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In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.

Thucydides (or Thoukydides)(c. 472 BC – c. 400 BC) was an ancient Greek historian, author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens. This work is widely regarded a classic and represents the first work of its kind.


As translated by Richard Crawely - Full text online at Wikisource

Book I

  • For the love of gain would reconcile the weaker to the dominion of the stronger, and the possession of capital enabled the more powerful to reduce the smaller cities to subjection.
    • Book I, 1.8-[3]
  • But as the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an objective, the revenues of the states increasing, tyrannies were established almost everywhere...
  • So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand.
    • Variant translation: "...the search for truth strains the patience of most people, who would rather believe the first things that come to hand." Translation by Paul Woodruff.
    • Book I, 1.20-[3]
  • On the whole, however, the conclusions I have drawn from the proofs quoted may, I believe, safely be relied on. Assuredly they will not be disturbed either by the lays of a poet displaying the exaggeration of his craft, or by the compositions of the chroniclers that are attractive at truth's expense; the subjects they treat of being out of the reach of evidence, and time having robbed most of them of historical value by enthroning them in the region of legend.
    • Book I, 21-[1]
  • To come to this war: despite the known disposition of the actors in a struggle to overrate its importance, and when it is over to return to their admiration of earlier events, yet an examination of the facts will show that it was much greater than the wars which preceded it.
    • Variant translation: "People always think the greatest war is the one they are fighting at the moment, and when that is over they are more impressed with wars of antiquity; but, even so, this war will prove, to all who look at the facts, that it was greater than the others." Translation by Paul Woodruff.
    • Book I, 21-[2]
  • In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.
    • Book I, 1.22-[4]
  • The real cause I consider to be the one which was formerly most kept out of sight. The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired the Lacedaemon, made war inevitable.
  • [C]oncessions to adversaries only end in self reproach, and the more strictly they are avoided the greater will be the chance of security.
    • Book I, 1.34-[3]
  • Abstinence from all injustice to other first-rate powers is a greater tower of strength than anything that can be gained by the sacrifice of permanent tranquillity for an apparent temporary advantage.
    • Book I, 1.42-[3]
  • For the true author of the subjugation of a people is not so much the immediate agent, as the power which permits it having the means to prevent it.
    • Book I, 69.
  • Thus they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their life, with little opportunity for enjoying, being ever engaged in getting: their only idea of a holiday is to do what the occasion demands, and to them laborious occupation is less of a misfortune than the peace of a quiet life. To describe their character in a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.
    • Book I, Chapter III
  • It is a common mistake in going to war to begin at the wrong end, to act first, and wait for disaster to discuss the matter.
    • Book I, 1.78-[3]
  • " war is a matter not so much of arms as of money,"
    • Book I, 1.83-[2]
  • [T]he freaks of chance are not determinable by calculation.
    • Book I, 1.84-[3]
  • In practice we always base our preparations against an enemy on the assumption that his plans are good; indeed, it is right to rest our hopes not on a belief in his blunders, but on the soundness of our provisions. Nor ought we to believe that there is much difference between man and man, but to think that the superiority lies with him who is reared in the severest school.
    • Variant translation: "Instead, we think the plans of our neighbors are as good as our own, and we can't work out whose chances at war are better in a speech. So we always make our preparations in action, on the assumption that our enemies know what they are doing. We should not build our hopes on the belief that they will make mistakes, but on our own careful foresight. And we should not think there is much difference between one man and another, except that the winner will be the one whose education was the most severe." Translation by Paul Woodruff.
    • Variant translation: "There is no need to suppose that human beings differ very much from one another: but it is true that the ones who come out on top are the ones who have been trained in the hardest school." Note: Some versions omit the "who have been".
    • Book I, 1.84-[4]
  • speculation is carried on in safety, but, when it comes to action, fear causes failure.
    • Book I, 1.121-[5]
  • There is, however, no advantage in reflections on the past further than may be of service to the present. For the future we must provide by maintaining what the present gives us and redoubling our efforts; it is hereditary to us to win virtue as the fruit of labour, and you must not change the habit, even though you should have a slight advantage in wealth and resources; for it is not right that what was won in want should be lost in plenty.
    • Book I, 1.123-[1]
  • If you give way, you will instantly have to meet some greater demand, as having been frightened into obedience in the first instance; while a firm refusal will make them clearly understand that they must treat you more as equals.
    • Book I, 1.140-[5]
  • I am more afraid of our own blunders than of the enemy's devices.
      • Book I, Chapter V
  • It must be thoroughly understood that war is a necessity, and that the more readily we accept it, the less will be the ardor of our opponents, and that out of the greatest dangers communities and individuals acquire the greatest glory.
    • Book I, 1.144-[3]
    • Variant translation: We must realize, too, that, both for cities and for individuals, it is from the greatest dangers that the greatest glory is to be won.

Book II

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.
  • I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth. On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity.
    • Book II, 2.35-[1]-[3]
  • Again, in our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons; although usually decision is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally singular, acquiring our friends by conferring, not by receiving, favours.
    • Book II, 2.40-[3]
  • Ἀμαθία μὲν θράσος, λογισμὸς δὲ ὄκνον φέρει
    • Ignorance produces rashness, reflection timidity
      • Book II, 40.3
  • But the prize for courage will surely be awarded most justly to those who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger.
    • Book II, 2.40-[3]
  • The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.
    • Variant translations:

      But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. [1]

      And they are most rightly reputed valiant, who though they perfectly apprehend both what is dangerous and what is easy, are never the more thereby diverted from adventuring. (translation by Thomas Hobbes [2])

    • Book II, 2.40-[3]
  • The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom is courage.
    • Book II, 2.43
  • Disdain is the privilege of those who, like us, have been assured by reflection of their superiority to their adversary. And where the chances are the same, knowledge fortifies courage by the contempt which is its consequence, its trust being placed, not in hope, which is the prop of the desperate, but in a judgment grounded upon existing resources, whose anticipations are more to be depended upon.
    • Book II, 2.62-[4]-[5]
  • Hatred also is short lived; but that which makes the splendor of the present and the glory of the future remains forever unforgotten
    • Book II, 2.64-[5]
  • [H]e who voluntarily confronts tremendous odds must have very great internal resources to draw upon.
    • Book II, 2.89-[6]
  • The country on the sea coast, now called Macedonia, was first acquired by Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his ancestors, originally Temenids from Argos...The whole is now called Macedonia, and at the time of the invasion of Sitalces, Perdiccas, Alexander's son, was the reigning king.
    • Book II, 99,-[3]

Book III

  • " we know that there can never be any solid friendship between individuals, or union between communities that is worth the name, unless the parties be persuaded of each others honesty,"
    • Book III, 3.10-[2]
  • Now the only sure basis of an alliance is for each party to be equally afraid of the other...
    • Book III, 3.11-[2]
  • Fire signals of an attack were also raised toward Thebes, but the Plataeans in the city at once displayed a number of others, prepared beforehand for this very purpose, in order to render the enemy's signals unintelligible, and to prevent his friends from getting a true idea of what was happening and coming to his aid before their comrades who had gone out should have made good their escape and be in safety.
  • I have often before now been convinced that a democracy is incapable of empire...
    • Book III, 3.37-[1] (Speech of Cleon).
  • The fate of those of their neighbours who had already rebelled and had been subdued was no lesson to them; their own prosperity could not dissuade them from affronting danger; but blindly confident in the future, and full of hopes beyond their power though not beyond their ambition, they declared war and made their decision to prefer might to right, their attack being determined not by provocation but by the moment which seemed propitious. The truth is that great good fortune coming suddenly and unexpectedly tends to make a people insolent; in most cases it is safer for mankind to have success in reason than out of reason; and it is easier for them, one may say, to stave off adversity than to preserve prosperity.
    • Book III, 3.39-[3]
  • I think the two things most opposed to good counsel are haste and passion; haste usually goes hand in hand with folly, passion with coarseness and narrowness of mind.
    • Book III, 3.42-[1] (Speech of Diodotus).
  • [S]till hope leads men to venture; and no one ever yet put himself in peril without the inward conviction that he would succeed in his design.
    • Book III, 3.45-[1]
  • [W]e must make up our minds to look for our protection not to legal terrors but to careful administration.
    • Book III, 3.46-[4]
  • Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.
    • Book III, 3.82-[4]

Book IV

  • You can now, if you choose, employ your present success to advantage, so as to keep what you have got and gain honour and reputation besides, and you can avoid the mistake of those who meet with an extraordinary piece of good fortune, and are led on by hope to grasp continually at something further, through having already succeeded without expecting it.
    • Book IV, 4.17-[4]
  • That war is an evil is a proposition so familiar to every one that it would be tedious to develop it. No one is forced to engage in it by ignorance, or kept out of it by fear, if he fancies there is anything to be gained by it.
    • Book IV, 4.59-[2]; "Nobody is driven into war by ignorance, and no one who thinks that he will gain anything from it is deterred by fear." (trans. Benjamin Jowett)
  • Let him remember that many before now have tried to chastise a wrongdoer, and failing to punish their enemy have not even saved themselves; while many who have trusted in force to gain an advantage, instead of gaining anything more, have been doomed to lose what they had. Vengeance is not necessarily successful because wrong has been done, or strength sure because it is confident; but the incalculable element in the future exercises the widest influence, and is the most treacherous, and yet in fact the most useful of all things, as it frightens us all equally, and thus makes us consider before attacking each other.
    • Book IV, 4.62-[3]-[4]
  • We must march against the enemy, and teach him that he must go and get what he wants by attacking someone who will not resist him, but that men whose glory it is to be always ready to give battle for the liberty of their own country, and never unjustly to enslave that of others, will not let him go without a struggle.
    • Book IV, 4.92-[7]
  • They stood where they stood by the power of the sword.
    • Book IV, 4.98-[7]
  • [A]nd their judgment was based more upon blind wishing than upon any sound prediction; for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire.
    • Book IV, 4.108-[4]
  • [W]hen night came on, the Macedonians and the barbarian crowd suddenly took fright in one of those mysterious panics to which great armies are liable...
    • Book IV, 4.125-[1]

Book V

"the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."
  • The Spartans meanwhile, man to man, and with their war songs in the ranks, exhorted each brave comrade to remember what he had learned before; well aware that the long training of action was of more use for saving lives than any brief verbal exhortation, though ever so well delivered.
    • Book V, 5.69-[2]
  • We hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
    • A summary of Athenian statements to the Melians, Book V, 5.89-[1]
  • Hope, danger's comforter...
    • Book V, 5.103-[1]
  • Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can.
    • Book V, 5.105-[2]
  • [H]ere we bless your simplicity but do not envy your folly.
    • Book V, 5.105-[3]
  • And it is certain that those who do not yield to their equals, who keep terms with their superiors, and are moderate towards their inferiors, on the whole succeed best.
    • Book V, 5.111-[4]

Book VI

  • Men do not rest content with parrying the attacks of a superior, but often strike the first blow to prevent the attack being made.
    • Book VI, 6.18-[2]
  • I think, therefore, that we ought to take great numbers of hoplites, both from Athens and from our allies, and not merely from our subjects, but also any we may be able to get for love or money in the Peloponnesus, and great numbers also of archers and slingers, to oppose the Sicilian horse.
    • Book VI, 6.22-[1]
  • We must not disguise from ourselves that we go to found a city among strangers and enemies, and he who undertakes such an enterprise should be prepared to become master of the country the first day he lands, or failing in this find everything hostile to him.
    • Book VI, 6.23-[2]
  • [T]hey possess most gold and silver, by which war, like everything else, flourishes.
    • Book VI, 6.34; "they have abundance of gold and silver, and these make war, like other things, go smoothly" (trans. Benjamin Jowett)
  • Contempt for an assailant is best shown by bravery in action.
    • Book VI, 6.34-[9]; "the true contempt of an invader is shown by deeds of valour in the field" (trans. Benjamin Jowett)
  • As for democracy, the men of sense among us knew what it was, and I perhaps as well as any, as I have more cause to complain of it; but there is nothing new to be said of a patent absurdity-meanwhile we did not think it safe to alter it under the pressure of your hostility.
    • Book VI, 6.89-[6]

Book VII

  • They have discovered that the length of time we have now been in commission has rotted our ships and wasted our crews, and that with the completeness of our crews and the soundness of the pristine efficiency of our navy has departed. For it is impossible for us to haul our ships ashore and dry them out because the enemy's vessels being as many or more than our own, we are constantly anticipating an attack.
    • Book VII, 7.12-[3]-[4]
  • But what most oppressed them was that they had two wars at once, and has thus reached a pitch of frenzy which no one would have believed possible if he had heard of it before it had come to pass.
    • Book VII, 7.28-[3]
  • [T]he Thracian people, like the bloodiest of the barbarians, being ever most murderous when it has nothing to fear.
    • Book VII, 7.29-[4]
  • By day certainly the combatants have a clearer notion, though even then by no means of all that takes place, no one knowing much of anything that does not does not go on in his own immediate neighborhood; but in a night engagement (and this was the only one that occurred between great armies during the war) how could anyone know anything for certain?
    • Book VII, 7.44-[1]
  • Right or community of blood was not the bond of union between them, so much as interest or compulsion as the case may be.
    • Book VII, 7.57-[1]
  • When men are once checked in what they consider their special excellence, their whole opinion of themselves suffers more than if they had not at first believed in their superiority, the unexpected shock to their pride causing them to give way more than their real strength warrants; and that is probably now the case with the Athenians.
    • Book VII, 7.66-[3]
  • And the rarest dangers are those in which failure brings little loss and success the greatest advantage.
    • Book VII, 7.68-[3]
  • [T]heir swaying bodies reflected the agitation of their minds, and they suffered the worst agony of all, ever just within the reach of safety or just on the point of destruction.
  • The dead lay unburied, and each man as he recognized a friend among them shuddered with grief and horror; while the living whom they were leaving behind, wounded or sick, were to the living far more shocking than the dead, and more to be pitied than those who had perished.
    • Book VII, 7.75-[3]


  • In a democracy ...someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.
    • Book VIII, 8.89
    • As quoted in A Historical Commentary on Thucydides: A Companion to Rex Warner’s Penguin Translation, David Cartwright/Rex Warner, University of Michigan Press (1997), p. 298: ISBN 0472084194
    • In the Richard Crawley translation, this quote is rendered as follows: "[...] under a democracy a disappointed candidate accepts his defeat more easily, because he has not the humiliation of being beaten by his equals."
  • The wide difference between the two characters, the slowness and want of energy of the Spartans as contrasted with the dash and enterprise of their opponents, proved of the greatest service, especially to a maritime empire like Athens. Indeed this was shown by the Syracusans, who were most like the Athenians in character, and also most successful in combating them.
    • Book VIII, 8.96-[5]



(1) "A nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its laws made by cowards and its wars fought by fools."

Widely attributed to Thucydides in books and online. In fact misquoted from Sir William Francis Butler, Charles George Gordon (1889), p. 85, where it reads: "The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards."[3]

(2) "Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most."

Popularised by Colin Powell, this quotation is not found anywhere in Thucydides.[1] It comes originally from the 19th-century author F.B. Jevons, in his book A History of Greek Literature: From the Earliest Period to the Death of Demosthenes, writing about prose style;[2] it was then quoted, without attribution, by classicist Charles Forster Smith, including in the introduction to his Loeb translation of Thucydides,[3] which probably explains why later readers thought he was actually quoting from Thucydides.[4]

(3) "History is philosophy teaching from examples."

This is an ancient misattribution: it appears in a third-century CE Ars Rhetorica attributed (wrongly) to Dionysius of Halicarnassus: "The contact with manners then is education; and this Thucydides appears to assert when he says history is philosophy learned from examples" (XI.2). The phrase appears nowhere in Thucydides; it might be interpreted as a response, by an unknown admirer of Thucydides, to the argument of Aristotle (Poetics 1451b11) that history is inferior to poetry because it deals only with the particular, "what Alcibiades did and suffered", rather than the general.[4]

(4) "Justice will not come to Athens until those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are injured."

This is often attributed to Thucydides (and sometimes, in a slightly different form, to Benjamin Franklin), but it actually comes from ancient accounts of the life of Solon, for example in Diogenes Laërtius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers I.59 and Plutarch's Solon 18.5.

(5) "Peace is only an armistice in an endless war."

Popularised by the movie Wonder Woman, where the line is spoken by general Ludendorff and 'recognised' by Diana as coming from Thucydides.[5] It is not found anywhere in Thucydides; it does resemble a line in Plato's Laws, discussing the customs of the Cretans: "“Peace,” as the term is commonly employed, is nothing more than a name, the truth being that every State is, by a law of nature, engaged perpetually in an informal war with every other State" (Laws 626a).

(6) "A collision at sea can ruin your whole day."

Ascribed to Book IX, which is a clue that it's a joke as Thucydides wrote only eight books. This was invented by a student at the US Naval War College in 1960, and then quoted as a genuine line from Thucydides in the Reader's Digest in 1962.[6]

(7) "Stories happen to those who tell them."

Attributed to Thucydides by a number of guides and blogs about becoming a writer (e.g. Lucy McCormick Calkins, The Art of Teaching Writing (Heinemann, 1994), pp. 21 and 23). A variant, "Great stories happen to those who can tell them", is associated with the radio and tv presenter Ira Glass,[7] who used it in a 2001 podcast. The original source may be Paul Auster's The Locked Room, the third part of his New York Trilogy (Faber & Faber, 1987), p.222: "Stories happen only to those who are able to tell them, someone once said."

(8) "Hope is an expensive commodity. It makes better sense to be prepared."

The first part of the quote is a variant of Thucydides 5.103.1 (most translations say something like "Hope is prodigal by nature" (J. Mynott) or "[Hope's] nature is to be extravagant" (R. Crawley)). The second part, however, comes from the foreword of Richard Peston's biosecurity thriller The Cobra Event (Orion, 1998), p.xii; Peston quotes Thucydides and then comments himself, but both sentences have since been taken together and ascribed to Thucydides.[4]

(9) "You should punish in the same manner those who commit crimes with those who accuse falsely."

Although this looks exactly the sort of thing that a demagogue like Cleon might say, there is no trace of this line or anything like it in Thucydides. Many ancient law-codes include punishment for bearing false witness; for example, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi from c.1772 BCE: "3. If a man, in a case (pending judgment), bear false (threatening) witness, or do not establish the testimony that he has given, if that case be a case involving life, that man shall be put to death. 4. If a man (in a case) bear witness for grain or money (as a bribe), he shall himself bear the penalty imposed in that case."[5]. However, the most likely source of this quote is the second Discourse of Isocrates, addressed to Nicocles, section 29: "Visit the same punishment on false-accusers as on evil-doers."[6]

(10) "Knowledge without understanding is useless."

One might imagine someone characterising Thucydides' aims in these terms, but it's not a phrase he ever uses. It is most likely a version of Confucius, Analects II.XV: "Learning without thinking is wasted effort; thinking without learning is dangerous”.[8]

(11) "The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself."

Not Thucydides - whose history broke off before the end of the war and the regime of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens - but journalist Chris Hedges, originally in a graduation speech at Rockford College, Illinois.[9] Repeated in later articles, the wording changes (the original had “the Athenian leadership” imposing tyranny, not Athens), and it comes to be attributed directly to Thucydides.[10] [11]

(12) "The Greeks did not understand each other any longer, though they spoke the same language."

Used as a chapter epigram in Richard Kreitner's Break It Up: secession, division, and the secret history of America’s imperfect union (Little, Brown, 2020) and quoted in a New Yorker article by Robin Wright.[12] This comes from a letter written in 1860 by the political scientist Francis Lieber to his son, and reads in full: "It sometimes has occurred to me that what Thucydides said of the Greeks at the time of the Peloponnesian War applies to us. The Greeks, he said, did not understand each other any longer, though they spoke Greek. Words received a different meaning in different parts".[13] Lieber's final sentence is a garbled version of Thucydides 3.82.4; the rest is his own invention.

(13) "The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine."

This line, regularly used in advertisements for wine companies, appeared in Hugh Johnson's Vintage: the story of wine (New York, 1989), p.35, and has been widely cited (and occasionally plagiarised) since then. The original version appears in the entry on 'Vinum' in the Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines edited by C.V. Daremberg and E. Saglio (Paris, 1873-1919), in the footnote to a statement that 'viticulture is the indication of an advanced civilisation'.[14] This reads: 'For Thucydides, the Greeks emerged from barbarism when they knew how to make plantations (1,2).' Thucydides 1.2 in fact states that the early Hellenes were pastoralists rather than practicing settled agriculture; one might infer that olives and vines are associated with a higher stage of development, but not - as the English quote implies - that this was the cause of that development.

Quotes about Thucydides

  • Of all histories I think Tacitus simply the best; Livy is very good; Thucydides above any of the writers of Greek matters.
    • Francis Bacon, Advice to Fulke Greville on his studies, quoted in The Oxford Authors: Francis Bacon, ed. Brian Vickers (1996), p. 105
  • Nor did Lord Chatham neglect to exercise an influence over the direction of William's graver studies. The Earl prudently, indeed, left to professional teachers the legitimate routine in the classic authors, but he made it his particular desire that Thucydides, the eternal manual of statesmen, should be the first Greek book which his son read after coming to college.
    • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 'Pitt and Fox', The Quarterly Review (September 1855), quoted in Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Miscellaneous Prose Works, Vol. I (1868), p. 214
  • Recorded history is not an entirely unbroken saga of violence, but the historian knows that he must look much earlier than the twentieth century for the first examples of all the paraphernalia of violence with which the twentieth century has been familiar. International aggression, continuous, calculated, pathologically inspired? Thucydides is still the author of the best book on that subject.
    • F. H. Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace: Theory and Practice in the History of Relations between States (1963), p. 275
  • Another profound impression made on me at Oxford came when one morning I sat down in my huge basket chair and read the account of the Athenian expedition against Syracuse given by Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War. It was the most dramatic thing I have ever read, the most overwhelming in its effect, and I have over and over again returned to it in my dramatic criticism.
  • For close, cogent, and appropriate reasoning upon practical political questions, the speeches of Thucydides have never been surpassed; and, indeed, they may be considered as having reached the highest excellence of which the human mind is capable in this department.
    • George Cornewall Lewis, A Treatise on the Methods of Observation and Reasoning in Politics, Vol. I (1852), p. 61
  • This day I finished Thucydides, after reading him with inexpressible interest and admiration. He is the greatest historian that ever lived.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, note dated February 27, 1835, in The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, ed. G. Otto Trevelyan, Vol. I (1875), Appendix, p. 409
  • The importance of the Peloponnesian War for our purposes is obvious. First, it—on Thucydides's account of it—exemplifies the strengths and weaknesses of democracy in ways that every succeeding age has seized on. On the one side, the resourcefulness, patriotism, energy, and determination of Athens were astonishing; on the other, the fickleness, cruelty, and proneness to dissension were equally astonishing. (…) Second, it reveals one major reason for the ultimate failure of the Greek states to survive the rise of the Macedonian and Roman empires. Greek city-states were conscious both of being Greek and of their own narrower ethnicity: Athenian, Theban, Spartan.
    • Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2012), Ch. 1 : Why Herodotus?
  • The characteristics of his method of composing history consist, first, in the interweaving of political speeches, framed in a manner at once clear and elaborate, which introduce us into the secret motives and councils by which the political events of the period were governed, enable us to survey every particular incident exactly from that point of view in which it was regarded by each of the most opposite parties, and lay open the most hidden wiles of contending statesmen, with an acumen superior to what was ever exerted by the craftiest of them all; secondly, in an almost poetical, minute, energetic, and lively representation of battles, and those other external incidents which occupy but too great a space in the history of human affairs; and lastly, in the accumulation of all those highest excellencies of style, which can be embodied in the richest, most ornamented, and most energetic prose.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, Lectures on the History of Literature, Ancient and Modern (1841), p. 30


  1. Sharlin, Shifra (Summer 2004). "Thucydides and the Powell Doctrine". Raritan 24.1: 12-28.
  2. Jevons, Frank B. (1886). A History of Greek Literature: From the Earliest Period to the Death of Demosthenes. London: C. Griffin & Co.. pp. 340. 
  3. Smith, Charles F. (translator) (1921). Thucydides Volume I. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. pp. xvii-xviii. 
  4. a b Morley, Neville (2013). "Thucydides Quote Unquote". Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 20 (3): 9–36. DOI:10.2307/arion.20.3.0009.
  5. Morley, Neville (4 June 2017). Talk Thucydides To Me. The Sphinx.
  6. O'Toole, Garson (21 November 2010). A Collision At Sea Can Ruin Your Entire Day. Quote Investigator.
  7. Quote by Ira Glass,
  12. R. Wright, 'Is America a Myth?', The New Yorker 9/8/20:
  13. Quoted by James Ford Rhodes, Lectures on the American Civil War (MacMillan, 1913):
  • The Landmark Thucydides, Edited by Robert B. Strassler, Richard Crawley translation, Annotated, Indexed and Illustrated, A Touchstone Book, New York, NY, 1996 ISBN 0-684-82815-4.

See also

Social and political philosophers
Classic AristotleMarcus AureliusChanakyaCiceroConfuciusMozi LaoziMenciusMoziPlatoPlutarchPolybiusSeneca the YoungerSocratesSun TzuThucydidesXenophonXun Zi
Conservative de BenoistBolingbrokeBonaldBurkeBurnhamCarlyleColeridgeComteCortésDurkheimDávilaEvolaFichteFilmerGaltonGentileHegelHeideggerHerderHobbesHoppeHumede JouvenelJüngerKirkvon Kuehnelt-LeddihnLandde MaistreMansfieldMoscaOakeshottOrtegaParetoPetersonSantayanaSchmittScrutonSowellSpenglerStraussTaineTocqueville • VicoVoegelinWeaverYarvin
Liberal ArendtAronBastiatBeccariaBenthamBerlinBoétieCamusCondorcetConstantDworkinEmersonErasmusFranklinFukuyamaHayekJeffersonKantLockeMachiavelliMadisonMaineMillMiltonMenckenMisesMontaigneMontesquieuNietzscheNozickOrtegaPopperRandRawlsRothbardSadeSchillerSimmelSmithSpencerSpinozade StaëlStirnerThoreauTocquevilleTuckerVoltaireWeberWollstonecraft
Religious al-GhazaliAmbedkarAugustine of HippoAquinasAugustineAurobindoCalvinChestertonDanteDayanandaDostoyevskyEliadeGandhiGirardGregoryGuénonJesusJohn of SalisburyJungKierkegaardKołakowskiLewisLutherMaimonidesMalebrancheMaritainMoreMuhammadMüntzerNiebuhrOckhamOrigenPhiloPizanQutbRadhakrishnanShariatiSolzhenitsynTaylorTeilhard de ChardinTertullianTolstoyVivekanandaWeil
Socialist AdornoAflaqAgambenBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBernsteinButlerChomskyde BeauvoirDebordDeleuzeDeweyDu BoisEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFrommGodwinGoldmanGramsciHabermasKropotkinLeninLondonLuxemburgMaoMarcuseMarxMazziniNegriOwenPaine RortyRousseauRussellSaint-SimonSartreSkinnerSorelTrotskyWalzerXiaopingŽižek

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