In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Thucydides

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Collections of Articles
  • Greek Editions, Scholia, and Textual History
  • Translations
  • Complete Commentaries
  • Commentaries on Individual Books
  • Thucydides’ Narrative Methods

Classics Thucydides
Jeffrey S. Rusten
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0086


Thucydides is known as the historian of the “Peloponnesian” war (431–404 BCE, between Athens with its subject cities and the league of cities in the Peloponnese led by Sparta), the first historian to write about his own times, and a paradigm for accuracy in Antiquity and for vivid narrative as well as unsentimental “realist” political analysis today. He documents the height of Athenian greatness under Pericles and his idealistic “funeral oration” (II.34–47, speech for the war dead), but also portrays the cold brutality of its imperialism in the “Melian dialogue” (V.84–116, the surrender negotiations between Athens and the neutral island of Melos), and the agony endured by the city during a plague (II.47–54) and in the aftermath of its disastrous invasion of Sicily (VI–VII). It is the first great work of political history and still a fundamental text for political science and international relations today. It is also a compelling story, with vivid characters, brilliant strategy and ideas, and tragic miscalculations.


Thucydides can be approached as history, literature, or political theory. Thus his bibliography requires more comprehensiveness than most other classical authors. Rusten 2009 organizes the entire tradition of literary and political readings; Payen 2003 surveys intensively historiographic interpretations during a limited recent period in France; Marincola 2001 a somewhat longer period, with more attention to works in English.

  • Marincola, John. 2001. Thucydides. In Greek historians. By John Marincola, 61–104. Greece and Rome: New Surveys in the Classics 31. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the Classical Association.

    Focuses on the categories and conventions Thucydides shares with other historians.

  • Payen, Pascal. 2003. L’historiographie grecque: VIe–IIIe siècles avant J.-C. (jusqu’à Phylarque). Pallas 63:129–166.

    Especially valuable for the French tradition post-de Romilly. Consult especially pp. 142–145.

  • Rusten, Jeffrey S. 2009. Thucydides and his readers. In Thucydides. Edited by Jeffrey S. Rusten, 1–28. Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Surveys the chronology and thematic controversies among Thucydides’ readings from Antiquity to the present.

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