460–400 BC

Thucydides was a historian who is famous for writing about the history of the Peloponnesian War, which took place during his lifetime. He is widely admired by historians because he is recognized as the first writer of history who made accuracy his first concern, and made sure that his sources were reliable. He is one of the most famous war historians of all time, and his book has been widely studied and quoted by military strategists and educators throughout the ages. It is valued for its great insight in to the phenomenon of war, both psychologically and politically, as well as its summary of military exploits.

Not a great deal is known about the life of Thucydides. The general belief is that he was born around 450B.C. and died at the end of the fifth century (around 400 B.C.) His family may have had Thracian roots, but he was a citizen of Athens. In 431 B.C., when the Peloponnesian War began, Thucydides began to write about the conflict, which eventually led to the collapse of the Athenian Empire. Thucydides was not only a spectator and observer of the war, he also participated in it. He suffered from the great plague of Athens in 429 B.C., which killed their leader, Pericles, among others. He also served as a military commander in 424 B.C., but his mission was not successful, so he was exiled from Athens for the rest of the war. During his exile, it is thought that Thucydides traveled, and may have spent time with the opposing forces (Spartan allies).

Thucydides is often compared to Herodotus as a historian. Of the two, Thucydides is thought to be more accurate and objective. Thucydides was familiar with Herodotus, and admired his style, but he believed that Herodotus wrote for the purposes of entertainment, as well as education. Thucydides self-consciously decided that he wanted his history to be of instructional use to future generations, rather than entertainment. He did not want his history to be confused with legends, propaganda, or hearsay. His work set a new standard for future historical writers in terms of accuracy and objectivity.

Key events during the life of Thucydides:

431 BC
Outbreak of Peloponnesian War.
429 BC
Contracted the Plague of Athens.
424 BC
Appointed General and given a squadron of seven ships. Blamed for the surrender of Amphipolis.
424 BC
Exiled from Athens. Spent most of the next 15 years in the Peloponnese. Began writinge The Peloponnesian War.
414 BC
Traveled to Syracuse to observe the siege.
411 BC
Ends narrative of the War before its completion. May have died.

Book Links
Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition  by  Alfred J. Church

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Great Plague of Athens  in  Pictures from Greek Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Amphipolus Surrenders to Brasidas  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor

Image Links

 in Pictures from Greek Life and Story

Herodotus and Thucydides
 in The Story of the Greek People

Herodotus and Thucydides
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Pericles Athenian statesman during Golden Age of Athens. Made Athens cultural center of Greece.
Brasidas Eloquent Spartan general, turned tide of Peloponnesian War in Sparta's favor. Died at Amphipolis.
Cleon War mongering politician, opposed Sparta's peace proposals.
Demosthenes Important Athenian general in the Peloponnesian War. Perished at Syracuse.
Nicias After death of Pericles, emerged as leader of peace party. Led disastrous Sicilian Expedition.
Alcibiades Controversial statesman and general of Athens, who betrayed the city, then returned as hero.
Socrates First moral philosopher, immortalized by Plato.
Sophocles Wrote Greek Tragedies, including the tragedies of Agamemnon, Electra, and Orestes.
Archidamus Spartan King during the early years of Peloponnesian War. Sought peace with Athens, but was forced into the war.
Herodotus Wrote Histories of the Persian War and empires of the east.