Thucydides repeatedly explains that the Peloponnesian War arose not simply from the specific grievances of this or that state but from a longer process of growing Athenian power that inspired fear among the Spartans, making the war inevitable. Thucydides’ balanced and richly detailed account has not convinced everyone, however. Many scholars investigating the war’s causes have disagreed with Thucydides’ thesis, typically using the historian’s own narrative to fix primary blame for the war on the Athenians or the Spartans, or more rarely casting the war’s outbreak in broader terms, with varying degrees of success. This chapter validates Thucydides’ explanation and shows that alternative modern explanations are unsatisfactory.
This article is a selection from The Oxford Handbook of Thucydides, edited by Sara Forsdyke, Edith Foster, and Ryan Balot.
Featured Image: portrait of Thucudides from Pictures from Greek Life and Story. Alfred John Church, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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