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My Favourite Planet > English > People > Thucydides

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Thucydides

Thucydides (Θουκυδίδης, Thoukydides; circa 460-395 BC) was a Greek politician, general and historian from Alimos (Άλιμος), a coastal district of Athens. He also owned an estate including gold mines at Scapte Hyle, near Neapolis (today Kavala), on the Thracian coast of the Northern Aegean Sea, opposite the island of Thasos [1].

It was at Scapte Hyle that Thucydides spent his last years, following his banishment from Athens, and completed his work History of the Peloponnesian War (Ιστορία του Πελοποννησιακού Πολέμου), an account of the war between Athens and Sparta and their allies in the 5th century BC. Although quite different in style and approach to the Histories of Herodotus, it continues historically from where Herodotus left off, at the end of the Greek-Persian wars. In turn, the Athenian soldier and historian Xenophon continued the story in his own way [2].
 
References to Thucydides
on My Favourite Planet
 
History of Kavala
 
History of Pella
 
History of Veria
 
History of Stageira and Olympiada:

Part 2        Part 3        Part 5        Part 8

Portrait of the Greek historian Thucydides at My Favourite Planet

Marble bust of Thucydides.

From a double herm of Thucydides
and Herodotus (see photo below).
The heads are early 2nd century AD copies
of early 4th century BC Greek originals.

Found in Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, around
1547-1555. Later in the Farnese Collection.

National Archaeological Museum,
Naples. Inv. No. 6239.
 
Marble head of Thucydides, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Thucydides. 1-100 AD.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. On loan
from the Franziska Winters Collection.
Inv. No. LI1022.2.
 
Marble bust of Thucydides, Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Marble bust of Thucydides. Thought to be
a Roman copy of a 4th century BC original.
Holkham Hall, Norfolk, England.

Source: Anton Hekler (1882-1940),
Greek & Roman portraits.
Putman, New York, 1912. At archive.org.
The double herm of Herodotus and Thucydides, National Archaeological Museum, Naples at My Favourite Planet

Side view of the double herm of Thucydides (left) and Herodotus in Naples.
The altar dedicated to Apollo Pythios by Peisistratos at My Favourite Planet

The inscribed marble crowning facia of an altar mentioned by Thucydides, set up in
the sanctuary of Apollo Pythios in Athens by Peisistratos (referred to as Peisistratos
the Younger), the grandson of the Athenian tyrant Peisistratos and son of Hippias.

Circa 522-511 BC. Crowning facia, height 18.5 cm, length 182 cm, depth 59 cm.

Epigraphical Museum, Athens. Inv. No. EM 6787.

"The city [Athens] meanwhile was permitted to retain her ancient laws; but the family of Pisistratus took care that one of their own number should always be in office. Among others who thus held the annual archonship at Athens was Pisistratus, a son of the tyrant Hippias. He was named after his grandfather Pisistratus, and during his term of office he dedicated the altar of the Twelve Gods in the Agora, and another altar in the temple of the Pythian Apollo.

The Athenian people afterwards added to one side of the altar in the Agora and so concealed the inscription upon it; but the other inscription on the altar of the Pythian Apollo may still be seen, although the letters are nearly effaced. It runs as follows:

Pisistratus the son of Hippias dedicated this memorial of his archonship in the sacred precinct of the Pythian Apollo."

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, chapter 54, sections 6-7. At Perseus Digital Library.

The facia of the altar was found in five fragments during excavations in 1877 on the right (north) bank of the Ilissos River, southwest of the Olympieion (Temple of Olympian Zeus) in central Athens. The fragments included most of the inscription exactly as quoted Thucydides. A further small fragment (Inv. No. Λ 13142) was discovered in March 2009 at 3 Iosiph ton Rogon Street (Οδός Ιωσήφ Των Ρωγών), near the site of the earlier excavations. It fitted perfectly a missing section of the top front edge of the altar and completed the part of the dedicatory inscription mentioning Apollo Pythios.

Μνε̃μα τόδε hε̃ς ἀρχε̃ς Πεισίστ[ρατος hιππίο h]υιὸς θε̃κεν Ἀπόλλονος Πυθίο ἐν τεμένει.

This memorial of his archonship Peisistratos son of Hippias set in the temenos of Apollo Pythias.

Inscription IG I(3) 948.

It is not known in which year Peisistratos (Πεισίστρατος) was archon, some time between 522 and 511 BC, perhaps 522/521 BC. The location of the sanctuary of Apollo Pythias (Απόλλων Πύθιος) has not yet been found, but is thought to be beneath modern buildings in the area where the altar fragments and other artefacts have been found.

The Altar of the Twelve Gods (or the Sanctuary of the Twelve Gods) at the northwest of the Athens Agora, was considered the centre of the city and the point from which distances from other places were measured. The extension of the altar mentioned by Thucydides was probably built around the last third of the 5th century BC, during the Peloponnesian War.

For further information about the Twelve Great Gods of Olympus, known as the Dodekatheon (Δωδεκάθεον), see Dionysus and Demeter and Persephone part 2.
 
Athenian casualty list probably concerning the Sicilian expedition at My Favourite Planet

A marble stele inscribed with an Athenian casualty list, thought
to record some of the names of those who died during the
disastrous military expedition to Sicily 415-413 BC, during
the Peloponnesian War, which was described by Thucydides.

Around 411 BC.

Epigraphical Museum, Athens. Inv. No. EM 13190.
Inscription IG I(3) 1186b.

Thucydides is the main historical source concerning the Athenian Sicilian expedition, which ended with the entire expeditionary force being killed or captured, with many being sold as slaves. His account also includes valuable and rare information about the history of ancient Sicily.

Another stele in the exhibited in the Epigraphical Museum is also believed to be a casualty list of the Sicilian expedition. Inv. No. EM 10617. Inscription IG I(3) 1186a. However, it has been argued that these steles do not refer to the Sicilian campaign.
 
The Pythodoros relief, Eleusis Archaeological Museum at My Favourite Planet

The inscribed relief of Pythodoros, son of Epizelos,
with a depiction in two zones of a battle between
Athenian cavalry and Spartan infantry.

Last quarter of the 5th century BC.

Eleusis Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 5101.
The funerary relief of Sosias and Kephisodoros at My Favourite Planet

The funerary relief of Sosias and Kephisodoros, from the time of the final phase
of the Peloponnesian War. Two Athenian citizen soldiers, with large round
shields and cone-shaped pilos helmets (see Medusa), shake hands in farewell.
On the left, the bearded man in the robes of an Athenian priest may have been
a seer who was consulted before a battle.

Marble. Around 410 BC.

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 1708. Acquired in 1910 in Paris.
 
Thucydides Notes, references and links

1. Scapte Hyle (Σκαπτὴ Ὕλη, a forest that may be dug; also referred to as Scaptensula, foss wood).

"Indeed the Muses, it appears, called exile to their aid in perfecting for the ancients the finest and most esteemed of their writings. 'Thucydides of Athens composed the history of the war of the Peloponnesians and Athenians' in Thrace at Scapte Hyle; Xenophon wrote at Scillus in Elis, Philistus in Epeirus, Timaeus of Tauromenium at Athens, Androtion of Athens at Megara, and the poet Bacchylides in the Peloponnese."

Plutarch, Moralia, On Exile, section 14. English translation by Phillip H. De Lacy and Benedict Einarson. Loeb Classical Library, 1959. At Bill Thayer's LacusCurtius: Into the Roman World, University of Chicago.

See also:

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 4, chapter 105, section 1.

Plutarch, Lives: Cimon, Chapter 4.

Both at Perseus Digital Library.

2. Xenophon of Athens (Ξενοφῶν, circa 430-354 BC), general, historian and philosopher; pupil of Socrates.

A profile of Xenophon will appear in this section at some point. Meanwhile, read an anecdote by the author about his military adventure in Pergamon on History of Pergamon.
 
Photos and articles © David John, except where otherwise specified.
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