My thoughts on Thucydides Book 8

Dear fellow readers,
As we wrap up our reading and discussion of Thucydides with Book 8, let me encourage you to keep in mind a few things as we conclude:
1.  Persia’s role in the war becomes very important in Book 8.  Ultimately, it will help determine the outcome of the war.
2.  The political changes and challenges to Athenian democracy are very important to an Athenian like Thucydides, who was probably in exile at the moment and wondering if he would ever be able to return to his home.  The Spartan influenced oligarchic revolution in Athens at the end of the war (404) would ultimately claim many victims, the most famous of which was Socrates.
3.  The military theater of war in Book 8 embraces the shores of the Aegean sea on two continents (Europe and Asia).   This geographical focus in Book 8 seems to define the location of conflict for the rest of the war.  As Robert Strassler himself points out in his concise but eloquent Epilogue (pp. 549-554), Athens’ power base relies on contact with the colonies in Ionia and the Black Sea through the placeHellespont.  Once these important connections are severed, Athens is doomed.  Indeed, the major battles left to narrate (Cyzicus in 410, Arginousae in 406, Aegospotami in 405) all take place in the same theater of operations that Book 8 describes.  We at least have a taste of what Thucydides was striving to cover before his work went unfinished. 

Please join us in our final discussion of Book 8 as we invite Robert Strassler to help us bridge the unfinished portion of Thucydides great work to our own time and explore how history is recorded.  Phil and I look forward to conversing with you and fielding your questions next week, Monday February 11 @ 8pm NYC time, call-in number 1-800-615-2900.

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