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Thucydides

ac, war, time, history, vols and exile

THUCYDIDES, thii-sid'i-dez, Greek his torian: b. Attica, about 460 a.c.; d. about 400 a.c. His father's name was Olorus, his moth er's Hegesipyle. He possessed gold mines in Thrace opposite the island of Thasos, and was in consequence one of the richest and most in fluential men in Thrace. In 431 a.c. the Pel oponnesian War, which forms the subject of his work, was begun. In 430 the plague broke out in Athens. Thucydides took it, but recov ered, and in 424 B.C. commanded a squadron of seven ships at Thasos. The Spartan gen eral Brasidas besieged Amphipolis, and Eucles, who commanded in that Important post, sent to Thucydides for aid. Thucydides made all haste in preparing to answer the summons, and seems to have used his private means to for ward his equipment, but Brasidas, apprehensive of the approaching relief, offered favorable terms to Eucles, which were accepted, and Thucydides only arrived the day after the sur render. Yet he was in time to save Eion from falling into the hands of the enemies. Whether this transaction led to the banishment of Thu cydides, or whether he exiled himself to escape death as its probable consequence, is not known; but from this time he became an exile, and the duration of his exile, according to his own ac count, was 20 years. the conclusion of this term the war terminated (404 p.c.), and all political exiles were permitted to return. Thu cydides returned to Athens in the following year; and met a violent death a year or two later, but at what exact time, and whether in Thrace or Athens, is not known. During his exile he remained close to the theatre of the war, of which he was a diligent observer, and as he could not remain in the Athenian domin ion he may have passed this oeriod of his life, or the greater part of it. within the domains of the Spartan alliance. It is also probable that he visited Sicily and southern Italy. His his tory consists of eight books, the last of which differs from the others in containing none of the political speeches which form so striking a feature of the rest, and is also generally sup posed to be inferior to them in style. Hence it

has been thought by various critics to be the work of a different author, of Xenophon, of Theopompus, or of a daughter of Thucydides; but it is more probable that it is the author's own without his final revision. The history is incomplete, the 8th book stopping abruptly in the middle of the 21st year of the war. As a historian Thucydides holds the foremost place. He was painstaking and indefatigable in col lecting and sifting facts, brief and terse in narrating them. His style is full of dignity and replete with condensed meaning. It is, how ever, sometimes harsh and obscure from over condensation. He is unsurpassed in the power of analyzing character and action, of tracing events to their causes, of appreciating the mo tives of individual agents and of combining in their just relations all the threads of the tan gled web of history, and his work has been styled the "Statesman's Handbook." It is to the superiority and impartiality of his judg ment that he owed the power of producing a work which should be, as he himself said, a possession for posterity. Among the most val uable editions of Thucydides are those of Bekker (3 vols., Berlin 1821) • Classen (8 vols., Berlin 1862-78) ; Poppo (18i1-38); and Stahl (1873-74). There are English translations by Dale (Bohn Classical Library), and Benjamin Jowett (with introduction and historical notes, 2 vols. London 1881; Boston 1883). Consult Bury, J. B., 'Ancient Greek Historians' (New York 1909); Cornford, F. M. (Thucydides Mythohistoricus' (ib. 1907) ; M., G. B., and the History of his Age' (Lon don 1911), also standard histories of Greece.