Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Currently Reading: Thucydides

The Athenians were the first Greeks to put their weapons away and change to a more relaxed and luxurious style of life. It was due to this refinement that the older men among the rich there only recently gave up the fashion of wearing long linen robes and tying up the hair on their heads in knots fashioned with golden cicadas. (4)

"Has had good laws": the expression is used for cities that are neither democracies nor tyrannies, and is often a code word for moderate oligarchy. (footnote, 11)

People always think the greatest war is the one they are fighting at the moment, and when that is over they are more impressed with wars of antiquity... (12)

Fear is Thucydides' favorite explanation for violence and injustice, and he sees it operating even when it is well below the surface. The word translated "ambition" literally means "honor." (footnote, 22)

People are apparently more passionate over injustice than violence, because then they feel that someone who is their equal has taken an unfair advantage, when they accept violence from someone stronger as a matter of necessity. (24)

Before you go to war, you must realize how unpredictable war is. The longer it lasts the more likely it is to turn on chance. The odds of disaster are the same for both sides, and no one can see where the dangers lie. People tend to go into war the wrong way around, starting with action and turning to discussion only after they have come to harm. (25)

Paul Woodruff, translator

1 comment:

newyorkette said...

Don't know if you're reading in Ancient Greek, but if you're ever curious as to the usage of a particular word or term, my old memoire director, Francois Charpin worked on this database which started out as a compilation of all the words in greek texts, for the purpose of tracking their frequency and usage contexts over the centuries. It's changed a lot, and I don't recognize the website well enough to direct you, but have a look: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/