Thucydides

Thucydides ( Athens , about 460 BC – Thrace , about 396 BC ) was a Greek historian and writer. Thucydides was an ideal historian model as he had to write from exile. Few data are known about the life of Thucydides and almost all the ones known are thanks to what he wrote about himself in his work.

Summary

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  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Thucydides historian
    • 1 Herodotus and Thucydides
    • 2 Political history
    • 3 Contemporary history
  • 3 Thucydides writer
    • 1 Influences
    • 2 The methodology
    • 3 The Tucidian style
    • 4 The Thoughtful Question
  • 4 Source

Biography

He was the son of Oloro, who belonged to an aristocratic Athenian family, since he himself calls himself an Athenian; By the name of Thracian origin of his father, it has been wanted to see a relationship between Thucydides and the family of the Filaidas , to which Cimon belonged -whose maternal grandfather was also called Oloro-, who opposed the Athenian naval empire as advocated Pericles .

As, according to Athenian law, it was necessary to be over thirty years of age to be elected strategist and because Thucydides participated as strategist in the site of Amphipolis in 424 BC. n. e., it is precise that Thucydides was born before 454 a. n. and. Such appointment for an action in Thrace was due to the influence of Thucydides among the most prominent personages of Thrace -remember his possible origin-, where he was also awarded the exploitation of some gold mines .

Thucydides historian

Herodotus and Thucydides

Although both are considered fathers of classical and world historiography, nevertheless, the characteristics and differences for which both deserved such a title are very marked and notorious.

While Herodotus affirmed that his work is the fruit and result of his investigations (history), Thucydides never calls his work that; the first was heir to the Ionian logography (he also writes in Ionian), while the second was heir to the sophists, of the Athenian sophistic school (and therefore also writes in Attic).

On the other hand, although it moves in the epic and religious terrain, sticking to ancient facts, faithful to oral traditions where religious speculation, the glory of the past of gods and heroes, is reflected to give them eternity as a primitive age. who writes in prose, by contrast Thucydides does not give rise to religious speculation, he abides by human nature to narrate events contemporary to him, some even lived by himself and others that were transmitted to him, but not by the fruit of a long oral tradition: for him his work has an exemplary value: “ktêma eis aeí” (treasure forever);

For his part, Herodotus limited himself to the conflict between Greeks and Persians, but with the constant recollection of the past, collecting data without criticizing them: anthologies, genealogies, local histories, descriptive and ethnographic geography (all inherited from Greek logographers), as opposed to Thucydides who will innovate by introducing the historical critique of political ideas, events, root causes and external triggers of the conflict between Greeks with a mixture of objectivity.

Political history

If Thucydides received the title of father of history, it was largely due to the political focus he gave to his story. When he drew up the program of his history, he already defined that he did not intend to narrate the events of the war exclusively, but that he intended to capture what was most important to him: the political ideas of both sides, of the protagonists of the war, at all times. of war and peace – including here the peace of Nicias .

For this reason, to give a political perspective to his work, he uses two resources: the criticism that he makes throughout all the works and the speeches of the different political leaders of both sides at all times; This is how he draws the political approaches, although we do not know, however, with how much fidelity to reality or if they are made a posteriori based on his own subjectivity and the purpose of his work. It is well known that the speeches reflect characters favored by the criticism of Thucydides – such as Pericles – and that this must be attributed to the proximity of Thucydides’ political ideas and the different protagonists.

Contemporary history

Thucydides’ maturity coincided with the development of the war: at the beginning of this (431 BC) he must have been in his thirties. It is thanks to the exile of 20 years when he decides to tell and analyze the story of what happened, put it in writing with the intention of being read with a critical spirit ( xyngrafeîn), not to be heard by an audience: tell how they were produced and who the participants were from their own point of view as a participant for a time and then as an observer of it and from the immediate point of view of people who participated in the vicissitudes of the same and with the analysis of the psychological and political countenance of the great characters of the same through not only the narration, but through the speeches. It is the narration of history with information of the highest order, however filtered through the objectivity-subjectivity filter of Thucydides.

Thucydides writer

Influences

As a writer, Thucydides was heir to Athenian sophistry and the spirit of this city, as well as the scientific and philosophical currents of the time. How these currents and influences are shown in the author is easy to inquire.

A trend of the Athenian philosophical and political spirit of the time is the concern for the present, hence the total turn of the historical conception of Thucydides with respect to the previous historiography. At the same time, the Athenian taste for human concern as a social being, for its private conduct – its morality – and its public conduct – its politics – translates into the thoughtful search for political and human history away from any divine influence from legendary history.

The methodology

  • The program: In Tuc. I 22 is dedicated to exposing part of the method followed for the elaboration of his work, all of it related to the already seen sophistry, philosophy and science . The method indicates that the narration consists of two basic elements: speeches and narration of events, with the greatest objectivity as far as possible to get closer to the reality of what happened.
  • The speeches: There are speeches that Thucydides could actually hear, but they are not the majority (those from outside Athens before his exile and those from Athens during it). At the same time they offer a very symptomatic aspect: they present analogies of style and thought with formulas that are repeated almost like correspondence. At the same time, speeches by characters who did not enjoy Thucydides ‘sympathy – Cleon , for example – are heavy, while speeches by Thucydides’ favorite characters – Pericles or Alcibiades – are more entertaining and agile.

Therefore, regardless of whether they were authentic or reworked, they have undergone the performance of a stylistic criterion while they are all written in attic, which makes one suspect in a certain way of Thucydides’ objectivity. However, it must be taken into account that, as de Romilly has indicated , the criterion of objectivity in Thucydides is not based so much on distinguishing what is true and false, but on distinguishing with intelligence and choice what counts and what does not count , the important and the insignificant.

  • Narration of the facts: Regarding the facts, Thucydides says in his program that he has limited himself to a deep criticism received from the best witnesses. Some were of the highest order and very famous like Alcibiades, but always passing through the sieve of their objectivity. Thucydides selects what, in his opinion, is historiable of the facts and what happened, what is always important to him and the objective of his work, although sometimes what is silent is also important. However, what is silent is known and known and, at the same time, emphasizes what is of great importance.
  • The Tucididian style: If Thucydides has endured throughout the centuries as a model of historian and prose writer, he owes much of his success to the originality of his prose and the peculiarity of his style, partly unique and partly exemplary for the later Attic prose.
  • The lexicon: The character of the Tucidian lexicon, despite being a historian and prose writer, is characterized by being very poetic, even if it seems paradoxical; How he does it and achieves it is easy, at least for him: he takes terms and constructions typical of poetry, while loading certain passages with drama, plagued with a prose rhythm very different from the usual one, adopting and adapting words from poets like Homer and the dramatic ones or taking words and terms from Ionian prose and even creating new terms and expressions himself. The list of neologisms invented and used by Thucydides is tremendous: with Thucydides, word composition systems reach one of the highest levels in Greek language and literature.
  • Figures of speech: Thucydides is an author who prolifically uses different figures of speech and style; From the sophists he inherited a taste for antithesis, an exacerbated antithesis, since he uses it not only to oppose elements of a sentence, subordinates or whole sentences, but also makes speeches antithetical: speeches are opposed to each other -sometimes Some are responses to others, but always loaded with the greatest rhetoricism, despite its brevity, with a style overloaded with long periods of subordination.

The Tucidian style

At the same time, the style of Thucydides shines through a hardness of construction (tò trachy tês harmonía), a lack of delicacy in the style that, together with its mannerism, presents great violence, which has been called inconcinidad (inconcinitas) of style. and figures: the author joins elements that do not coordinate with each other normally. Related to the inconclusiveness of style are a series of figures such as the variatio (metabolé), which acts as the true stylistic engine of the Tucidian work. Another stylistic principle is the brevity of his expressions, a conciseness, which sometimes makes his prose seem like a telegram that provokes in the reader-translator the need to constantly exercise attention, due to the tremendous syntactic and lexical economy of the author: da many things are understood in their prayers.

The tucidide question

Thucydides did not conceive of his history as a mere objective narration of war events; her position as a strategist from an aristocratic family and her knowledge of politics did not allow her to leave out her own opinion about everything that surrounded it and about herself. From here the investigation is directed to determine which parts are new and which are retouched, as well as when he began to write. Ullrich , in 1846He discovered that there were differences between the two halves of the work (in Book V a new prologue appears almost parallel to the one that begins the Tucidian work), and this made him suspect a possible change of plan when writing his work . For Ullrich, the first intention of the work was to write a narrative of the Archdynamic war – until the peace of Nicias – but when hostilities broke out again, he realized that it was the same war and extended his work stating that the cause of the war was the Lacedaemonian fear of Athenian might. For many years critics limited themselves to tweaking Ullrich’s theories.

 

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