The First Modern Historian Essay

1779 words - 7 pages

Herodotus was the first historian. However, his historical methods were much different than the historical methods that are practiced now. Thucydides was the first modern historian, the type of which we are familiar with today. He took Herodotus' concept and changed history from something more for enjoyment to a learning tool to improve the future by studying the past. Thucydides had a purpose for his history and a reason for writing it; he was the first modern historian. When people think about famous wars the first thing that enters their mind is usually a participant involved in the war or a famous event in the war, for WWII we might think of Hitler, the Holocaust or Pearl Harbor. The uniqueness of the Peloponnesian War is that we only hear about it in relation to Thucydides, the man who wrote it as opposed to the participants. Thucydides is the Peloponnesian War (M. I. Finley, Intro to Thucydides, p. 9). The only other account is by Ephorus, a pupil of Isocrates, who disliked Thucydides' version of the war and rewrote it as part of his Universal History. However, his telling is of little value because he did no more than reinterpret the material Thucydides has compiled. Besides Ephorus' rewriting, no one else recorded the war (M. I. Finley, Intro to Thucydides, p. 29-30). We owe everything we know about the Peloponnesian War to Thucydides, including our knowledge of its existence. Thucydides experienced many different aspects and views of the war as he wrote his history. This allowed him to have, relatively speaking, the most unbiased and well-versed history to date. Thucydides was from an aristocratic family but was not particularly wealthy, not enough for him to lead a luxurious life. When the war began Thucydides was probably in his late 20's and he died soon after Athens lost the war. Through his writings we can deduct that he was a cold, humorless individual of extreme intelligence. We do not know anything of his religious beliefs for sure but we can be certain that he thought of history as a human affair based on human patterns and actions, separate from the supernatural world (M. I. Finley, Intro to Thucydides, p. 10, 20-21). Thucydides was revolutionary because at the time people relied on myths to guide them and establish their morals. No one felt the need for modern history or history the way Thucydides wrote it. Some people at the time did not believe in the morals created by myths. They felt a stronger, more realistic foundation was required. However, unlike Thucydides they did not challenge the history of Homer but the morals of the characters and the beliefs about the Gods. Thucydides felt that the same foundation was required for history as well. Thucydides was also the first historian to get extremely detailed in writing his history. Unlike Herodotus, Thucydides concentrated solely on an individual war as opposed to a large period of time. This allowed him to write with an incredible amount of accuracy....

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