Reading Thucydides.

by Daniel Russ on November 12, 2010

Thucydides writes about the Peloponnesian inhabitants before the wars that raged prominently and primarily between Athens and Sparta. He writes that in many ways the Peloponnesian wars united the Greeks in ways that no other activity ever has. No common denominator existed between them all except of course their language and their lifestyle. There was no real sense of nationhood for most of the inhabitants of classical Greece. Most people organized in smaller bands

Thucydides, Greek Historian

or tribes and few people planted their lands because there was a general outlaw atmosphere where brigands survived by stealing and ambushing wayfarers. Thucydides recognized that for years and even at the times when he was writing, most people traveled armed because communications and travel were iffy and unsafe.

He notes that people who made a living at waters edge became merchants and made good money. He also noted that the country folk, like the Spartans, adopted the dress and a luxurious lifestyle that was afforded those that made money and banded together. Some gave up walking everywhere armed.

That said Thucydides recognized that it was the love of wealth that drove people to become strong and learn to strong-arm others. He noted the subjugation of smaller communities to the bigger richer communities, which happened to be the corporate communities of the day, the trading companies and the armies they traveled with.

It is significant that Thucydides recognized that power corrupted, and wise, sensible governance fell by the wayside when wealthy seaside empires formed and tyrannies formed spontaneously and ubiquitously. Powerful interests understood that this part of the world required a robust navy and invaded and eliminated or subjugated bands on smaller islands, all to make a buck. Or should I say drachma.

What’s amazing to me is how little has changed between then and now in terms of the reflexes of people to steal, to dominate, to wage war, and the urges driven from the basest of instinct are all unfettered still.

Also, you can find Thucydides for free on most ebook networks.


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