Few works can claim to form the foundation stones of one entire academic discipline, let alone two, but Thucydides's celebrated History of the Peloponnesian War is not only one of the first great works of history, but also the departure point from which the modern discipline of international relations has been built. This is the case largely because the author is a master of analysis; setting out with the aim of giving a clear, well-reasoned account of one of the seminal events of the age - a war that resulted in the collapse of Athenian power and the rise of Sparta - Thucydides took care to build a single, beautifully-structured argument that was faithful to chronology and took remarkably few liberties with the source materials. He avoided the sort of assumptions that make earlier works frustrating for modern scholars, for example seeking reasons for outcomes that were rooted in human actions and agency, not in the will of the gods. And he was careful to explain where he had obtained much of his information. As a work of structure - and as a work of reasoning - The History of the Peloponnesian War continues to inspire, be read and be taught more than 2,000 years after it was written.
Mark Fisher is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley and holds an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on Ancient Greek political thought in the aftermath of the Peloponnesian war.
Ways in to the text Who was Thucydides? What does The History of the Peloponnesian War say? Why does The History of the Peloponnesian War matter? Section 1: Influences Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context Module 2: Academic Context Module 3: The Problem Module 4: The Author's Contribution Section 2: Ideas Module 5: Main Ideas Module 6: Secondary Ideas Module 7: Achievement Module 8: Place in the Author's Work Section 3: Impact Module 9: The First Responses Module 10: The Evolving Debate Module 11: Impact and Influence Today Module 12: Where Next? Glossary of Terms People Mentioned in the Text Works Cited.