Thucydides (Ancient Greek Historian)

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Thucydides (c. 460 – c. 400 BC) was an Athenian historian and general. He was born in Halimos, a suburb in the city of Athens, during a time when Athens was militarily powerful, especially with the sea and naval force at their disposal.

Thucydides’ father was Olorus and his family was from Thrace located in northeastern Greece. Thucydides owned gold mines in the small town of Scapte Hyle on the coast of Thrace which likely financed his historical work. He also recounts how he survived the plague of Athens in 430 BC despite contacting the disease himself. The plague resulted from a severe overpopulation in the city which contributed to the flourishing of diseases due to bad hygiene. Pericles, the leader of Athens at the time, perished in the plague along with not only some of his immediate family but also roughly 25% of the Athenian population.

In 424 BC, Thucydides was put in command of a fleet. He was soon exiled however after failing to to reach and defend Amphipolis, a city which was captured by the Spartan army, an army known for its incredibly powerful land force.

During his exile, Thucydides had more time to travel and and work on his History of the Peloponnesian War. This work chronicles nearly three decades of conflict and tension between Athens and Sparta taking place during the 5th century BC. The information comes from Thucydides own experiences as well as the testimony of eyewitnesses during the war, a war that would have Sparta claim victory in 404 BC.

History of the Peloponnesian War is also noted for its commentary on the politics and ethics of war and the complexities of human nature. It does not invoke the gods as active agents in history and rather looked toward human agency as causes of events. It is unknown exactly how and when Thucydides died although it was probably after 404 BC.

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