Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The course moves from the assumption that Thucydides' Histories can be seen not only as a masterpiece of ancient historiography and classical political philosophy but also as a grand theory of international politics based upon a number of ideal-type characterizations of states and their interactions. At the end of the course students will be able to identify a set of central notions and ideas and organize them in a comprehensive conceptual system.

Course contents

The course, organized according to the model of the Structured Seminar, consists of ten 3-hour meetings, in presence, to be held once a week. A set of additional 2-hour online meetings will prepare different groups of students to deal with their assignments. Students are required to carefully read the assigned material before class and active participation will also be expected. In any case, students will be able to attend the entire course remotely on MS TEAMS. The seminar organization is detailed below.


Students must buy their own copy of the Histories (translation by R.Warner, Penguin edition) and bring it always to class. D. Cartwright’s A Historical Commentary on Thucydides, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1997, is a handy companion to Warner’s translation. D. Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, New York, Viking, 2003, is a basic textbook, the one-volume version of the author's earlier tetralogy.

1. Setting the Stage

- G. Kateb, «Thucydides' History: A Manual of Statecraft», Political Science Quarterly, 79, 1964, pp. 481-503;

- R. Aron, «Thucydides and the Historical Narrative» (1960), in R. Aron, Politics and History, New York, The Free Press, 1978, pp. 20-46.

Recommended Readings:

- J.H. Finley, Thucydides, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1942, pp. 289-325;

- W. Jaeger, Paideia. The Ideals of Greek Culture (1934), Oxford University Press, 1939-1944;

- T. Rood, Thucydides. Narrative and Explanation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998, pp. 3-23.

2. Athenian Imperialism and the Origins of the Peloponnesian War

- Thucydides, Book I

Recommended Readings:

- M.I. Finley, «The Fifth-Century Athenian Empire: A Balance Sheet», in P.D.A. Garnsey and C.R. Whittaker (eds.), Imperialism in Ancient World, Cambridge, 1978, pp. 103-126;

- G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War, Ithaca, 1989, pp. 50-63;

- D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1989;

3. Pericles’ Policy

- Thucydides, Book II

Recommended Readings:

- B. de Wet, «The So-Called Defensive Policy of Pericles», Acta Classica, 12, 1969, pp. 103-119;

- J. Ober, «Thucydides, Pericles, and the Strategy of Defense», in J. Eadie and J. Ober (eds.), The Craft of the Ancient Historian, Lanham, University Press of America, 1985, pp. 171-188.

- D. Kagan, The Archidamian War, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1990, pp. 17-146;

4. Imperial Dynamics: Mytilene’s Rebellion and Platea’s Surrender

- Thucydides, Book III

Recommended Readings:

- D. Kagan, The Archidamian War, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1974, pp. 147-362;

- A.W. Gomme, «International Politics and Civil War», in More Essays in Greek History and Literature, Oxford, Blackwell, 1962, pp. 156-176;

- J.J. Price, Thucydides and Internal War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 6-78.

5. Further Athenian Successes and the Spartan Counteroffensive

- Thucydides, Book IV

Recommended Readings:

- D. Kagan, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1981, pp. 17-156;

- T. Kelly, «Argive Foreign Policy in the Fifth Century B.C.», Classical Philology, 69, 1974, pp. 81-99;

- H. Westlake, «Corynth and the Argive Coalition», American Journal of Philology, 61, 1940, pp. 413-421.

6. The Peace of Nicias

- Thucydides, Book V

Recommended Readings:

- H.R. Rawlings, The Structure of Thucydides' History, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1981, pp. 58-125;

- R. Legon, «The Peace of Nicias», Journal of Peace Research, 4, 1969;

- W.K.C. Guthrie, The Sophists, (Part 1 of Guthrie’s History of Greek Philosophy, Vol III, “The Fifth-Century Enlightenment”) Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1971, pp. 55-134.

7. The Sicilian Expedition

- Thucydides, Book VI

Recommended Readings:

- S. Forde, The Ambition to Rule. Alcibiades and the Politics of Imperialism in Thucydides, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1989, pp. 12-115;

- J. Riley, «Freedom and Empire: The Politics of Athenian Imperialism», in L.S. Gustafson (ed.), Thucydides' Theory of International Relations, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 2000, pp. 117-150.

- D. Kagan, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1981, pp. 157-372.

8. The Athenian Defeat in Sicily

- Thucydides, Book VII

Recommended Readings:

- D. Kagan, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1981, pp. 157-372;

- W.R. Connor, Thucydides, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984, pp. 185-230.

9. War in Ionia and the Coup in Athens

- Thucydides, Book VIII

Recommended Readings:

- D. Kagan, The Fall of the Athenian Empire, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1987, pp. 1-210;

- G. de St. Croix, «The Constitution of the Five Thousand», Historia, 5, 1956, pp. 1-23;

- M. Pope, «Thucydides and Democracy», Historia, 37, 1988, pp. 276-296.

10. Summing Up

- J. de Romilly, Thucydides and Athenian Imperialism, Oxford, Blackwell, 1963, part I, chapt. II («The Athenian Ambition») and part III, chapt. III («The System of Athenian Imperialism»);

- R. Meiggs, The Athenian Empire, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1972 pp. 375-396.

- R. Gilpin, «The Theory of Hegemonic War», Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 18, 1988, pp. 591-613;

Recommended Readings:

- M. Ostwald, Anánke in Thucydides, «American Classical Studies» n. 18, Atlanta, American Philological Association, 1988, pp. 1-19;

- M. Finley, «Thucydides the Moralist», in Aspects of Antiquity, London, Chatto & Windus, 1968, pp. 44-57;

- C. Brown, «Thucydides, Hobbes, and the Derivation of Anarchy», History of Political Thought, 8, 1, 1987, pp. 33-62;

Teaching methods

The workload consists of ten lectures, structured reading and writing assignments, and one take-home final exam (two essays, of approximately 3000 words each).

Assessment methods

Students will be evaluated on the grounds of their class participation (50% of the grade) and final exam (50% of the grade).

Office hours

See the website of Marco Cesa