Thucydides Thucydides - Ancient Greek Historian Ancient Greek Historian
Thucydides 460 - 400
Ancient Greek Historian
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Thucydides (c. 460-c. 400):
Ancient Greek Historian


  • What were Thucydides' reasons for writing his History? Consider also:
    • What do those reasons tell us about the nature of his History?
    • What was Thucydides' conception of history?

Thucydides was born into an aristocratic family in ancient Athens sometime around 460 BCE. Because of his family’s wealth, Thucydides enjoyed access to the leading figures and politicians in Athens. No one is really sure how, why or when he turned to the writing of history, but it is his surviving History of the Peloponnesian War, a chronicle of the war between Sparta and Athens (431-404 BCE)–actually the second war between the two rival Greek city states–that made Thucydides famous.

Thucydides was in Athens when the war between Athens and Sparta broke out in 431 BCE--See the timeline, for specific events--and he soon devoted his life to writing the chronicle of the war’s events, a chronicle that we now know as his History of the Peloponnesian War. Much like Herodotus before him, Thucydides attempted to rely on first-person accounts and documentary records (primary evidence) of what had happened, and he also believed that history was the result of human actions and not the result of the interventions by gods in the life of man, which is sort of what Herodotus thought. Finally, Thucydides also believed that there were patterns of human behavior at work, and by studying the facts and establishing an accurate historical record of history, one could begin to identify and understand those patterns, and hence, figure out the future. As a result of his work, Thucydides is often regarded as the first true historian.

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