Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians

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Katerina Panagi
published on 13 May 2024
Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Title: Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
Author: . Thucydides
Audience: General Public
Difficulty: Medium
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Published: 2013
Pages: 762

Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian War" is a timeless classic that offers not just a historical account of a conflict between two ancient Greek city-states, Athens and Sparta during the 5th century BCE, but also profound insights into humanity, politics, and the nature of war itself. The narrative delves into the causes, campaigns, and consequences of the war with a depth of analysis, making it essential reading for scholars, students, and general readers alike.

Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War is a timeless masterpiece of ancient historiography, offering a detailed and profoundly insightful account of one of antiquity's defining conflicts. Written with a precision and analytical depth that transcends its era, Thucydides' narrative delves into the causes, conduct, and consequences of the war between Athens and Sparta with a keen eye for human nature. One of the remarkable aspects of Thucydides' work is his emphasis on the role of human agency in shaping historical events. He famously asserts that the Peloponnesian War was not just a clash of arms but a contest of competing interests, ideologies, and power dynamics. His examination of the motives and actions of key figures such as Pericles, Cleon, and Alcibiades offers valuable lessons in leadership, strategy, and the complexities of political decision-making.

History of the Peloponnesian War is not just a record of past events but a meditation on the cyclical nature of history. Thucydides believed that by studying the past, future generations could gain insight into the patterns of human behaviour and avoid repeating the mistakes of their predecessors. Beyond its immediate historical context, Thucydides' work offers broader lessons about the nature of power and the dynamics of international relations. His famous assertion that "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" encapsulates a realist understanding of politics that continues to resonate in contemporary discourse on statecraft and diplomacy.

Jeremy Mynott's translation presents Thucydides and the writing in their proper historical context. Mynott's work is particularly sensitive to the risks of anachronism, and the notes and extensive reference material provide students and scholars with all the necessary historical, cultural, and linguistic background they need to engage with the text on its own terms. Mynott's suitability as a translator for Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War is evident in his combination of scholarly expertise, linguistic acumen, and deep immersion in ancient Greece's historical and cultural context. As a distinguished classicist and translator, Mynott brings to the project a wealth of knowledge and experience that enriches his interpretation of Thucydides' text.

This translation is characterized by its sensitivity to Thucydides' rhetorical strategies.

Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War undergoes a remarkable transformation in Mynott's hands, emerging as a magnum opus of historical and literary scholarship that transcends the boundaries of time and language. Mynott's translation represents a Herculean effort to bridge the gap between ancient Greece and the modern world, breathing new life into Thucydides' ancient text while preserving its essence and integrity. This translation is characterized by its sensitivity to Thucydides' rhetorical strategies employed by Thucydides to persuade and engage his audience. Mynott deftly reproduces Thucydides' rhetorical devices, such as repetition, parallelism, and irony, enhancing the rhetorical force of the text and illuminating its persuasive intent. Mynott's translation thus captures both the literal meaning of Thucydides' words and their rhetorical and stylistic significance, allowing readers to experience the full impact of his narrative artistry.

At the heart of Mynott's translation lies a profound understanding of the ancient Greek source material and the nuances of contemporary English. His mastery of language allows him to capture the subtle nuances and complexities of Thucydides' prose, from the poetic cadence of his narrative to the precision of his analytical insights. Mynott's translation is not merely a mechanical rendering of words but a creative act of interpretation, imbuing Thucydides' text with a vitality and immediacy that speak to readers across centuries.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Mynott's translation is his ability to navigate the linguistic and cultural differences between ancient Greece and our world today. Through careful attention to detail and a deep appreciation for the historical context of the Peloponnesian War, Mynott ensures that Thucydides' message resonates with contemporary readers. His translation captures the ethos of ancient Greece while also making the text accessible to a global audience, thus fulfilling Thucydides' timeless aspiration to speak to all humanity.

In addition to his skillful translation, Mynott enriches the reading experience with a wealth of supplementary material, including extensive notes, annotations, and a comprehensive bibliography. These resources serve as invaluable guides, providing readers with essential context, elucidating obscure references, and offering insights into Thucydides' historical and philosophical perspectives. Mynott's annotations are not mere footnotes but scholarly exegeses that deepen our understanding of the text and illuminate its relevance to contemporary concerns.

Mynott's edition reflects his deep engagement with Thucydides' world and his commitment to presenting the author and his text in their proper historical context. Through meticulous research and rigorous scholarship, Mynott situates Thucydides' work within the broader intellectual and political currents of ancient Greece, shedding light on the motivations and aspirations that shaped the course of history. His translation is thus not just a window into the past but a mirror that reflects our own world and its enduring dilemmas.

Ultimately, Mynott's translation of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War stands as a towering achievement in the annals of literary and historical scholarship. Through his extraordinary skill as a translator, his profound understanding of the ancient text, and his unwavering commitment to scholarly excellence, Mynott invites readers to embark on a journey through one of the defining conflicts of antiquity, offering them a deeper understanding of the past and its enduring relevance to the present. This edition is not just a book but a testament to the enduring power of literature to transcend time and space, enriching our understanding of the human experience and our place in the grand tapestry of history, making it essential reading for scholars and students of ancient history, politics, and philosophy alike.

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About the Reviewer

Katerina Panagi
Ancient Greek Historian, Victorian Literature Researcher and a freelance writer. Passionate about uncovering history's mysteries and weaving compelling narratives.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Panagi, K. (2024, May 13). Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Panagi, Katerina. "Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified May 13, 2024.

MLA Style

Panagi, Katerina. "Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 13 May 2024. Web. 19 Jul 2024.