Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

The Peloponnesian War
by Thucydides, translated by Steven Lattimore
written 431 BC
The Well-Educated Mind (Histories), Back to the Classics (Translation), 

The only reason I read The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides was for my Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge, and therefore I am recording the minor fact that I read it.  I feel like I cannot add much more than that - I read it; it is done - but if I ponder a bit, maybe I can come up with some opinions.


Oh, I know.  I can confidently say I preferred Peloponnesian War far less than Herodotus' Histories. Thucydides was dull, dry, and dull.  (Said that already.)

Some of the speeches given by generals or other leaders were engrossing, but not frequent enough.

I am reminded again: loyalties are a joke, men can be bought for a price, you cannot trust government, innocent citizens are always the pawns of selfish, greedy, arrogant leaders, and these wars were wasteful and motivated by pride (because while I would be the first to say that sometimes war is very necessary, this "one" was not).  

If I did not know any better, I would say that Lattimore, my translator, had a personal vendetta against Thucydides because in his footnotes he often times ripped Thucydides to shreds when he thought he was being unfair or untruthful or not thorough enough.  Maybe that is what you call an honest translator.

Toward the end there were philosophical discussions about democracy and oligarchies, and that was interesting - though a little too late.  Other than that, I cannot say I remember anything more that stands out; and in fact, the longer I wait to write this post, the more I forget I even read it.

So there it is.  Glad to be done.  I have great respect for minds that love this stuff, but I am ready to move on to Plato.  

It is done.


Jillian said...

I wondered how you were getting on with this one. I'm glad I have you to read these old tomes for me & tell me what happens. Ha ha! :P

Sharon Wilfong said...

I love your honest reviews. I felt the same way about reading Greek Plays. All I can say about them is that I read them. Must be the wrong season for me. Or do we read them like medicine because it's "good for us"?

Ruth said...

I couldn't even tell you what happened. For that, you'll need to read Cleo's posts. I don't want to think about it.

Ruth said...

It's safe to say that I am not interested in these Ancient texts. I don't want to read them : ( I'm only doing it to complete The Well-Educated Mind.

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

This is next on my Reading the Histories list and I am not looking forward to it at all. This just reinforced that it's likely to be a long, slow slog. Thanks for the warning. ;)

Cleo said...

I must be honest and say I hated this read until halfway through (contemplating 2 stars) ....... and then I started to love it (contemplating 5 stars). I think you need those 20+ years to delve into people's psyches and examine their actions ...... their stupid actions over and over and over again. Perhaps you think it a useless exercise, the only problem is that we still do those same stupid (and useless) actions over and over and over again. Perhaps if everyone had read Thucydides we would have become smarter .... but I doubt it.

Finally, some characters became life-like for me like Alcibiades (the scum) and Nicias and Demosthenes. The reasoning behind people's actions was fascinating and the different characters, judged by their behaviour, take interesting dimensions. I did start to read the book in bigger chunks at the end, which is perhaps why I began to enjoy it. You have to really force yourself to get into the action of the story for it to work on you because, honestly Thucydides' narrative is rather dry.

For me the Greeks teach us about life in bold relief. Sadly, I'm not sure we've learned much from them.

Ruth said...

Sorry. I mean, good for you for following through even w/ my disappointing post. However, if you want to be encouraged, visit Cleo at Cleoclassical.blogspot.com.

Ruth said...

I'm in total agreement about studying the past. The men who wrote the U.S. Constitution KNEW their Ancient History well having read and studied the Ancients. They knew the dangers and mistakes of manmade government as well as the falls of human nature, and they used those truths to form the Constitution of this country.

I also agree that man never learns. We have the evidence right in front of us, but people either ignore it or think they know better. So foolish.