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date: 21 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Thucydides presents the words and deeds of individuals chiefly in terms of their importance for understanding the war. He characterizes leading actors through their speeches, indications of motivation, authorial comments, and the narrative itself. These techniques allow remarkable nuance, even ambiguity, of interpretation. This chapter examines the representations of Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, Brasidas, and Thucydides himself, highlighting the similar and contrasting traits that unite them. In Thucydides’ narrative, Pericles’ pride in Athens, refusal to yield to Sparta, and brilliant oratory lead Athens into the war. Nicias evaluates the expedition to Sicily with Periclean prudence, but his fear of a change in fortune and of the Athenian assembly lead to the expedition’s defeat. Alcibiades shares Pericles’ aristocratic background and strategic imagination, but his self-centeredness and contempt for customs twice cause the Athenians to lose trust. Through delineating these individual characteristics and behaviors, Thucydides clarifies the war's narrative.

Keywords: characterization, Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, Brasidas, Thucydides as character), speeches, personality, narrative

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