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Thucydides History of Peloponnesian War Accuracy

Updated on May 3, 2010

Thucydides

In Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, he focuses on a factual telling of the war in a way that was never quite seen before.  Thucydides was actually quite critical of the methods used by others at the time.  He came to the conclusion that tradition is not a very reliable source, and that it can not be taken at face value.  Most people would accept stories of the past uncritically, often believing the first story they heard.  The problem that Thucydides had was that people were often not willing to find out the truth.  Even with the telling of the past, most other poets or chroniclers are more interested in emphasizing themes in their work or dressing the past in order to make a good story, which is not what Thucydides was after.    What he was after was the straight truth, based on only facts and as unbiased as he could make it. 

            In order to obtain a history that is close to the truth, his methods would have to differ from others.  However, this would not always be easy.  If he could not recall a speech exactly or was not present, he would do his best to gather evidence and keep “as closely as possible to the general sense of words that were actually used.”  In order to obtain a factual reporting of events that was not biased through his own perspective, he would not take the first story to come his way.  Instead, he would do thorough research in investigating the truth through eye-witnesses if he had not been there himself.

            With Thucydides' methods, his written history would end up being quite accurate and reliable.  There is an obvious disdain apparent in his writing for bending the truth, so surely his reports are as factual as he could get.  He wrote of being wary of his own impressions, so as long as those were kept in mind an intelligent person would be able to take a fairly objective perspective close to all the time.  Also, he understood that eye-witnesses could not be entirely trusted, so he would get many perspectives in order to cross reference them and obtain the truth.  Thucydides was an ancient factual reporter and his works can be trusted. 

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