A. W. Gomme, Essays in Greek History and Literature (1937, nos. 6–9).
  • G. B. Grundy, Thucydides and the History of his Age2 (1948).
  • W. Jaeger, Paideia (Eng. tr. 1938, 1, 382 ff.).
  • O. Luschnat, Die Feldherrnreden im Geschichte des T. (1942, Philologus Suppl. 34/2).
  • E. Meyer, Forschungen zur alten Geschichte 2 (1899, no. v).
  • H. Patzer, Das Problem der Geschichtsschreibung des T. (1937).
  • J. de Romilly, Histoire et Raison chez T. (1956,
  • 2nd edn. 1967).
  • J. de Romilly, Thucydides and Athenian Imperialism (Eng. trans. 1963).
  • J. G. A. Ros, Metabole (variatio) als Stilprinzip bei Thukydides (1938).
  • W. Schadewaldt, Die Geschichtsschreibung des T. 1929, esp. bks. 6–7.
  • E. Schwartz, Das Geschichtswerk des T. (1919; Stilgesetz, 28 ff.).
  • F. W. Ullrich, Beiträge zur Erklärung des T. (1846–52).
  • K. Weidauer, T. und die Hippokratischen Schriften (1954).
  • R. Zahn, Die erste Periklesrede (1934; diss. with notes by F. Jacoby).
  • H. D. Westlake, Individuals in Thucydides (1968).
  • H. D. Westlake, Essays on Greek Historians (1969).
  • A. G. Woodhead, Thucydides on the Nature of Power (1970).
  • M. H. N. von Essen, Index Thucydideus (1887).
  • E.-A. Bétant, Lexicon Thucydideum (1843, reprinted 1969).


  • F. M. Cornford, Thucydides Mythistoricus (1907).
  • H. Strebel, Wirtung und Wertung des Thukydideischen Geschichtstwerkes (1935).
  • H. D. F. Kitto, Poiesis (1966).
  • O. Luschnat, Real-Encyclopädie d. klassischen Altertumswissenschaft Suppl. 12 (1970), 1147 ff.
  • G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (1972).
  • V. Hunter, Thucydides the Artful Reporter (1973).
  • K. J. Dover, Thucydides. Greece & Rome New Survey (1973).
  • C. Schneider, Information und Absicht bei Thukydides (1974).
  • L. Edmunds, Chance and Intelligence in Thucydides (1975).
  • W. K. Pritchett, Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Thucydides (1975).
  • W. R. Connor, Classical Journal 1977.
  • R. Syme, Roman Papers 6.72 ff.
  • H. R. Rawlings III, The Structure of Thucydides's History (1981).
  • J. Ziolkowski, Thucydides and the Tradition of the Funeral Oration at Athens (1981).
  • H. Strasburger, Studien zur alten Geschichte (1982).
  • C. Macleod, Collected Essays (1983).
  • W. R. Connor, Thucydides (1984).
  • W. R. Connor, in M. Jameson (ed.), The Greek Historians (Raubitschek Festschrift) (1985).
  • N. Loraux, The Invention of Athens (1986).
  • S. Hornblower, Thucydides (1987).
  • K. J. Dover, The Greeks and their Legacy 2 (1988).
  • M. Ostwald, ΑΝΑΓΚΗ in Thucydides (1988).
  • A. J. Woodman, Rhetoric in Classical Historiography (1988).
  • H. Erbse, Thukydides-Interpretationen (1989).
  • H. D. Westlake, Studies in Thucydides and Greek History (1989).
  • C. Pelling, in M. Flower and M. Toher (eds.), Georgica (1991).
  • E. Badian, From Plataea to Potidaea (1993).
  • L. Kallet-Marx, Money, Expense and Naval Power in Thucydides' History 1–5. 24 (1993).

R. B. Rutherford, in R. Osborne and S. Hornblower (eds.), Ritual, Finance, Politics (1994), 53 ff.Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat (important essay on how Thucydides intended his history to be useful).

  • R. Stroud, Chiron: Mitteilungen der Kommission für alte Geschichte und Epigraphik des deutschen archäologischen Instituts 1994.
  • K. Maurer, Interpolation in Thucydides (1995).
  • W. K. Pritchett, Thucydides' Pentekontaetia and Other Essays (1995).
  • G. Cawkwell, Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War (1997).
  • T. Rood, Thucydides: Narrative and Explanation (1998).
  • C. Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (2000).
  • L. Kallet, Money, Rhetoric and the Corrosion of Power in Thucydides (2001).
  • H.-P. Stahl, Thucydides: Man's Place in History (2002).
  • S. Hornblower, Thucydides and Pindar (2004).
  • C. Dewald, Thucydides’ War Narrative (2005).
  • A. Rengakos and A. Tsakmakis (eds.), Brill's Companion to Thucydides (2006).
  • E. Greenwood, Thucydides and the Shaping of History (2006).
  • M. Chambers, Valla’s Translation of Thucydides. (2008).
  • J. Rusten (ed.), Thucydides (2009).
  • S. Hornblower, Thucydidean Themes (2010).