cover image Thucydides: The Reinvention of History

Thucydides: The Reinvention of History

Donald Kagan, . . Viking, $26.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-670-02129-1

Yale professor of classics Kagan thoroughly examines Thucydides' life and work to successfully demonstrate that the Athenian historian was the first to utilize a truly professional (i.e., realistic and methodical) approach in recounting contemporary events. An unsuccessful general and a devoted adherent of Pericles, Thucydides believed that the Peloponnesian War was the most significant event in Greek history. He was determined that his study of the war, unlike more romantic or “folkish” histories, would stand the test of time because of his attention to detail; his comprehensive documentation includes symptoms of the mysterious plague afflicting Athens for the benefit of future generations, showing the historian's far-sighted versatility. To his credit, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War remains a necessity in the study of international relations, military strategy and political science. Like his subject, Kagan (The Peloponnesian War ) tends to minimize the impact of Herodotus on the evolution of history as a discipline, yet any such weakness is offset by the inescapable fact that if Herodotus remains the acknowledged “Father of History,” then Thucydides could be described as the “Father of Objective History,” who opened the realm of history to serious study. (Nov. 2)