Born perhaps between 460 and 450 BC, little is actually known about Thucydides. Most of what is known is told by Thucydides himself in his significant work History of the Peloponnesian War
. His parents Olorus and Hegesipyle had gained their wealth from gold mines at Scapte Hyle, and Thucydides lived in Athens with his family. Though no records exist regarding his education, it appears through his writing style and methods of research that Thucydides had received some learning.
At the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides contracted the plague. Fortunately he recovered, and in 424 he was appointed to general in command of a fleet in waters off the northern coast. Poor planning overall led to Thucydides's inability to capture the Macedonian city of Amphipolis. Asked to return home, Thucydides was tried and put in exile for twenty years, which he spent on his family estates in Thrace. He put his time to good use, traveling and researching his book. It is believed he returned to Athens after the war and wrote until his death around 395 BC.
In eight books Thucydides retold the Peloponnesian War in a comprehensive way, attempting accuracy, impartiality, objectivity. He used eye-witness testimony, interviews, and written documentation. This process differed from previous writers who tended to explain the outcome of events by giving credit to the gods rather than demonstrate writing based on significant research and details. Though his History of the Peloponnesian War
is incomplete, perhaps because Thucydides died before he could finish it, it is an example of modern historiography. With a sharp tone and sardonic humor, Thucydides's work didn't impress his readers until many, many years later. Eventually it stood the test of time, influencing Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Thomas Jefferson.
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