The Mind of Thucydides

The Mind of Thucydides

The publication of Jacqueline de Romilly’s Histoire et raison chez Thucydide in 1956 virtually transformed scholarship on Thucydides. Rather than mining The Peloponnesian War to speculate on its layers of composition or second-guess its accuracy, it treated it as a work of art deserving rhetorical and aesthetic analysis. Ahead of its time in its sophisticated focus upon the verbal texture of narrative, it proved that a literary approach offered the most productive and nuanced way to study Thucydides. Still in print in the original French, the book has influenced numerous Classicists and historians, and is now available in English for the first time in a careful translation by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings. The Cornell edition includes an introduction by Hunter R. Rawlings III and Jeffrey Rusten tracing the context of this book’s original publication and its continuing influence on the study of Thucydides.

Romilly shows that Thucydides constructs his account of the Peloponnesian War as a profoundly intellectual experience for readers who want to discern the patterns underlying historical events. Employing a commanding logic that exercises total control over the data of history, Thucydides uses rigorous principles of selection, suggestive juxtapositions, and artfully opposed speeches to reveal systematic relationships between plans and outcomes, impose meaning on the smallest events, and insist on the constant battle between intellect and chance. Thucydides’ mind found in unity and coherence its ideal of historical truth.

Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings

Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings is an independent translator of books including The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity by Éric Rebillard and The Mourning Voice by Nicole Loraux, both from Cornell.

The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity
Éric Rebillard
In this provocative book Éric Rebillard challenges many long-held assumptions about early Christian burial customs. For decades scholars of early Christianity have argued that the Church owned and operated burial grounds for Christians as early as the...

The Mourning Voice
An Essay on Greek Tragedy
Nicole Loraux
Loraux presents a radical challenge to what has become the dominant view of tragedy in recent years: that tragedy is primarily a civic phenomenon.