Classical Studies | The Golden Age of Athens: Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War
C351 | 29296 | M. Christ


C351: The Golden Age of Athens: Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War
(Prof. Matthew Christ)

In the fifth century B.C., democracy emerged in Athens and the city
came to possess a naval empire. Empire brought great wealth to Athens
and helped sustain a remarkable flourishing of culture. It also led
to heightened tensions between Athens and other Greek states, and
ultimately to the long and destructive Peloponnesian War (431-404
B.C), in which Athens and its allies fought with, and ultimately lost
to, Sparta and its supporters. Thucydides’ account of this war is not
only one of the earliest war monographs in the Western tradition, but
also one of the most influential for later representations and
interpretations of war. Students in this Themester course will read
the entirety of Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, and consider a
range of questions: How does Thucydides analyze the causes of war?
How does his understanding of human nature shape his portrayal of
war? Is he a “Realist,” as some modern scholars believe, who views
interstate relations in terms of an amoral struggle for power, in
which war is inevitable, or does he, in fact, present a critique of
this perspective? How does he view the role of individuals in the
decision to go to war and in the execution of it? What does his
dramatic and vivid representation of war and its consequences convey
about his perspective on it? This course will be writing-intensive
and include an honors section.