Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom (Hardback)
  • Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom (Hardback)

Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom (Hardback)

Hardback 208 Pages / Published: 07/05/2015
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In Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom, Mary P. Nichols argues for the centrality of the idea of freedom in Thucydides' thought. Through her close reading of his History of the Peloponnesian War, she explores the manifestations of this theme. Cities and individuals in Thucydides' history take freedom as their goal, whether they claim to possess it and want to maintain it or whether they desire to attain it for themselves or others. Freedom is the goal of both antagonists in the Peloponnesian War, Sparta and Athens, although in different ways. One of the fullest expressions of freedom can be seen in the rhetoric of Thucydides' Pericles, especially in his famous funeral oration. More than simply documenting the struggle for freedom, however, Thucydides himself is taking freedom as his cause. On the one hand, he demonstrates that freedom makes possible human excellence, including courage, self-restraint, deliberation, and judgment, which support freedom in turn. On the other hand, the pursuit of freedom, in one's own regime and in the world at large, clashes with interests and material necessity, and indeed the very passions required for its support. Thucydides' work, which he himself considered a possession for all time, therefore speaks very much to our time, encouraging the defense of freedom while warning of the limits and dangers in doing so. The powerful must defend freedom, Thucydides teaches, but beware that the cost not become freedom itself.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801453168
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 482 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 18 mm


"Mary Nichols has reinvigorated the Straussian tradition of Thucydidean exegesis and the detailed exploration of the relationship between the city and man, mapping contemporary concerns about the freedom of individuals to a narrative about two cities, their conflict and conflicting values."

-- Carol Atack * POLIS, The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought *

"The obvious audience for this book is for those who read Tyucydides in the tradition so dependent on Strauss, who can see how the current discussion of Thucydides sees limits to the depiction of Thucydides as an ideologically pure realist. However, it is also important for other students of Thucydides to be aware of the concepts and values that the political science community applies in their reading of this endlessly challenging author."

-- Michael Shaw * Classical Journal *

"[Readers] will not be disappointed if they are looking for a fresh, if selective, exegesis of Thucydides' History.... Nichols' intense scrutiny of particular forms of diction, literary parallels and contrasts, and characterization often leads to provocative and novel ideas.... Even experienced readers will be provoked and enlightened by Nichols' erudite study."

-- Ryan Balot, University of Toronto * The Philosophical Quarterly *

"Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom is a unique, detailed reading of the History of the Peloponnesian War and the beginning of a new conversation about the theme of freedom in that history. This book is groundbreaking because it deals with the subject of freedom at several levels and throughout the entire history. The theme of freedom, democratic and otherwise, is particularly appropriate in our times, as we see so many people struggling for it and grappling with its demands around the world."

-- Laurie M. Johnson, Kansas State University, author of Thucydides, Hobbes, and the Interpretation of Realism

"Mary P. Nichols has written a wonderfully original book that interprets Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War as a sustained reflection on the conditions for and limitations of political freedom. In addition to tracing this theme across the Thucydidean narrative, she argues that this same complex freedom characterizes Thucydides' own writing, forging a link between his political thought and the activities of thoughtful citizens. It is a marvelous contribution."

-- Gerald Mara, Georgetown University, author of The Civic Conversations of Thucydides and Plato

"Was Thucydides a scientific or a philosophical historian? Was he a student of human nature or of the constraints imposed by convention? Was he an exponent of necessity or of humanity's freedom to choose? In this provocative work, Mary P. Nichols probes and probes again, uncovering the subtleties of Thucydides' analysis and exploring the historians' own pursuit of freedom."

-- Paul A. Rahe, Hillsdale College, author of Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution

"Alternately beautiful and enigmatic, Nichols' Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom explores the themes of freedom and statesmanship in Thucydides' History.... her explorations of this topic have paved the way for future work on it. For this reason among others, the book merits a wide readership among classicists and political theorists."


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