(Θουκυδίδης). (1) An Athenian statesman, of the deme Alopec, son of Melesias. After the death of Cimon in B.C. 449, Thucydides became the leader of the aristocratic party, which he concentrated and more thoroughly organized in opposition to Pericles. He left two sons, Melesias and Stephanus; and a son of the former of these, named Thucydides after his grandfather, was a pupil of Socrates.
(2) The great Athenian historian, the son of Olorus or Orolus and Hegesipyl. He is said to have been connected with the family of Cimon; and we know that Miltiades, the conqueror of Marathon, married Hegesipyl, the daughter of a Thracian king called Olorus, by whom she became the mother of Cimon; and it has been conjectured with much probability that the mother of Thucydides was a granddaughter of Miltiades and Hegesipyl. According to a statement of Pamphila , Thucydides was forty years of age at the commencement of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 431), and accordingly he was born in 471. There is a story in Lucian of Herodotus having read his History at the Olympic Games to the assembled Greeks; and Suidas adds that Thucydides, then a boy, was present, and shed tears of emulationa presage of his own future historical distinction. But this celebrated story ought probably to be rejected as a fable. Thucydides is said to have been instructed in oratory by Antiphon, and in philosophy by Anaxagoras; but whether these statements are to be received cannot be determined. It is certain, however, that, being an Athenian of a good family, and living in a city which was the centre of Greek civilization, he must have had the best possible education; that he was a man of great ability and cultivated understanding his work clearly shows. He informs us that he possessed gold-mines in that part of Thrace which is opposite to the island of Thasos, and that he was a person of the greatest influence among those in that part of Thrace. This property, according to some accounts, he had from his ancestors; according to other accounts, he married a rich woman of Scaptesyle, and received it as a portion with her. Thucydides left a son called Timotheus; and a daughter also is mentioned, who is said by some to have written the eighth book of the History of Thucydides. Thucydides (ii. 48) was one of those who suffered from the great plague of Athens, and one of the few who recovered. We have no trustworthy evidence of Thucydides having distinguished himself as an orator, though it is not unlikely that he did, for his oratorical talent is shown by the speeches that he has inserted in his history. He was, however, employed in a military capacity, and he was in command of an Athenian squadron of seven ships, at Thasus, B.C. 424, when Eucles, who commanded in Amphipolis, sent for his assistance against Brasidas, who was before that town with an army. Brasidas, fearing the arrival of a superior force, [p. 1577]
offered favourable terms to Amphipolis, which were readily accepted, for there were few Athenians in the place, and the rest did not wish to make resistance. Thucydides arrived at Eion, at the mouth of the Strymon, on the evening of the same day on which Amphipolis surrendered; and though he was too late to save Amphipolis, he prevented Eion from falling into the hands of the enemy. In consequence of this failure, Thucydides became an exile, probably to avoid a severer punishment; for Cleon, who was at this time in great favour with the Athenians, appears to have excited popular suspicion against him. There are various untrustworthy accounts as to his places of residence during his exile; but we may conclude that he could not safely reside in any place which was under Athenian dominion, and as he kept his eye on the events of the war, he must have lived in those parts which belonged to the Spartan alliance. His own words certainly imply that, during his exile, he spent much of his time either in the Peloponnesus, or in places which were under Peloponnesian influence (v. 26); and his work was the result of his own experience and observations. His minute description of Syracuse and the neighbourhood leads to the probable conclusion that he was personally acquainted with the localities; and if he visited Sicily, it is probable that he also saw some parts of southern Italy. Thucydides says that he lived twenty years in exile (v. 26), and as his exile commenced in the beginning of 423, he may have returned to Athens in the beginning of 403, about the time when Thrasybulus liberated Athens. Thucydides is said to have been assassinated at Athens soon after his return; but other accounts place his death in Thrace. There is a general agreement, however, among the ancient authorities that he came to a violent end. His death cannot be placed later than 401.
The time when he composed his work has been a matter of dispute. He informs us himself that he was busy in collecting materials all through the war from the beginning to the end (i. 22), and of course he would register them as he got them. Plutarch says that he wrote the work in Thrace; but the work in the shape in which we have it was certainly not finished until after the close of the war, and he was probably engaged upon it at the time of his death. A question has been raised as to the authorship of the eighth and last book of Thucydides, which breaks off in the middle of the twenty-first year of the war (411). It differs from all the other books in containing no speeches, and it has also been supposed to be inferior to the rest as a piece of composition. Accordingly, several ancient critics supposed that the eighth book was not by Thucydides: some attributed it to his daughter, and some to Xenophon or Theopompus, because both of them continued the history. The words with which Xenophon's Hellenica commence (μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα) may chiefly have led to the supposition that he was the author, for his work is made to appear as a continuation of that of Thucydides. But this argument is in itself of little weight; and, besides, both the style of the eighth book is different from that of Xenophon, and the manner of treating the subject, for the division of the year into summers and winters, which Thucydides has observed in his first seven books, is continued in the eighth, but is not observed by Xenophon. The rhetorical style of Theopompus, which was the characteristic of his writing, renders it also improbable that he was the author of the eighth book. It seems the simplest supposition to consider Thucydides himself as the author of this book, since he names himself as the author twice (viii. 6, 60); though it is probable that he had not the opportunity of revising it with the same care as the first seven books. It is stated by an ancient writer that Xenophon made the work of Thucydides known, which may be true, as he wrote the first two books of his Hellenica, or the part which now ends with the second book, for the purpose of completing the history. The work of Thucydides, from the commencement of the second book, is chronologically divided into winters and summers, and each summer and winter make a year (ii. 1). His summer comprises the time from the vernal to [figure in text: Thucydides. (Norfolk.)] the autumnal equinox, and the winter comprises the period from the autumnal to the vernal equinox. The division into books and chapters was probably made by the Alexandrian critics. The history of the Peloponnesian War opens the second book of Thucydides, and the first is introductory to the history.
He begins his first book by observing that the Peloponnesian War was the most important event in Grecian history, which he shows by a rapid review of the history of the Greeks from the earliest period to the commencement of the war (i. 1-21). After his introductory chapters he proceeds to explain the alleged grounds and causes of the war: the real causes were, he says, the Spartan jealousy of the Athenian power. His narrative is interrupted (chs. 89-118), after he has come to the time when the Lacedaemonians resolved on war, by a digression on the rise and progress of the power of Athens; a period which had been either omitted [p. 1578] by other writers, or treated imperfectly, and with little regard to chronology, as by Hellanicus in his Attic history (ch. 97). He resumes his narrative (ch. 119) with the negotiations that preceded the war; but this leads to another digression of some length on the treason of Pausanias (chs. 128-134), and the exile of Themistocles (chs. 135-138). He concludes the book with the speech of Pericles, who advised the Athenians to refuse the demands of the Peloponnesians; and his subject, as already observed, begins with the second book.
A history which treats of so many events, which took place at remote spots, could only be written, in the time of Thucydides, by a man who took great pains to ascertain facts by personal inquiry. In modern times facts are made known by printing as soon as they occur; and the printed records of the time, such as newspapers, are often the only evidence of many facts which become history. When we know the careless way in which facts are now reported and recorded by incompetent persons, often upon very indifferent hearsay testimony, and compare with such records the pains that Thucydides took to ascertain the chief events of a war with which he was contemporary, in which he took a share as a commander, the opportunities which his means allowed, his great abilities, and serious, earnest character, it is a fair conclusion that we have as exact a history of a long eventful period by Thucydides as we have of any period in modern times.
The work of Thucydides shows the most scrupulous care and diligence in ascertaining facts; his strict attention to chronology, and the importance that he attaches to it, are additional proof of his historical accuracy. His narrative is brief and concise to a degree which makes the thought, or the crowd of thoughts, concentrated in a short and involved sentence often hard to understand; it generally contains bare facts expressed in the fewest possible words, but this stern and apparently passionless brevity is able to produce a pathos unsurpassed by any prose-writer. This is seen most notably in his account of the Athenian catastrophe at Syracuse. Few can read it (and there are other passages almost as moving in the history) without agreeing with the opinion of Macaulay, that nothing finer has been written in prose. But it is still more important to notice that Thucydides is the founder of philosophical history. He first showed that a great historian should not merely narrate events accurately, should not even content himself with a critical examination of his authorities, but should also try to trace the causes of events, and their consequences, their teaching in politics, and the light which they throw upon character. Many of his speeches are political essays, or materials for them; they are not mere imaginations of his own for rhetorical effect; they contain in many cases the general sense of what was actually delivered as nearly as he could ascertain, and in many instances he had good opportunities of knowing what was said, for he heard some speeches delivered (i. 22); but they are employed to show the motives and sentiments of the speakers and of their partisans or countrymen.
The number of existing manuscripts of Thucydides is about fifty, the oldest being the Codex Laurentianus (Florence) of the tenth century. Among the best are the Codex Cassellanus (Cassel), dated 1252, the Codex Augustanus (formerly at Augsburg, now in Munich), the Codex Cantabrigiensis (Cambridge), the Codex Palatinus (Heidelberg) of the eleventh century, and a Codex Vaticanus of somewhat later date. A manuscript (Codex Italus) collated by Bekker at Paris in 1812 is now lost.
The standard editions of Thucydides are those of Bekker, 4 vols. (1821); Poppo, 11 vols. (1821-40); the same abridged and revised by Stahl; Goeller, 2 vols. (1836); Didot, 3 vols. (1868); Arnold, 3 vols. (last ed. 1874); Bloomfield, 2 vols. (1842-43); Krger, 2 vols. (1846-47); Steup (1893 foll.); Bhme-Widmann (5th ed. 1882). There are a number of excellent editions of parts of the history, of which may be mentioned those of Shilleto, bks. i. and ii.; Marchant, bk. ii.; Smith, bk. iii.; Graves, bks. iv. and v.; Fowler, bk. v.; Rutherford, bk. iv.; Lamberton, bks. vi. and vii.; Holden, bk. vii.; Smith, bk. vii.; Goodheart, bk. viii. See Forbes, The Life and Method of Thucydides (1895). There is an analysis of the history by Wheeler (1880).
There is a lexicon to Thucydides by Btant, 2 vols. (1843-47), and a complete index by Von Essen (1887). There are translations into English by Bloomfield, 2 vols. (1843-47); Dale (1848); Crawley (1874); and especially by Jowett, with an introduction, 2 vols. (1881). The speeches contained in the history are translated by Wilkins (3d ed. 1881); on which see also Jebb in Abbott's Hellenica (1880).