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Homer, The Iliad
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War
Sophocles, Antigone
Plato, The Republic
Virgil, The Aeneid


The Basics
Close and Critical Reading


Roger Dunkle
Donna Wilson
Hardy Hanson
John Van Sickle


CORC 1110 Study Guide
Perseus Project
Classics Resources
Greek Mythology Link
Glossary of Terms

History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

"The absence of romance from my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. 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, The Peloponnesian War [Book I, 22].

Thucydides' Life

Thucydides was born between 460 and 455 B.C. and lived between one home in Athens and one in Thrace. The son of Olorus, the wealthy king of Thrace, Thucydides was a member of a family that owned goldmines on the Tracian coast. Before 431, he had no interest in Athenian politics. But that soon changed after the start of the Peloponnesian War in 424 B.C.

In 424, Thucydides was elected as an Athenian general. Shortly after, he was exiled for failing to stop the Spartans from progressing over the Athenian Empire. From the onset of war, Thucydides knew that this war was more significant than any other war in his lifetime. He decided to write the history of this war.

Unlike other accounts of history of wars, Thucydides distinguished between the truth and fiction. Any evidence he collected, he would analyze its validity and retain for future use in his recordings. Thucydides wrote, "My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of the immediate public, but was done to last forever." (Book I, 22). One reason for this is Thucydides felt that by knowing what caused previous wars, one could understand, how to prevent war in the future.

Introduction to the Plot Summary:

The Peloponnesian War began in 431 B.C. and lasted until about 404 B.C. with the defeat of the Athenians. Fighting took place from Sicily to the coast of Asia Minor and from the Hellespoint and Thrace to Rhodes. Many cities in between took sides with Athens or Sparta. Argos remained neutral because of a treaty they had with Sparta, but eventually sided with the Athenians. Because of their greed, the Athenians had many enemies among their own empire.

Main Characters and Places of History:

Thucydides - an Athenian, wrote the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, beginning at the moment that it broke out.
Athenians - formed an alliance with Argos, a long-standing rival of Sparta. They later formed an alliance with Megara, the city which lay directly in the path of the route from Athens to the Peloponnesus, the southern part of Greece.
Spartans - descended from the Dorians, a people who invaded the Greek peninsula in the 1100's B.C. They were the ruling class of Sparta and were the only ones who had full rights of citizenship. They enslaved the earlier Greek peoples of Laconia, the Achaeans and Ionians.
Alcibiades (450?-404 B.C.), was an Athenian general; he convinced the Athenians to invade Sicily.
Archidamus - the Spartan king who led annual attacks on Athens.
Pericles - son of Xanthippus; was a Greek statesman whose name was given to the greatest period in history.


Sicily - is an Italian island in the central Mediterranean Sea; its location made it a crossroads for many civilizations. A number of peoples invaded and settled on the island, including Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Muslims from North Africa, and Normans.
Hellespoint - sometimes called Dordanelles, a narrow strait in North West Turkey.
Corcyra - an Ionian island west of Greece, and at Syracuse in Sicily.
Sparta - was at one time the most powerful city-state of ancient Greece. It was famous for its military power and its loyal soldiers.
Athens - was the leading cultural center of the Greek world.
Thrace - was the ancient name for a large region in the Balkan Peninsula; belonged to the Athenian state and then to Macedonia.

Additional Resources for the History:

Life of Thucydides Perseus

Causes of the War Perseus

Thucydides, Peloponnesion War Roger Dunkle, Study Guide

The Peloponnesian War Internet Ancient History Sourcebook