Accession Number : ADA584668

Title :   Thucydides: Theorist of War

Descriptive Note : Journal article


Personal Author(s) : Murray, Williamson

Full Text :

Report Date : Jan 2013

Pagination or Media Count : 18

Abstract : I have been teaching and reading Thucydides since the fall of 1975, and over that nearly forty-year period I have increasingly come to appreciate his enormous skills as a historian, as well as his sophisticated theoretical understanding of war. It is not that Thucydides set out to be a theorist in his account of the Peloponnesian War. Rather, the subtext of his depiction of the great war between Athens and Sparta presents a theory of conflict that in the power of its analysis helps to clarify not only the events of the war but also fundamental, theoretical truths about the nature and consequences of human conflict, truths as relevant today as they were late in the fifth century bc. This combination of history with a sophisticated theoretical basis more than justifies Thucydides s claim at the beginning of his account: And it may be that my history may seem less easy to read because of the absence in it of a romantic element. It will be enough for me, however, if my words are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future. Thucydides amply delivers on his hope that his account will prove useful to those who think about the issues surrounding war and strategy in the future. In fact, in the Strategy and Policy course at the Naval War College, the week devoted to an examination of the Peloponnesian War is far and away the most popular among the students. Why? My guess is that the students catch the interconnection in Thucydides s discussion between its account of the course of that particular war and its theoretical understanding of war s fundamental nature a connection made in a way that is not true of that other great theorist of war, the Prussian theorist, Carl von Clausewitz.


Subject Categories : Humanities and History
      Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement : APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE