The real Thucydides trap

Greek historian is more subtle than he is given credit for, argues Bruce Clark

The World Today
5 minute READ

Bruce Clark

International Security Editor, The Economist

Thucydides, the ancient Greek historian, did not suffer from false modesty. His work, he insisted, was intended not to win the praise of his contemporaries but as a ‘possession for all time’ whose lessons would never lose their value for analysts of human society or military affairs.

Nearly 25 centuries on, the great chronicler of war between Athens, Sparta and their respective empires is apparently being vindicated.

Professor Donald Kagan, the world’s best-known Thucydides scholar, has said that more people are studying the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta than at any time since it concluded in 404BC. In recent years, moreover, the Greek author’s name has become as firmly established in China’s foreign policy discourse as it was in the liberal-arts curriculum and military science manuals of the West.

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