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Thucydides’ War Narrative

Thucydides’ War Narrative: A Structural Study

Carolyn J. Dewald
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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    Thucydides’ War Narrative
    Book Description:

    As a sustained analysis of the connections between narrative structure and meaning in theHistory of the Peloponnesian War,Carolyn Dewald's study revolves around a curious aspect of Thucydides' work: the first ten years of the war's history are formed on principles quite different from those shaping the years that follow. Although aspects of this change in style have been recognized in previous scholarship, Dewald has rigorously analyzed how its various elements are structured, used, and related to each other. Her study argues that these changes in style and organization reflect how Thucydides' own understanding of the war changed over time. Throughout, however, theHistory's narrative structure bears witness to Thucydides' dialogic efforts to depict the complexities of rational choice and behavior on the part of the war's combatants, as well as his own authorial interest in accuracy of representation. In her introduction and conclusion, Dewald explores some ways in which details of style and narrative structure are central to the larger theoretical issue of history's ability to meaningfully represent the past. She also surveys changes in historiography in the past quarter-century and considers how Thucydidean scholarship has reflected and responded to larger cultural trends.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93097-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    It was no accident that I chose to think about Thucydides in the early 1970s at Berkeley. I had first encountered theHistory of the Peloponnesian Waras an undergraduate, studying with Martin Ostwald at Swarthmore College, and I continued to study Thucydides under the direction of Ronald Stroud, Kendrick Pritchett, and Raphael Sealey at the University of California. For many students of the ancient world at that time, Thucydides’ voice was crucial in articulating a certain difficult kind of reflection on the nature of communities at war. Thucydides iii.82–83, for instance, has never had a clearer resonance than...


    • CHAPTER ONE An Overview of the Archidamian Narrative Structure (ii.1–v.24)
      (pp. 25-34)

      Thucydides structures the first book of hisHistoryto provide a relatively complicated overview of long-term and short-term causes for the Second Peloponnesian War, the war that he himself lived through and that engulfed the whole Greek world between 431 and 404 b.c.e. The narrative of the war proper starts at the beginning of what we call book ii, where Thucydides also sets out the basic narrative strategy he intends to follow:

      And now, from this point, begins the war between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians and the allies on both sides, during which they no longer communicated with one...

    • CHAPTER TWO Introductory Sentences (ii.1–v.24)
      (pp. 35-47)

      Year six has given us an idea of the building blocks that Thucydides uses to construct the first ten years of his twenty-one-year narrative. Each year is expressly divided into a summer and then a winter narrative. Within each season, discrete narrative units of action follow one another in an orderly sequence; 119 units of action in all make up the narrative of ii.1–v.24.

      The beginning of each of these 119 Archidamian narrative units is identified by a formular introductory sentence. In one sense, investigating the nature of these introductory sentences reveals very little about the meaning of the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Internal Structure of the Unit of Action (ii.1–v.24)
      (pp. 48-85)

      Chapter 2 examined the components that make the introductory sentences of Thucydidean units of action formular in nature, distinctively marking one unit of action off from the next. This chapter considers the units themselves, since they are the building blocks out of which Thucydides constructs the Archidamian narrative as a whole. As we already saw briefly in chapter 1, he uses five unit types in all, three fairly short and two much longer, to construct the 119 narrative units of ii.1–v.24.

      Units of action as defined in this study do not provide the only way to describe the narrative...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Patterns Formed by Units of Action in the Archidamian Narrative (ii.1–v.24)
      (pp. 86-112)

      Units of action in ii.1–v.24 fall into certain recurring types, and their first sentences too are distinctively formular. Both kinds of stylistic regularity help give the narrative a coherent, orderly but also highly episodic appearance. The units themselves have so far been treated in this study as discrete segments, arranged sequentially in the text. How does Thucydides also use them to build a larger story that traces out patterns of meaning for the first ten years of the Peloponnesian War?

      This question has many different kinds of answer; here I continue to concentrate on structural issues, and in particular...


    • CHAPTER FIVE The Years of the Peace (v.25–vi.7): The Unit of Action Changing
      (pp. 115-143)

      In books v.25–vi.7, Thucydides is using units of action in new ways and for a new end. This chapter is an attempt to specify the details of how Thucydides’ narrative technique changes as he moves into his account of the troubled years of the Peace, the uneasy interregnum that separated the Sicilian expedition of 415–413 b.c.e. from all that had gone before. Especially in comparison with the narrative of the Sicilian expedition and the Aegean War to come, many features basic to the earlier narrative remain. The building blocks of the years of the Peace continue to be...

    • CHAPTER SIX Years Seventeen through Twenty-one (vi.8–viii.109): The Unit of Action Transformed
      (pp. 144-154)

      This chapter examines the disappearance of the unit of action as a structuring principle, in the five years of theHistory’snarrative that remain to be discussed. I will argue that, viewed in the light of the kinds of analysis used so far in this study, the narratives of the Sicilian expedition (books vi.8–vii.87) and of the Aegean War (book viii) exhibit some profound structural similarities that distinguish them from the earlier accounts of the Archidamian years and the years of the Peace. Thucydides is now choosing a very diªerent way of telling the ongoing story of the Peloponnesian...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Some Conclusions: Thucydides’ Narrative Structures (ii.1–viii.109)
      (pp. 155-164)

      This study of thetaxisor narrative arrangement of Thucydides’History, ii.1–viii.109, leads to two broad areas of conclusion concerning the narrative organization of the Archidamian War and the ways in which the narrative patterns established there are transformed as theHistoryprogresses. I will summarize these matters first, and then return to some more general and impressionistic arguments raised at the end of the introduction, about the mind of the man who wrote theHistoryand about the genre his history helped fashion.

      Books ii.1–v.24 are organized as a paratactic sequence of units of action. Each unit...

  8. APPENDIX A. Narrative Units and Narrative Scenes (ii.1–viii.109)
    (pp. 165-178)
  9. APPENDIX B. Introductory Sentences of Units of Action (ii.1–v.24)
    (pp. 179-190)
  10. APPENDIX C. Time Formulae in Introductory Sentences (ii.1–viii.109)
    (pp. 191-192)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 193-228)
    (pp. 229-240)
    (pp. 241-248)
    (pp. 249-258)