The Mind of Thucydides

The Mind of Thucydides

Jacqueline de Romilly, Hunter R. Rawlings III, Jeffrey Rusten, Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings


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The publication of Jacqueline de Romilly’s Histoire et raison chez Thucydide in 1956 virtually transformed scholarship on Thucydides. Rather than mining The Peloponnesian War to speculate on its layers of composition or second-guess its accuracy, it treated it as a work of art deserving rhetorical and aesthetic analysis. Ahead of its time in its sophisticated focus upon the verbal texture of narrative, it proved that a literary approach offered the most productive and nuanced way to study Thucydides. Still in print in the original French, the book has influenced numerous Classicists and historians, and is now available in English for the first time in a careful translation by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings. The Cornell edition includes an introduction by Hunter R. Rawlings III and Jeffrey Rusten tracing the context of this book’s original publication and its continuing influence on the study of Thucydides.

Romilly shows that Thucydides constructs his account of the Peloponnesian War as a profoundly intellectual experience for readers who want to discern the patterns underlying historical events. Employing a commanding logic that exercises total control over the data of history, Thucydides uses rigorous principles of selection, suggestive juxtapositions, and artfully opposed speeches to reveal systematic relationships between plans and outcomes, impose meaning on the smallest events, and insist on the constant battle between intellect and chance. Thucydides’ mind found in unity and coherence its ideal of historical truth.


Jacqueline de Romilly:
Jacqueline de Romilly (1913–2010) was the author of more than thirty books on the literature and history of ancient Greece; among her many honors, she was the first woman Professor of the Collège de France, and in 1989 was the second woman elected to the Académie Française.

Hunter R. Rawlings III is President of the Association of American Universities and Professor of Classics and History at Cornell University, where he served as president from 1995 to 2003. He is the author of The Structure of Thucydides' History and a number of articles on Thucydides.

Jeffrey Rusten is Professor of Classics at Cornell University, author of The Birth of Comedy: Texts, Documents, and Art from Athenian Comic Competitions, 486–280, and editor of Thucydides (Oxford Readings in Classical Studies).

The late Nicole Loraux was the author of many books. Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings is an independent translator whose most recent translations appear in Greek Thought: A Guide to Classical Knowledge, edited by Jacques Brunschwig and Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd. Pietro Pucci is Goldwin Smith Professor of Classics at Cornell University and the author of many books.