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Thucydides: The Reinvention of Historyby Donald Kagan
Synopses & Reviews
A reconsideration of the first modern historian and his methods from a renowned scholar
The grandeur and power of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War have enthralled readers, historians, and statesmen alike for two and a half millennia, and the work and its author have had an enduring influence on those who think about international relations and war, especially in our own time. In Thucydides, Donald Kagan, one of our foremost classics scholars, illuminates the great historian and his work both by examining him in the context of his time and by considering him as a revisionist historian.
Thucydides took a spectacular leap into modernity by refusing to seek explanations for human behavior in the will of the gods, or even in the will of individuals, looking instead at the behavior of men in society. In this context, Kagan explains how The Peloponnesian War differs significantly from other accounts offered by Thucydides' contemporaries and stands as the first modern work of political history, dramatically influencing the manner in which history has been conceptualized ever since.
"Yale professor of classics Kagan thoroughly examines Thucydides' life and work to successfully demonstrate that the Athenian historian was the first to utilize a truly professional (i.e., realistic and methodical) approach in recounting contemporary events. An unsuccessful general and a devoted adherent of Pericles, Thucydides believed that the Peloponnesian War was the most significant event in Greek history. He was determined that his study of the war, unlike more romantic or 'folkish' histories, would stand the test of time because of his attention to detail; his comprehensive documentation includes symptoms of the mysterious plague afflicting Athens for the benefit of future generations, showing the historian's far-sighted versatility. To his credit, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War remains a necessity in the study of international relations, military strategy and political science. Like his subject, Kagan (The Peloponnesian War) tends to minimize the impact of Herodotus on the evolution of history as a discipline, yet any such weakness is offset by the inescapable fact that if Herodotus remains the acknowledged 'Father of History,' then Thucydides could be described as the 'Father of Objective History,' who opened the realm of history to serious study." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Kagan, one of the foremost classics scholars, illuminates the historian Thucydides and his greatest work, "The Peloponnesian War," both by examining him in the context of his time and by considering him as a revisionist historian.
The bestselling author of The Peloponnesian War examines Thucydides as the first modern historian.
Donald Kagan's magisterial history of the Peloponnesian War is recognized as a landmark of classical scholarship. Now, Kagan-one of the most respected classical historians in the world-turns his attention from one of the greatest conflicts in history to the author who so magnificently chronicled it: Thucydides, the first truly modern historian. This study offers readers a remarkable opportunity to experience one great historian engaging another across the centuries, in a work that is at once an engrossing voyage of discovery, a moving tribute, and a revelatory meditation on the practice of history and its value in human affairs.
About the Author
Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, is an authority on ancient Greek history and culture and a scholar of diplomatic history. He is the author of many books on ancient and military history and the coeditor of two bestselling textbooks on world history and Western civilization.
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