By Susan Sorek
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Additional resources for Ancient Historians: A Student Handbook
As for the gods, it seemed to be the same thing whether one worshipped them or not, when one saw the good and the bad dying indiscriminately. Thucydides stresses the inadequacies of his predecessors, especially with regard to their uncritical evaluation of the past. Although he never mentions Herodotus by name it is clear that he had read The Histories for he notes inaccuracies in the accounts. Thucydides 31 In Book I he makes reference to two errors concerning Sparta that occur in Herodotus’ work in Books VII (57) and IX (53) and also corrects his geography.
In 430 bce an outbreak of plague hit Athens and ravaged the densely packed city; in the long run it was a significant cause of its final defeat. The plague killed over 30,000 citizens, sailors and soldiers and even Pericles succumbed to the illness. Obviously this reduced the manpower of Athens and foreign mercenaries refused to join the plagueridden city. Even Spartan troops refused to risk contact with the city, so the invasion was abandoned. Following the death of Pericles the Athenians adopted a more aggressive policy under their new general Demosthenes and managed to achieve some success with their naval raids on the Peloponnese.
On the death of Cyrus in the autumn of 401 bce, 10,000 Greek soldiers were faced with the prospect of submitting to the King Xenophon 39 of Persia or marching home. They found themselves in the heart of the Persian Empire with half of their leaders arrested and surrounded by the Persian army. Naturally they chose to return home and the Anabasis is Xenophon’s account of how he took charge of this expedition, not because he held any superior rank but because he was a man of reason. For the Greek ‘political animal’ reason surpassed hierarchy.
Ancient Historians: A Student Handbook by Susan Sorek