In our continuing series on great historians we come, inevitably, to the Greek historian Thucydides.
Sometimes it seems as if you have to pick a side: Which do you prefer, Thucydides or his predecessor Herodotus? Critics of Thucydides say that his history of the Peloponnesian War focuses too much on politics and war. Some have charged that he built “Thucydides’ Tower,” a kind of prison in which historians were confined in front of a window from which they could only see politics and war, and the actions of so-called great men; until a jailbreak was staged by Jacob Burckhardt in 1860, or the Annalistes in 1929, or the social historians in 1971 (opinions vary on the convicts’ leader and the date).
Our guest today, Barry Strauss, doesn’t believe you have to choose between the two; he also thinks that there is a lot more in Thucydides than politics and battles. Last heard on Episode 11 of Historically Thinking discussing his book The Death of Caesar. He is the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University, and a prolific author on classical history. Among his many notable books are The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece—and Western Civilization, and The Spartacus War. (And, at the risk of sounding odd, if your significant other loves a good murder mystery, then Death of Caesar would make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Really.)
For Further Investigation
An excellent edition of Thucydides’ history–The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War