Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

On Thucydides and the Peloponnese War History - A Rampage of Appreciation

Although I have reservations about the practice, I'd like to include some web links about Thucydides and his work on the History of the Peloponnesian War.

Here's two introductions to the topic for newcomers:

Squidoo lens on the Peloponnesian War.
Wikipedia on the Peloponnesian War.

Many folk try to convert Thucydides' work into a modern and specific political agenda. Or they try to divorce Thucydides from the Athenian context in some way. This kind of intellectual busywork abounds online because, firstly, if you have an agenda and can read, you can shoehorn Thucydides into it, and secondly, Thucydides is writing universal history, history for the ages, and the interpretations generally fall short of the book itself. But they are illuminating attempts, and sometimes shines a great light on the modern political realm by comparison with the smaller Thucydidean realm.

Iraq war opinion piece. - 'Thucydides: Ur-Historian of the Ur-War' (Great title!)

A really sensationally interpreted piece on the famous Melian Dialog - 'The rape of Melos: Thucydides as great thinker'.

A rather brilliant and austere analysis of the failure of Athenian democracy - 'Contemporary Analysis of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War'.

Much of the commentary for and against Donald Kagan's wonderful history of the Peloponnesian War is politically loaded and divisive, but nevertheless it shows up the precise corruption of language and manners which Thucydides analyzed in the fourth century before Christ. Here's the best:

'Thucydides = Spinmeister' by Neko Bijin. - superb and direct analysis. Especially read the comments.

Anthony Grafton in Slate's 'Did Thucydides Tell the Truth?' critiques Kagan rather than Thucydides.

Alan Gilbert at Democratic Individuality brilliant delineates the moderate position on public corruption using Thucydides in 'How public corruption happens - or Thucydides and the day by day removal of the word torture from New York Times' Reporting'.

Here's what seems to be a marvellously cogent take on Thucydides would-be perspective on the war on terror: 'Thucydides, Aquinas and the GWOT' which, alas, is cut short.

Here's a simply awesome re-vision of the passage in Book Three where Thucydides describes the breakdown in human nature after the Corcyran revolution: 'The Attribute of Manliness', by Eric Lippert.

Here's an earnest 'Lessons Learned from Thucydides' by a blog/person named Newrisks, connecting it with modern strategic war theory. He links to a superb pdf essay on the topic here.

Another contemporary crit of Thucydides vis-a-vis modern global politics: Herodotus vs Thucydides. argues against a narrow interpretation of Thucydides.

Now, against these temporal interpretations of interpretations of Thucydides, I want to contrast the scholarly lights of one Mike Anderson, whose fine web log on the ancients casts light in every direction without dispersing views into opinions.

'- The Greeks and their foolish attack of Syracuse'

- Pericles and the defense of democracy.

- The Peloponnesean War and its Causes.

- The Athenian Polis - Golden Age Decay.

I rate this weblog highly for its insight into the Thucydidean worldview. Because Mike doesn't form views unwarranted by the facts, nor does he tend to introduce modern political controversy, his views remain pristine and clear. He doesn't depart from the source of politics in ethics, it seems to me, and thus remains modest and humane in his views.

Finally, outside politics or perhaps meta-political, see the fine essay at Malaspina about the roots of our political thinking in Thucydides' mathematic worldview: Thucydides as Geometry. You need to scroll down to see it, but it's worth it for the insight into the way we think now.

For fun here's a few juicy quotes from Thucydides himself.

In conclusion, I suggest reading the primary author above these secondary and tertiary views. The work is illuminating in itself; the function of commentary is just to illuminate the primary text. If you read Thucydides now then I have here done my job well.

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