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Historians universally agree that Thucydides was the greatest historian who has ever lived, and that his story of the Peloponnesian conflict is a marvel of forensic science and fine literature. That such a triumph of intellectual accomplishment was created at the end of the fifth century B.C. in Greece is, perhaps, not so surprising, given the number of original geniuses we find in that period. But that such an historical work would also be simultaneously acknowledged as a work of great literature and a penetrating ethical evaluation of humanity is one of the miracles of ancient history. For in the pages of Thucydides we find examples of every ethical and political problem ever faced by democratic governments in the last 2,400 years. And it was all organized and written with a breathtaking skill and dramatic intensity which have never been equalled.
Thucydides was an Athenian noble born around 455 B.C. whose antecedents could be traced back to the great Peisitratus and Cimon. In 424 B.C., Thucydides was in command of naval forces attempting to defend Amphipolis in Thrace. Although unsuccessful through no fault of his own, his enemies in Athens blamed him for failure and engineered his exile. It was a fortunate event, for it was upon this accident of history that Thucydides gained the opportunity to become the chronicler of events in Greece. In complete contrast to the furious passions which raged around him, he described events with a cool detachment and an absolute impartiality that is little short of miraculous. He is believed to have died violently, perhaps while writing, in about 400 B.C. His manuscript simply breaks off in mid paragraph.
The Peloponnesian War is organized into eight parts (“books”). This recording uses the highly esteemed translation of Benjamin Jowett. There are several essays preceding and following the work.