Thucydides Book 1 Study Guide Questions
First I want to thank you for your interest and support in helping to make this reading group happen.
I love telling my students that I am involved in this project and that the classics are important both inside and outside of school. I love the look on their faces when they hear me say that adults are reading and discussing these great works in our free time.
As for my children (Luke 7, Nick 4, Ted 2), they are growing up hearing that adults enjoy digging into these great works of history and literature. In fact, it is a given that their Dad (me) will be on a call like this once a month. I know that this example is impacting their attitude toward reading as we speak.
Phil and I will send out a set of questions each month for us to think about as we read through Thucydides. We can use these questions as jumping off points for our conference call discussions. We will also work in any questions that members bring to the call or send out through email as well. Please share your thoughts and questions. These calls will not be lectures as much as interactive discussions about questions that mean the most to us. Take full advantage of it!
Here is the conference call schedule for you reference. The study questions for Book I will follow. Let the reading begin!
Conference call phone number: 1-866-628-8620, 112431#
All calls are scheduled for 8pm Eastern Standard Time and will be recorded, then posted to the Reading Odyssey website.
Intro. call – Mon Nov 3
Book 1 -Mon Dec 1
Book 2 -Mon Jan 5
Book 3 -Mon Feb 2
Books –4 & 5 -Mon Mar 9
Book 6 -Mon Apr 6
Book 7 -Mon May 4
Book 8 -Mon Jun 8
Introduction to Thucydides
Robert Strassler’s Landmark Thucydides, a user’s guide:
1. Editor’s Note is essential to getting the most out of Strassler’s format and, of course, Thucydides’ numerous references to the ancient world of the 5th century Greek city-states.
2. Try to digest Victor Davis Hanson’s Introduction as you read through Book I. Even if you do not read it all in one sitting, it is conveniently divided into sections that you can chew on individually and intermittently as you read through Book I.
3. Try not to be put off by the amount of information contained in Book I at first. As you become more familiar with the names of people, places and things, the points Thucydides makes will also become clearer. The actual narration of the Peloponnesian war begins with Book II. Book I is an opportunity to get to know Thucydides’ world and the background for the war to be described. It is also a chance for those of you who had read Herodotus previously to make comparisons.
Opening Thoughts for reading Book I:
How does Thucydides distinguish himself as an historian in his first Book? Does he directly refer to his predecessor Herodotus?
How unique is this type of “history writing” for its time?
Who was Thucydides and whom does he favor in this work? Athens? Sparta? Neither?
Discussion Questions for Book I:
1. Why does Thucydides spend time right away discussing the history of Greece up to the present war?
2. How does the “archaeology” (earlier 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?
3. Why does Thucydides interpose more recent events in between these two sections? Why are these ordering of events NOT strictly chronological in Book I?
4. 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???
Excellent Supplementary Reading:
Zagorin, Perez. Thucydides: An Introduction for the Common Reader. Princeton University Press, 2005.