Thucydides: reception, reinterpretation and influence

People involved in this project

Principal investigator:

Co-investigator(s):

School Humanities
Department Classics and Ancient History
Dates January 2009 - November 2013
Website Thucydides
Funder AHRC
Collaborator(s) Christine Lee (University of Bristol)
One of the major project outputs is a multi-author volume on the reception of Thucydides, involving collaborators from France, Germany, the US, Canada and Brazil as well as the UK.  However, there are no formally established collaborative arrangements.
Contact person Professor Neville Morley

More about this project

In the modern era, the Greek historian Thucydides has been one of the most frequently cited thinkers in debates about political theory and international relations and the nature of modern historiography, as well as appearing in discussions of democracy, citizenship, military strategy and a range of contexts in popular culture.  The idea of Thucydides and his work had and has enormous power, shaping modern ideas about how to understand the world and serving to legitimise them. However, there is considerable scope for debate about the relationship between this idealised Thucydides and the reality.  Further, Thucydides has appeared in completely contradictory roles: as mythographer and rhetorician as well as scientific historian; as the perfectly objective observer of society, and as the model for a politically engaged scholar; as both democrat and oligarch, realist and idealist.

The history of Thucydides’ reception, and the development of these contradictory ideas, has never been studied in any depth.  This four-year research project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, will examine how knowledge and understanding of his work has developed within different national traditions since the Renaissance, through the work of scholars and translators and the inclusion of his text (or extracts from it) in different systems of education. It will explore the ways that the interpretation of Thucydides and his work has changed over time, in fields like political philosophy, historiography, international relations theory and military strategy, and examine his place in debates on such themes as citizenship, the functioning of democracy and its institutions, and war and peace. It will consider not only how the image of Thucydides has changed, but also the role it has played in shaping modern ideas about the world.