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VIII. Judgement and Generalization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2016

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A historian who undertakes to tell his readers what happened is under no obligation to tell them also what could or should have happened, and they may prefer to make up their own minds about that. Thucydides is notably sparing of personal judgements on political and military choice, the significance of an item in a causal sequence, or moral implications. His fullest expression of opinion on a military decision is in vii. 42. 3, where he comments in parenthesis on the view taken by Demothenes of the situation which he found at Syracuse on arrival with the Athenian reinforcements. That we are concerned here with Thucydides’ own opinion, not simply with Demosthenes’, is clear from the finite tenses used throughout the parenthesis; compare viii. 96. 4, where Thucydides dwells on what would have happened if the Peloponnesian fleet in 411 had gone straight for the Piraeus, and contrast the parenthesis ού γἁρ ἃν τὁν ἒκπλουν έπιβουλεῦσαι (vii. 51. 1), in a statement of Syracusan plans. Given that when he wrote vii. 42. 3 Thucydides believed that Nicias and Lamachus ought to have embarked on the investment of Syracuse in the autumn of 415, it seems that he then thought their anxiety over lack of cavalry unjustified. Why did he not say so in vi. 70. 3–71. 2? Again, it is a fair inference from vii. 42. 3 that he then thought Lamachus’ proposal for immediate attack the best of the alternatives discussed by the Athenian generals at Rhegium (vi. 47–51). Perhaps—whatever the order in which he wrote the passages concerned—he changed his mind (cf. p. 15). The principle on which he selected points for comment on what might have been is not intelligible to us; it seems that having made his selection of data for presentation, as it were, in the indicative, he left it to us, for the most part, to construct our own unfulfilled conditionals. This is sometimes easy (e.g. vii. 50. 4).

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Copyright © The Classical Association 1973

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page no 35 note 1 Pearson, Lionel, TAPA lxxviii (1947), 3760 Google Scholar, disagrees, but underestimate (cf. p. 4 above) the enormous number of unqualified statements in a historical narra-ive; and see Westlake, Essays &c. (p. 1 above) on ώς εἱκός.

page no 37 note 1 Cf.Donini, G., La Posizione di Tucidide verso il Governo dei Cinquemila (Turin, 1969).Google Scholar

page no 37 note 2 Romilly, J., Wiener Studien lxxix (1966), 142-8Google Scholar. Naturally, speakers make the same charge against one another; cf. iii. 38. 3 f.

page no 38 note 1 Pericles does not imply ‘Well, maybe, on reflection, one has to admit that we shouldn’t have acquired an empire’; his point is ‘Everyone agrees that although the seizure of tyranny is δδικον, it is dangerous to give it up’.

page no 38 note 2 In ii. 65, that is.

page no 38 note 3 Cf.Meiggs, Russell, The Athenian Empire (Oxford, 1972), 152-74.Google Scholar

page no 39 note 1 Note, however, in the light of Thuc. viii. 68. I, that Antiphon (frr. 50-7) composed a speech for an appeal by Samothrace against the assessment of its tribute.

page no 39 note 2 Strasburger, H. in Wege der Forschung xcviii 498530 Google Scholar contrasts Thucydidean speeches with praise of Athens in tragedy and in the fourth century. I question, however, his conclusion that Thucydides intended to expose the realities behind the platitudes in order to contrast Athens with Sparta in respect of international morality. Cf. also Meiggs (above, p. 38 n. 3), 377-403.

page no 40 note 1 Cf.Andrewes, A., The Phoenix xvi (1962), 6485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

page no 40 note 2 See especially de Ste Croix, G. E. M., Historia iii (1954/5), 1-45.Google Scholar

page no 41 note 1 Bradeen, D. W., Historia ix (1960), 257-69Google Scholar, and Quinn, T. J., Historia xiii (1964), 257-66Google Scholar.

page no 41 note 2 Cf.Woodhead, A. G., Thucydides on the Nature of Power (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), 9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar: the modern reader does not want Thucydides to be ‘neutral’ on the exercise of political power.

page no 43 note 1 Cf.Lloyd-Jones, Hugh, The Justice of Zeus (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971), 137-44Google Scholar, on the extent to which Thucydides’ view of history was conditioned by traditional Greek beliefs.

page no 43 note 2 Romilly, J. in Entretiens de la Fondation Hardt iv (Vandœuvres, Geneva, 1956), 3966.Google Scholar

page no 43 note 3 For σαϕής = άληβθς, cf. Eur. Hel. 21. What is demonstrated, i.e. made ‘clear’, is accepted as true.

page no 43 note 4 Cf.Cochrane, C. N., Thucydides and the Science of History (London, 1929)Google Scholar, and Weidauer, K., Thukydides und die Hippokratischen Schriften (Heidelberg, 1954)Google Scholar.

page no 44 note 1 Cf.Page, D. L., CQ N.S. iii (1953), 97113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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