Speak to you tonight (6/11): Thucydides intro call
Andre and I look forward to our intro call for Thucydides tonight –
Thucydides introductory call
Monday, June 11
8pm New York time
Tonight’s call will be focused on setting up everyone to read this wonderful edition of this great classic.
Agenda will be:
– Introductions (including discussion group leader Dr. Andre Stipanovic)
– Rules of the road (how these calls work)
– The website (how to benefit from the online resources we have assembled)
– The Landmark edition (how to approach this edition; background on Robert Strassler)
– Review of the reading guide and questions for Book 1
Andre and Phil
P.S. It’s best if you can be in front of a computer and online during our call – as we’ll review the Reading Odyssey website.
Book 1 reading guide and questions (to be discussed at the Book 1 call in July)
1. Thucydides’ goals
What does Thucydides lay out in Book 1 as his goals for writing this history? As far as we know, this is the second history ever written- the first being Herodotus’ history of the Persian Wars.
For readers of Herodotus – how does Thucydides differ from Herodotus? How does he refer to Herodotus in this first book? What does he owe to Herodotus?
2. Dates of the war
What are the dates of this war between Athens and Sparta? How does this war fit into the contenxt of Ancient Greek history? What important events happened before and after this war?
3. People, place and identity
Let’s do a quick review of how Thucydides refers to Greeks, Corinthians, Pelopenesians, Spartans, Attica, Athens.
Note: Athenians refer to the wars as the “Peloponessian Wars” while the Spartans refer to the wars as the “Athenian Wars.”
4. Origins of the Athenian Empire
How did the Athenian Empire come to develop? What was the Delian League? For readers who just finished reading Herodotus – what can you share with us about the end chapters of Herodotus – the final moments of the Persian Wars – and the rise of Athens?
5. Thucydides philosophy
As you read the early sections of Book One – especially 1.1 to 1.23 – consider Thucydides’ philosophy and biases. Keep in mind that
Thucydides was a precise writer and that every word, every section serves a purpose. Ask yourself “why is he writing this”?
6. Athenian bias? Spartan bias?
Thucydides, an exiled Athenian general, certainly sought to understand the war from different perspectives. Yet, he was reportedly criticized within Athens for a Spartan bias in his writing. From this first book – what do you think? Does he have a bias? What is it?
7. Cause of the war?
Thucydides is well-known, in part, because of his analysis of deep-rooted causes (as opposed to popular or stated reasons for the war).
Thucydides argues that because of growing Athenian power it was inevitable for Sparta and Athens to go to war.
What do you think?
8. Human nature and historical causality
In our first Thucydides reading group, we had a good dialogue in our Book 1 call about human nature and historical causality. Several members asked and debated: are greed and fear the key drivers behind all human events, or at least behind wars?
Thoughts from Andre
The ancient writers were very deliberate in outlining their ideas very methodically. We see this in historians and even poets like Homer, Horace and Vergil. For Thucydides, who worked on this project for many years, the structure must have had some deliberate flow to it.
Book I is the introduction of Thucydides’ thought and method for the whole work, so think carefully about how he begins Book I and how he ends Book I. Think of Book I as his thesis statement and even a sample of his method of presenting history. Remember that he is reacting to other new ways of presenting history, most notably Herodotus.
Remember also that this is an experimental work for its time. We know of no one else prior to this in any part of the world that has written history in this way. This is also an age when medicine, science, math and philosophy were pushing the boundaries of discovery while mass carnage was being reported daily. It may be analogous to 1969 in the US when the headlines simultaneously read that astronauts were walking on the moon in the same moment soldiers were dying at an alarming rate in Vietnam. Democracy in our own country was being questioned, challenged and transformed. This was Thucydides’ world too.
Why does Thucydides spend time right away in discussing the history of Greece up to the present war? How does this “archaeology” (early Greek history) at the beginning of Book I relate to the “pentecontaetia” (more recent events since the Persian war leading up to the present war) near the end of Book I?
Why does he interpose more recent events in between these two sections? Why are these ordering of events NOT strictly chronological in Book I? Who is his audience circa 400 BCE now that Athens has been conquered and other Greek city states are filling the power vacuum? Does he expect Athenians, for example, to be excited about reading about a war that they had just lost? Does he think Spartans will care to read this? Thebans? Americans??? Looking forward to the next meeting, Andre