THE SPEECHES OF THUCYDIDES.
§ 1. The famous phrase in which Thucydides claims a lasting value for his work has had the fate of many striking expressions: it is often quoted apart from the words which explain it. "A possession for ever," not "the rhetorical triumph of an hour": taken by itself this has a ring of exultation, noble perhaps, yet personal, as if the grave self-mastery of the historian had permitted this one utterance in the tone of the Roman poet's confident retrospect or the English poet's loftier hope, speaking of a monument more enduring than brass, of things so written that men should not willingly let them die. It is the context that reduces the meaning to a passionless precision. "The absence of fable in the History," he says, "will perhaps make it less attractive to hearers; but it will be enough if it is found profitable by those who desire an exact knowledge of the past as a key to the future, which in all human probability will repeat or resemble the past. The work is meant to be a possession for ever, not the rhetorical triumph of an hour." That the intention of Thucydides has been fulfilled in his own sense is due largely to the speeches which form between a fourth and fifth of the whole work. It is chiefly by these that the facts of the Peloponnesian war are transformed into typical examples of universal laws and illuminated with a practical significance for the students of politics in every age and country. The scope of the speeches is seen best if we consider what the History would be without them. The narrative would remain, with a few brief comments on great characters or events, and those two passages in which Thucydides describes the moral effects of pestilence and of party-strife. But there would be little or no light on the inner workings of the Greek political mind, on the courses of reasoning which determined the action, on the whole play of feeling and opinion which lay behind the facts.
§ 2. The introduction of speeches became a regular part of ancient historiography, and came in again at the revival of literature, not quite going out, in Italy and France at least, till the end of the last century. But the followers of Thucydides were obeying an established tradition; he was the writer who had done most to establish it; indeed, he might properly be called its founder. The place of the speeches in his design was due to special influences of the age as well as to the peculiar bent of his mind; we have to consider what had been done before him, and the plan on which he went to work.
At the beginning of the Peloponnesian war a Greek prose literature scarcely yet existed. The Ionian prose-writers before Herodotus, or contemporary with him, are known to us only from scanty fragments. But the Augustan age possessed all, or nearly all, their writings; and Dionysius of Halicarnassus has described their general characteristics, comparing them collectively with Herodotus and Thucydides. These Ionian writers, he says, treat the annals of cities and people separately,—not combining them into a large picture, as Herodotus does. Their common object was to diffuse a knowledge of the legends which lived in oral tradition (ὅσαι διεσώζοντο μνῆμαι), and of the written records (γραφαί) preserved in temples or state-archives; and to publish these "such as they received them," without adding anything, and on the other hand without omitting "myths" and "theatrical episodes" which appear childish to a more critical age. As to style, it is much the same for all of them,—plain, concise, "strictly to the point," without artificial display; but with a certain freshness, he adds, and some degree of charm, which has been the secret of their survival. The meagre fragments which remain, such as those of Xanthus and Charon, Hecataeus and Hellanicus, consist chiefly of short, jerky sentences, strung together in the baldest possible fashion. If these Ionian writers introduced dialogues or speeches—as the example of the epic poets might have led them to do—it may be conjectured that these were of the simplest kind. There is one, indeed, who has left proof that he could write dialogue with the ease and grace of Herodotus himself. But Ion of Chios was a poet as well as a chronicler; he knew the Athens of Pericles; and his memoirs, with their sprightly gossip, must have been very unlike the normal type of Ionian chronicle.
Herodotus is distinguished from his predecessors, first of all, by an epic unity of plan. It is hard to say exactly how far he was superior to them in his method of verifying facts; his diligence and his honesty are both unquestionable, and we know that he attempted—not very scientifically, perhaps—to decide between conflicting versions of the same story. But in the dramatic element of his narrative he shows the true freedom of an epic poet. In his History, as in the Iliad and the Odyssey, the author seldom speaks when there is a fair pretext for making the characters speak. The habitual use of "direct speech," or easy dialogue, is evidently a different thing from the insertion of set speeches: there is nothing necessarily rhetorical about it. It is merely the vivid way of describing thought and motive, the way natural to a simple age; and in the case of a work meant to be heard rather than to be read, like the early Greek prose works, it has the obvious recommendation of helping to keep the attention alive. Even the longer speeches in Herodotus have usually the conversational tone rather than the rhetorical. On the other hand, there are a few which may be considered as properly rhetorical, that is, as efforts by Herodotus to work up a vague tradition in the most effective form. The debate in the Persian cabinet on the invasion of Greece is a case in point. The speeches of Xerxes, Mardonius, and Artabanus have been carefully elaborated, and have the elementary dramatic merit of expressing views which Persian speakers could conceivably have taken. Another example is the debate of the Persian conspirators after the death of the false Smerdis. Otanes argues for democracy, Megabyzus for oligarchy, Darius for monarchy; but here the points of view seem purely Hellenic. Herodotus prefaces his report of the discussion by saying, "Speeches were made which some of the Greeks refuse to credit; but made they were": and elsewhere he remarks with triumph that "those Greeks who do not believe" in Otanes having advocated democracy will be surprised to hear that Mardonius established democracies in the Ionian cities. The ground of this dramatic episode, then, was a story current among the Greeks of Ionia, but rejected by some of them as manifestly inconsistent with Persian ideas. The spirit of rhetorical dialectic may be traced again very clearly in the conversation between Solon and Croesus, where Solon refines on the distinction between wealth, good fortune, and happiness. Still, it cannot be said that Herodotus had much love for set rhetorical display: his taste was for conversation—lively, ingenious, argumentative it might be, but still mainly in the colloquial key. A good instance of the way in which he passes by an opportunity for oratory is his brief notice of the speech made by Themistocles just before the battle of Salamis: "His theme was the contrast between all that is worthy and all that is base. He exhorted them to choose the better part in all that men's nature and condition permit; and then, having wound up his discourse, he ordered them to embark." The true rhetorician would have developed the topic which Herodotus barely indicates. It may be noticed, too, that the ornament of the speeches in Herodotus is sometimes distinctly Homeric—illustrating his nearer affinity to epos than to rhetoric. Thus the Corinthian Sosicles, in the debate at Sparta, begins with truly epic force: "Verily now the sky shall be under the earth, and the earth shall hang above the sky, men shall have their pastures in the sea, and fish upon land," if Spartans become the friends of tyranny.
§ 3. Thucydides has stated the general principles on which he composed the speeches in his History. The precise interpretation of that statement depends, however, partly on the question—How far is it probable that Thucydides is there instituting a tacit comparison between his own method and that of Herodotus? So far as we know, the work of Herodotus was the only prose work in which Thucydides could have found a precedent for dramatic treatment applied to history. If Thucydides knew that work, it would naturally be present to his mind at the moment when he was stating the rules of his own practice. It can be shown almost certainly that a period of at least twenty years must have elapsed between the time at which Herodotus ceased to write and the time at which the History of Thucydides received the form in which it has come down to us. It was possible, then, for Thucydides to know the work of Herodotus; that he actually knew it, and that he pointedly alludes to it in several places, cannot be doubted by any one who weighs the whole evidence.
In the view of Thucydides there had hitherto been two classes of writers concerned with the recording of events. First, there were the poets, especially the epic poets, of whom Homer is the type, whose characteristic tendency, in the eyes of Thucydides, is to exaggerate the greatness or splendour of things past. Secondly, there were the prose writers whom he calls chroniclers λογογράφοι; and these he characterises by saying that they "compiled" their works with a view to attracting audiences at a recitation, rather than to truth; dealing largely, as they did, with traditions which could no longer be verified, but had passed into the region of myth. Now with such chroniclers Herodotus was undoubtedly classed by Thucydides. The traits common to Herodotus and the other chroniclers, as Thucydides viewed them, were (1) the omission of really accurate research—the tendency to take what lay ready to the writer's hand (τὰ ἑτοῖμα, i. 20); (2) the mixture of a fabulous element with history; (3) the pursuit of effect in the first place, and of truth only in the second. Probably Thucydides would have said that Herodotus was more critically painstaking and less indiscriminately tolerant of fable than most of the other chroniclers, but that his study of effect was more systematic and more ambitious. The imaginary dialogues and speeches in Herodotus would be the most conspicuous illustrations of this desire for effect. If they were not absolute novelties in the chronicler's art, at least we may be sure that they had never before been used in such large measure, or with such success.
The first aim of Thucydides in his introduction is to show that the Peloponnesian war is more important than any event of which the Greeks have record. He then states the principles on which his History of the War has been composed. "As to the various speeches made on the eve of the war, or in its course, I have found it difficult to retain a memory of the precise words which I had heard spoken; and so it was with those who brought me reports. But I have made the persons say what it seemed to me most opportune for them to say in view of each situation; at the same time, I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said. As to the deeds done in the war, I have not thought myself at liberty to record them on hearsay from the first informant, or on arbitrary conjecture. My account rests either on personal knowledge, or on the closest possible scrutiny of each statement made by others. The process of research was laborious, because conflicting accounts were given by those who had witnessed the several events, as partiality swayed or memory served them."
The phenomena of the war, then, as materials for history, are classed by Thucydides under two heads—λόγοι, things said, and ἔργα, things done. These are the two elements of human agency. As regards the ἔργα, the deeds, he is evidently contrasting his own practice with that of the chroniclers generally. He has not taken his facts, as they did, without careful sifting (ἀβασανίστως): he had formed a higher conception of his task (ἠξίωσα). In regard to the words, the λόγοι, he is tacitly contrasting his own practice with that of Herodotus, the only conspicuous example in this department. If his statement were developed in this light, it might be paraphrased thus:—Thucydides says: (1) I have not introduced a speech except when I had reason to know that a speech was actually made: unlike Herodotus, when he reports the conversation between Croesus and Solon, the debate of the Persian conspirators, the discussion in the cabinet of Xerxes. (2) I do not pretend to give the exact form of the speeches made: as a writer implies that he does when, without warning the reader, he introduces a speech with the formula, "He said these things" (ἔλεγε τάδε), instead of "He spoke to this effect" (ἔλεγε τοιάδε). (3) On the other hand, I have faithfully reproduced the speaker's general line of argument, the purport and substance of his speech, so far as it could be ascertained. Herodotus disregards this principle when he makes Otanes, Megabyzus and Dareius support democracy, oligarchy and monarchy by arguments which no Persian could have used. And in filling up such outlines, my aim has been to make the speaker say what, under the circumstances, seemed most opportune (τὰ δέοντα μάλιστα).
The last phrase is noticeable as marking a limit of dramatic purpose. According to the regular usage of the words (τὰ δέοντα) in Thucydides, it can mean only "what the occasion required"—not necessarily what was most suitable to the character of the speaker. The latter idea would have been expressed by a different phrase (τὰ προσήκοντα). That is, in filling up the framework supplied by the reported "general sense" of a speech, Thucydides has freely exercised his own judgment on the situation. Suppose a report to have reached him in this shape: "Hermocrates spoke in the congress at Gela, urging the Sicilian cities to lay aside their feuds and unite against Athens." In composing on this theme, the first thought of Thucydides would be, "What were the best arguments available?" rather than, "What arguments would Hermocrates have used?" This general rule would, of course, be liable to various degrees of modification in cases where the speaker was well known to the historian as having marked traits of character, opinion or style.
§ 4. "Set speeches," says Voltaire, "are a sort of oratorical lie, which the historian used to allow himself in old times. He used to make his heroes say what they might have said....At the present day these fictions are no longer tolerated. If one put into the mouth of a prince a speech which he had never made, the historian would be regarded as a rhetorician." How did it happen that Thucydides allowed himself this "oratorical lie,"—Thucydides, whose strongest characteristic is devotion to the truth, impatience of every inroad which fiction makes into the province of history, laborious persistence in the task of separating fact from fable; Thucydides, who was not constrained, like later writers of the old world, by an established literary tradition; who had no Greek predecessors in the field of history, except those chroniclers whom he despised precisely because they sacrificed truth to effect? Thucydides might rather have been expected to express himself on this wise: "The chroniclers have sometimes pleased their hearers by reporting the very words spoken. But, as I could not give the words, I have been content to give the substance, when I could learn it."
In order to find the point of view at which Thucydides stood, we must remember, first of all, the power which epic poetry had then for centuries exercised over the Greek mind. The same love of the concrete and comprehensible which moved the early Greeks to clothe abstract conceptions of a superhuman power in the forms of men and women, "strangers to death and old age for ever," led them also to represent the energy of the human spirit as much as possible in the form of speech. The Homeric ideal of excellence is the man of brave deeds and wise words. The Homeric debates are not merely brilliant, but also thoroughly dramatic in their way of characterising the speakers. The Iliad and Odyssey accustomed the Greeks to expect two elements in every vivid presentation of an action—first, the proofs of bodily prowess, the account of what men did; and then, as the image of their minds, a report of what they said. Political causes strengthened this feeling. Public speech played a much larger part in the affairs of States than it now does. Envoys spoke before an assembly or a council on business which would now be transacted by the written correspondence of statesmen or diplomatists. Every adult citizen of a Greek democracy had his vote in the assembly which finally decided great issues. To such a citizen the written history of political events would appear strangely insipid if it did not give at least some image of those debates which imparted the chief zest to civic life and by which political events were chiefly controlled. He was one who (in modern phrase) had held a safe seat in Parliament from the time when he came of age; who had lived in the atmosphere of political debate until it had become to him an almost indispensable excitement; and who would feel comparatively little interest in hearing the result of a Parliamentary division unless he was enabled to form some idea of the process by which the result had been reached. Such a man would not have been satisfied with the meagre information that the Athenian Ecclesia had discussed the fate of Mitylene, that Cleon had advocated a massacre, that Diodotus had opposed it, and that the view of Diodotus had prevailed by a narrow majority. His imagination would at once transport him to the scene of the parliamentary combat. He would listen in fancy, as he had so often listened in reality, to the eloquence of antagonistic orators, he would balance the possible arguments for severity or clemency, he would conceive himself present at the moment when one uplifted hand might incline the scale of life or death, and he would feel the thrill of relief with which those who supported Diodotus found that Athens was saved at the eleventh hour—saved, if the bearers of the respite, rowing night and day, could reach Lesbos in time—from the infamy of devoting a population to the sword. When Thucydides gave in full the speeches made by Cleon and Diodotus, he was helping his reader, the average citizen of a Greek republic, to do on more accurate lines that which the reader would otherwise have tried to do for himself. Thucydides was writing for men who knew Greek politics from within, and he knew that, if they were to follow him with satisfied attention, he must place them at their accustomed point of view. The literary influences of the age set in the same direction. At the beginning of the war the Attic drama had been in vigour for more than forty years. The fame of Aeschylus was a youthful memory to men who had passed middle life; Sophocles was sixty-four, Euripides was forty-nine. Each had given great works to Athens, and was yet to give more. An age of vivid energy had found the poetry most congenial to it in the noblest type of tragedy, and this, in turn, fed the Greek desire to know character through deed and word. In the hands of Euripides tragedy further became the vehicle of dialectical subtleties and the dramatic mirror of public debate. At the same time Attic oratory was being prepared by two currents of influence which converged on Athens—the practical culture of Ionia, represented by the Sophists, and the Sicilian art of rhetoric.
§ 5. If the speeches in Thucydides were brought under a technical classification, the Funeral Oration would be the only example of the "panegyrical" or epideictic class; the pleading of the Plataeans and Thebans before the Spartan Commissioners might possibly be called "forensic"; and all the other speeches would be in some sense "deliberative." But such a classification, besides being rather forced, does not correspond to any real differences of structure or form. If the speeches are to be viewed in their literary relation to the History, it is enough to observe that the addresses of leaders to their troops may be regarded as practically forming a class apart.
The right of an adult citizen to attend the debates of the Ecclesia must have been acquired by Thucydides many years before the war began. From its very commencement, as he says, he had formed the purpose of writing its history. There is every probability that he had heard most or all of the important discussions which took place in the Ecclesia between 433 and 424 B.C. It was in 423 B.C., or at the end of the year before, that his exile of twenty years from Athens began. Thence we can name some at least of the speeches to which he probably refers as heard by himself (αὐτὸς ἤκουσα), and not merely reported to him. Such would be the addresses of the Corcyrean and Corinthian envoys, when they were rival suitors for the Athenian alliance in 433 B.C.; the speeches of Pericles; the debate on Mitylene in 427 B.C.; and the speech of the Lacedaemonian envoys in 425 B.C., making overtures of peace to Athens. If he was not present on all these occasions, still, as a resident citizen, he would have exceptional facilities for obtaining a full and accurate account. Taking this group of speeches first, then, we may consider how far they are apparently historical in substance, or show traces of artificial treatment.
After giving the addresses of the envoys from Corcyra and Corinth in 433 B.C., Thucydides notices the course of the debate in the Ecclesia. Two sittings were held. At the first, he says, the Athenians inclined to the arguments of the Corcyreans, and were disposed to conclude an alliance both offensive and defensive; at the second they repented of this, but decided to conclude a defensive alliance. The considerations which prevailed with them were, that war was unavoidable in any case; that the Corcyrean navy must not be allowed to pass into the hands of the Corinthians; and that Corcyra was a useful station for coasting voyages.These three arguments are just those on which the Corcyrean speech, as given by Thucydides, chiefly turns. The circumstantial account of the debate in the Ecclesia cannot be treated as fictitious. Either, then, Thucydides has given the substance of the arguments really used by the Corcyreans, or he has ascribed to them arguments used on their side by Athenian speakers in the Ecclesia. Now the speech of the Corinthian envoys has at least one mark of substantial authenticity: the references to benefits conferred on Athens by Corinth in the matters of Samos and Aegina would certainly have occurred to a Corinthian envoy more readily than to an Athenian writer. In both the Corcyrean and the Corinthian speech it seems probable that Thucydides has given the substance of what was really said, though he may have added touches from his recollections of the subsequent debate in the assembly. Similar is the case of the speech made by the Lacedaemonian envoys at Athens in 425 B.C. The historian's comment on it is as follows: "The Lacedaemonians spoke at such length [i.e. for Spartans], in the belief that the Athenians had previously desired a truce, and had been hindered only by Spartan opposition; so that, when peace was offered, they would gladly accept it, and restore the men." This clearly implies that the speech ascribed to the envoys—which Thucydides may well have heard—is historical in substance.
The Thucydidean speeches of Pericles raise three distinct questions:—How far do they preserve the form and style of the statesman's oratory? how far do they express the ruling ideas of his policy? and how far do they severally represent what he said on the several occasions?
As Thucydides must have repeatedly heard Pericles—whom he describes as the first of Athenians, most powerful in action and in speech,—it would be strange if he had not endeavoured to give at least some traits of the eloquence which so uniquely impressed contemporaries. Pericles is said to have left nothing written: but Aristotle and Plutarch have preserved a few of the bold images or striking phrases which tradition attributed to him. Several examples of such bold imagery occur in the Thucydidean speeches of Pericles, and it can hardly be doubted that they are phrases which have lived in the historian's memory. But the echo is not heard in single phrases only. Every reader of the Funeral Oration must be aware of a majesty in the rhythm of the whole, a certain union of impetuous movement with lofty grandeur, which Thucydides has given to Pericles alone. There is a large alloy, doubtless, of rhetorical ornament in the new manner of overstrained antithesis: but the voice of the Olympian Pericles is not wholly lost in it. There can be no question, again, that the speeches of Pericles in the Ecclesia accurately represent the characteristic features of his policy at the time. But how far do they severally represent what Pericles said on the several occasions? Thucydides makes Pericles use different topics of encouragement at three successive stages.
In 432 B.C. Pericles emboldens the Athenians to reject the Peloponnesian demands by a general comparison of the resources and prospects on either side. In 431 B.C., when Archidamus is about to invade Attica, Pericles repeats his former exhortations, but supplements them by a detailed exposition of Athenian resources, financial and military. In 430 B.C., after the second invasion of Attica, when the land had been devastated and while the plague was raging, Pericles convened a special meeting of the Ecclesia, with the twofold purpose of reassuring his countrymen and of allaying their resentment against himself. "As to the prospects of the war, you may rest satisfied," he says, "with the arguments by which I have proved to you on many other occasions that you have no cause of uneasiness. But I must notice a special advantage which the scale of your empire confers,—one, I think, which has never occurred to you,—which I have not mentioned in addressing you before, and which I should not have noticed now—as the claim implied might seem too arrogant—did I not see you unreasonably dejected. You think that you rule your allies alone. I tell you that of the two fields open to human action, land and sea, the latter is under your absolute dominion, not merely to the extent of your actual empire, but as much further as you please. While you hold the sea in your present naval strength, you cannot be resisted by the Persian king, or by any nation on earth." Thus, as the pressure on the Athenian spirit becomes more and more severe, the exhortations of Pericles go on from strength to strength, until, at the darkest hour of all, they culminate in a triumphant avowal that the naval empire of Athens is not relative but absolute, is not an empire over a limited confederacy but a boundless supremacy on the sea. If this ascending scale, so fitly graduated, was due to the invention or arrangement of Thucydides, it was a dramatic conception. But it seems more probable that the topics really used by Pericles on these three occasions were substantially those given by the historian. It is difficult otherwise to justify the emphatic clearness with which the special theme of the second speech is distinguished from that of the first, and that of the third, again, from both. On the other hand, the first speech of Pericles betrays some remarkable traces of manipulation by the writer. Earlier in the same year the Corinthian envoy at the Peloponnesian congress had given several reasons for believing that the Peloponnesians were likely to prevail in the war. With help from the sacred treasuries of Delphi and Olympia, he had said, they might lure away the foreign seamen of Athens by offering higher pay. They could acquire naval skill by practice. And among the possibilities of the war he suggests the occupation of a fortress in the enemy's country. The speech of Pericles answers these arguments point by point. But the correspondence is not merely in the topics. The very phrases of the Corinthian speech are repeated by Pericles in his reply. Similar parallelisms may be traced between the Corinthian speech and that delivered by the Spartan Archidamus on the occasion of the former congress: one with which the Corinthians cannot be supposed to be acquainted in detail, since it was made to the Spartans only, after strangers had withdrawn. The fact is that the eight speeches recorded by Thucydides as delivered at Athens or Sparta before the commencement of the war form, for his purpose, a group by themselves. In these he has worked up the chief arguments and calculations which were current on either side. Collectively, they are his dramatic presentation of the motives at work, the grievances on each side, the hopes and fears, based on a comparison of resources, with which the combatants entered on the struggle. At the end of his first speech Pericles says: "I have many other reasons to give for hoping that we shall prevail; but these shall be given hereafter as the events arise (ἅμα τοῖς ἔργοις)"—thus foreshadowing the speech of which an abstract is given on a subsequent occasion. In this particular case, as we have seen, the disposition of topics may well be authentic in the main. But the composer's phrase is significant. It suggests the habit of selecting from a certain stock of available material and disposing the extracts with something of a dramatist's freedom.
In the Funeral Oration there is nothing, apart from the diction, which distinctly shows the invention of Thucydides. At first sight there is some plausibility in the view that such an oration would probably have contained allusions to the heroic legends of Attica, and that the mind of Thucydides is to be traced in their suppression. But the argument may be turned the other way. The very absence of mythical embellishment, it might be urged, is rather a proof of the fidelity with which Thucydides has reported a speaker who, regardless of the vulgar taste, was resolved to treat a well-worn theme in a new and higher strain. One or two passages, indeed, have been supposed to hint at the moral deterioration of the Athenian democracy in the years which followed the death of Pericles; but the supposition seems gratuitous.
It remains to notice the debate in the Ecclesia on the punishment of Mitylene. Cleon urges a massacre, Diodotus opposes it. "These views," says Thucydides, "having been stated with nearly balanced effect, the assembly came after all to a division; and on a show of hands the parties proved nearly equal, but the view of Diodotus prevailed." The words can only mean that, in the speeches of Cleon and Diodotus, Thucydides has given the real substance of the arguments which were found to be so "nearly balanced," and which led to so close a division. Cleon's speech has one striking characteristic. In several places it echoes phrases which occur in the speeches of Pericles. But, with these verbal parallelisms, there is a pointed contrast of spirit. As Pericles describes the good side of the intellectual Athenian nature, Cleon brings out its weak side. As Pericles insists on the Athenian combination of intelligence with courage, Cleon declares that this intelligence leads men to despise the laws, and prefers ignorance combined with moderation. Pericles is gone: Cleon echoes the words of the statesman as whose successor he poses, at the very moment when he is contradicting his principles. It may be observed that when Thucydides reports the speech of the Syracusan demagogue Athenagoras, he marks his manner by a certain violence of expression. Cleon, whom Thucydides calls "most violent," has no violence of expression. Probably this abstention from vehemence of the demagogic type, this superficial imitation of Pericles, are traits in which the Cleon of Thucydides is historical.
This closes the series of those seven speeches, delivered at Athens, for which Thucydides probably derived the "general sense" either from his own recollection or from the sources accessible to a resident citizen. The only one of these which exhibits distinct traces of artificial dealing with subject-matter is the first speech of Pericles. And in this the only traces are, first, a certain adjustment of the language to that of the Corinthian speech made earlier in the same year; and, secondly, a phrase by which the composer prepares the reader for a subsequent speech of Pericles.
§ 6. We now come to the speeches made elsewhere than at Athens from 432 B.C. onwards, or made at Athens later than 424 B.C. In regard to all or most of these, Thucydides must have relied on reports of the "general sense" brought to him by others (τοῖς ἄλλοθέν ποθεν ἐμοὶ ἀπαγγέλουσιν). The first general characteristic which claims notice is the occurrence of passages certainly, or almost certainly, written with a consciousness of later events. These passages may be cast into three groups, according as they relate to (I) the affairs of Sicily, (II) the Deceleian war, (III) the final defeat of Athens.
(I) 1. Speaking in the congress at Gela in 424 B.C., Hermocrates warns his hearers against the designs of Athens. The Athenians, he says, are now on our coast with a few ships; but some day they will come with a larger fleet, and endeavour to reduce the whole island. The Athenian fleet on the Sicilian coast at this time must have numbered some fifty or sixty triremes. Hermocrates, speaking in 424 B.C., certainly would not have spoken of these as "a few ships," least of all when it was his object to show that Athens was formidable. But Thucydides, when he composed the speech, had in view the vast fleet—at least thrice as numerous—sent to Sicily in 415 B.C.
2. Nicias, in his second speech dissuading the Athenians from the expedition to Sicily, says that the only Sicilian cities likely to join the invaders are Naxos and Catana. Both Naxos,and Catana did, in fact, join the Athenians. But the Athenians, when they opened the campaign in Sicily, had hopes of other cities also. The alliance of Messene was solicited by Alcibiades, though without success. Both Athenian and Syracusan envoys were sent to Camarina, and it was not without much hesitation that Camarina resolved to remain neutral. The precision of the forecast made by Nicias betrays knowledge of the event.
3. Again, when the Athenian attack on Sicily is imminent, Hermocrates, in his speech at Syracuse, gives reasons for thinking that it will fail. Numerous as the Athenians are, he says, they cannot outnumber the united forces of Sicily. "And if they should fail from want of supplies in a foreign country, they will still leave glory to those against whom their design was laid, even though they should be ruined mainly by their own errors." Thucydides elsewhere expresses his own view of the Sicilian disaster. The primary cause of the failure was not, he thinks, a miscalculation of forces, but rather the neglect of the Athenians at home—distracted as they were by faction—to support the army in Sicily, a neglect which blunted the zeal of those engaged in the campaign. The words ascribed to Hermocrates were written by Thucydides in retrospective view of the Athenian errors which had led to the Athenian defeat.
4. The speech of Euphemus, the Athenian envoy at Camarina, offers another example. Urging the people of Camarina to join the Athenians rather than the Syracusans, he reminds them that they will not often have an opportunity of securing such powerful auxiliaries. And if, he says, you dismiss them now, "one day yet you will long to see even the least part of them, when their succour can no more avail you." A few years later (405 B.C.), the Carthaginians, already victorious over Selinus, Himera, and Agrigentum, advanced against Gela and Camarina. Dionysius, who had become tyrant of Syracuse, failed to relieve Gela. The inhabitants of Camarina, like those of Gela, were forced to abandon their city; and when the conclusion of peace between Dionysius and the invaders allowed them to return, they returned as tributaries of Carthage. The protection of Syracuse, in which Camarina had trusted, proved a broken reed. Thucydides must have been at work on his History for some years after the end of the Peloponnesian war, perhaps as late as 396 B.C. When he put that emphatic menace into the mouth of Euphemus, the fate which actually overtook Camarina soon afterwards was surely present to his mind.
(II) 5. The Corinthian speaker at Sparta in 432 B.C. alludes to the establishment of a fort in Attica as one of the possibilities of the war; and Pericles, in the parallel passage of his first speech, admits that the construction of a hostile fort might do harm by facilitating raids and by tempting slaves to desert.
6. Alcibiades, speaking at Sparta in 415 B.C., urges the occupation of Deceleia. "It will benefit you," he says, "and will embarrass the enemy in many ways. I will briefly notice the chief of these. Most of the property in the country will become yours by capture or surrender. The Athenians will forthwith lose their revenues from the silver mines of Laurium, and all their present gains from the land and the law-courts. Above all, they will suffer by the irregular transmission of tribute from their allies, who, when satisfied that you are making war in earnest, will slight their demands." These predictions accurately correspond with the effects of the occupation as afterwards described in the historian's own words. The temporary presence of the invading enemy had not hitherto hindered the Athenians from reaping the fruits of the soil; but now "they were deprived of their whole land"—including, of course, the mines at Laurium. "More than twenty thousand slaves had deserted to the enemy." All their sheep and oxen were lost. The whole number of adult male citizens was required for military duty on the walls or in the field, a necessity which would suspend the sitting of the law-courts and, as Alcibiades foretold, close that source of profit. The expenses of the State were heavily increased, its revenues were perishing. Alcibiades might easily have foreseen the importance of occupying Deceleia. But the minute correspondence between the special results which he is made to predict and those which Thucydides relates in his own person indicates that the prophecy followed the event.
(III) 7. The Athenian speaker at Sparta in 432 B.C. says to the Spartans: "If you were to overthrow our empire and establish your own, you would soon alienate the good-will which you have gained because we are feared,—if you are to continue the policy of which you gave a specimen during your brief leadership of Greece against Persia. The usages of your community preclude intercourse with others, and moreover a Spartan citizen on foreign service observes these usages as little as those of Hellas at large." There is a manifest reference here to the period after the close of the war, when the Spartan promises of "liberating Greece" were falsified. And the reference to the misconduct of the Spartan citizen abroad was certainly not suggested by the case of Pausanias alone. The war had furnished two signal instances. Gylippus had been convicted by the Ephors of appropriating part of the treasure taken after the capture of Athens. Lysander—the first Greek who received divine honours from Greeks—had surpassed the arrogance of Pausanias.
8. The striking speech of Brasidas to the Acanthians (424 B.C.) deserves to be considered in this connection. It is throughout an emphatic assertion that the cause in which Sparta fights is the cause of Greek liberty. "I have not come," he says, "to support a party. I do not consider that I should be bringing you freedom in any real sense if I should disregard your constitution, and enslave the many to the few, or the few to the many. Such freedom would be harder than a foreign yoke: and we, the Lacedaemonians, should reap no thanks for our pains, but rather blame instead of honour and renown." Now, what Brasidas protests that Sparta will not do, is precisely what Sparta actually did at the end of the war, with the result which he anticipates. Oligarchies of the narrowest type—boards of ten—were established by Lysander in most of the cities, with a Spartan governor and garrison in each to repress the popular party. The many were literally enslaved to the few, and they found the freedom which Sparta had given them harder indeed than any foreign rule. It can scarcely be doubted that this speech of Brasidas—composed by Thucydides after the close of the war—was inserted by him here, just at the moment when Sparta was making the first advances to the democratic cities of Northern Greece, for the purpose of bringing out the glaring contrast between Spartan promise and Spartan performance.
9. In the conference between the Athenian and Melian negotiators, the Athenians remark that, in the event of Athens being vanquished, they would have less to fear from the vengeance of Sparta than from the vindictiveness of smaller States. The reference here is unmistakable. After the surrender of Athens in 404 B.C., a congress was held at Sparta in which the destruction of the defeated city was advocated, according to Xenophon, "by the Corinthians and Thebans chiefly, but by many other Greeks too." It was by the Spartan vote that Athens was saved.
The effect of such touches as these—suggested by a knowledge of occurrences subsequent to the dramatic date—may be compared with that produced in a Greek tragedy when one of the persons unconsciously utters a word or phrase which foreshadows the catastrophe. The spectator who knows the destined end of the drama is affected in the same manner as the reader who knows the sequel of the history. In using such touches, however, Thucydides was probably thinking more of logical than of artistic effect. His mind, with its strong concentration, grasped the whole series of arguments or illustrations which the experiences of the war could yield; and he brought the most forcible of these to bear on his point without caring whether the facts which suggested them were earlier or later than the supposed date.
§ 7. It has already been remarked that the addresses of leaders to their troops may be considered as forming a class apart from the rest. These military harangues, of which there are twelve in all, are usually short. The object is always the same—to bring out vividly the essential points of a strategical situation; and the historian has been less uniformly attentive here to the details of dramatic probability. A modern writer would have attained the object by comments prefixed or added to his narrative of the operations. Thus Archidamus, addressing the Peloponnesian officers before the first invasion of Attica, dwells on the certainty of the Athenians being stung into giving battle when they see their lands ravaged This serves to heighten the reader's sense of the provocation offered, and of the difficulty which Pericles must have had in restraining his fellow-citizens Sometimes the speech of the general on one side is as distinctly a reply to the general on the other as if it had been delivered in debate. The Peloponnesian captains, exhorting their men before the action in the Corinthian Gulf, tell them that, though naval skill is much, it cannot avail against courage. Phormio, exhorting the Athenian crews, tells them, as if in retort, that though courage is invaluable, their decisive advantage is in their naval skill. Pagondas, before the battle of Delium, tells the Boeotians that they must fight, even beyond their own border, for the safety of Boeotia, and reminds them that their fathers secured it for a time by defeating the Athenians at Coroneia. Demosthenes tells the Athenians that they must fight, even on Boeotian ground, to protect Attica, and reminds them of the Athenian victory over the Boeotians at Oenophyta. The speech of Brasidas to his men on his Illyrian expedition is intended to bring out the contrast between Hellenic and barbarian warfare; his speech at Amphipolis serves to explain his tactics. The harangue of Nicias before the last sea-fight at Syracuse marks the peculiar character of the action as "a land-battle on board ship" (πεζομαχία ἀπὸ νεῶν), and at the same time sums up for the reader the whole meaning of that supreme crisis, when, as Nicias reminds the men about to embark, the fleet is all that remains of Athens and her great name This, and the corresponding speech of Gylippus on the Syracusan side, are in a high degree powerful and pathetic; so, above all, is the last speech of Nicias before the retreat. Nowhere else, perhaps, has Thucydides given so free a scope to his own rhetorical power; yet even here it is strictly subordinated to his primary purpose—that of faithfully presenting the cardinal facts of the situation as he conceived them.
§ 8. The expression of character in the Thucydidean speeches has the same kind of limitation which was generally observed in Attic tragedy. It is rather typical than individual. Thucydides seizes the broad and essential characteristics of the speaker, and is content with marking these. We are sometimes reminded of the direct simplicity with which the epic or tragic heroes introduce themselves: "I am Odysseus, the marvel of men for all wiles, and my fame goes up to heaven." "I am pious Aeneas, renowned above the stars." "You voted for war," says Pericles, "and now you are angry with me,—a man who deems himself second to none in discerning and expounding the right course,—a man devoted to his country and proof against corruption." These were salient points in the public character of Pericles as conceived by the historian, and accordingly Pericles is made to say so. The fate of Nicias seemed to Thucydides a signal example of unmerited misfortune, since Nicias had been remarkable throughout life for the practice of orthodox virtue. And so, in his speech before the retreat from Syracuse, Nicias says, "The tenor of my life has been loyal to the gods, just and without offence among men." In the debate at Athens on the Sicilian expedition Alcibiades is introduced by a prefatory sketch of his position and character, Thucydides notices his ambition, his magnificence, especially in the matter of horses and chariots, the licence of his private life, his insolence, his public efficiency, his personal unpopularity. Then Alcibiades speaks, and begins by saying in so many words that he has a better right than others to high command; he boasts of having entered seven chariots at Olympia; he avows that he does not regard his fellow-citizens as his equals; he asks whether his personal unpopularity interferes with his administrative capacity. The speech is merely the sketch developed. It is the character of Alcibiades, as Thucydides saw its salient points, condensed in a dramatic form; but it is not such a speech as Alcibiades could conceivably have made on this occasion, or indeed on any. Thucydides has given us distinct portraits of the chief actors in the Peloponnesian war, but these portraits are to be found in the clearly narrated actions of the men; the words ascribed to them rarely do more than mark the stronger lines of character; they seldom reveal new traits of a subtler kind. The tendency of Thucydides was less to analyse individual character than to study human nature in its general or typical phenomena. His observation was directed, first, towards motives and passions which may be considered, in regard to practical politics, as universal influences: next, towards the collective attributes which distinguish whole communities from each other. Thus the normal Spartan character is exhibited in its merits and its defects. The political character of the Athenians is arraigned and defended; their intellectual character is illustrated in its strength and its weakness. And Thucydides shows a desire to comprehend these conceptions of national character in formulas, which he gives as epigrams to his speakers. The Spartan disposition, says an Athenian, might be described as one which regards everything that is pleasant as honourable, and everything that is expedient as just. The Athenians, says a Corinthian, are, in brief, men who will neither rest nor allow others to rest. Athens, says Pericles, might be described as the school of Greece, and the Athenian nature as the most gracefully versatile in the world.
§ 9. Those cases in which Thucydides gives merely a brief summary of a speech or debate suggest how slight the materials may often have been which he worked up in the oratorical form. The political or ethical reflections with which the meagre outlines were filled up were doubtless supplied in large measure by Thucydides himself. The speeches, taken altogether, are pervaded by certain general conceptions, expressed in formulas more or less constant, which indicate unity of authorship. But it cannot be said, in the same sense, that they bear the stamp of one mind. They do, indeed, suggest certain intellectual habits, but it is seldom possible to distinguish between opinions or modes of thought which were in the air, and such as may have been proper to Thucydides. Nor would much be gained if we could. The real interest of the speeches in this aspect is something more than biographical; it is their interest as a contribution to the intellectual history of a transitional period in an age of singular mental energy. The age of faith was passing by, and a rational basis for ethics—which were then included in politics—was only in process of being sought. Thucydides is here the representative of a time which, for the most part, could no longer believe with Herodotus, but which had not yet learned to bring a Socratic method to bear on generalisations. He appears—so far as he is revealed at all—as a thinker of intense earnestness, with a firm and subtle apprehension of his chosen subject, alike in its widest bearings and in its minutest details; and of profound sensibility in regard to the larger practical aspects, that is the political aspects, of human destiny. He has neither a dogmatic religion nor a system of ethics. He cleaves to positive fact; his generalisations rarely involve a speculative element, but are usually confined to registering the aggregate results of observation upon human conduct in given circumstances. In the spirit of a sceptical age he makes his speakers debate questions of political or personal morality to which no definite answer is offered. In Plato's Gorgias Callicles distinguishes between "natural" and "conventional" justice, contending that "natural justice" entitles the strong to oppress the weak, and that "conventional justice" is merely a device of the weak for their own protection. In the Republic Thrasymachus defends a similar doctrine, namely, that "justice is another's good and the interest of the stronger, and that injustice is a man's own profit and interest, though injurious to the weaker." The sophist Hippias, in Xenophon's Memorabilia, argues in a like strain that justice and law are merely arbitrary and conventional. This, no doubt, was one of the commonplaces of sophistical dialectic in the time of Thucydides. The Athenian speakers in his History defend the aggressive policy of Athens by arguments which rest on substantially the same basis as those of the Platonic Callicles and Thrasymachus. But the historian is content to state their case from their own point of view; he does not challenge the doctrine—as the Platonic Socrates does—by comments of his own. The victims of aggression, indeed, the Plataeans or Melians, appeal to a higher justice than the right of might, and Thucydides hints that his sympathies are with them; but that is all. The abstention is characteristic. On the whole, it may be said that he evinces a personal liking for moral nobleness, but refrains from delivering moral judgments, as if these would imply laws which he was not prepared to affirm or deny. But he insists on discovering a rational basis for action. If a man or a State pursues a certain line of policy, there must be some intelligible reasons, he feels, which can be urged for it. This desire to enter into the mind of the actors—to find the motive behind the deed, and to state it with all possible logical force—is the mainspring of the oratory in Thucydides, in so far as this is his own creation. It is an element of dramatic vividness; sometimes also of dramatic untruth, when the reasonings supplied by the historian to his actors are subtler than would probably have occurred to the speakers or commended themselves to the hearers. Thucydides is a philosophical historian, in the sense that he wishes to record the exact truth, in a form which may be serviceable for the political instruction of mankind. But he has not, in the sense of Plato or Aristotle, a theory of ethics or politics. Thucydides groups the observed facts of practical politics, but without attempting to analyse their ultimate laws. It might be possible to piece together Thucydidean texts and, by filling up a few gaps, to form a tolerably coherent system of doctrine; but the process would be artificial and delusive. Possibly a Shakespeare might re-create Thucydides from the fragments of his personal thought, but the breath of life would be the poet's gift; the broken lights are all that really remain. The paradoxes of one age are said to be the truisms of the next, but the violent contrast suggested by the epigram is hardly the important point to seize if we desire to trace the growth of opinion. There was a moment when the so-called paradoxes were neither paradoxes nor as yet truisms, but only rather new and intelligent opinions, seen to be such against the foil of notions which were decaying, but had not quite gone out. For instance, when Thucydides makes his speakers say, as he so often does, that the future is uncertain, we do more justice to the originality of the remark if we remember that in the time of Thucydides there were those who thought that the future was very frequently indicated, at great moments, by signs from the gods. Herodotus, for example, would have disputed the statement that the future is uncertain, if it had been placed before him as an unlimited proposition covering such crises as the Peloponnesian war. The same consideration applies to many of the political or moral aphorisms, which may be regarded as those of Thucydides himself. They are in silent controversy with some unexpressed dissidence of contemporaries. The principle of tacit contrast pervades the whole History, as in the Funeral Oration the picture of Athens requires to be supplemented by a mental picture of the Sparta to which it is opposed. This was of the inmost nature of Thucydides: the reluctance "to speak at superfluous length" was deep in him. His general views must be measured both by the credulity and by the higher scepticism of a naive age; so gauged, they are never commonplaces, but, at the least, hints for a part of the history which he has not told in words, because he did not distinctly conceive that it could ever need to be told. "Fortune," τύχη, is the name by which he usually designates the incalculable element in human life; but this fortune" is no blind chance; it is, as he once explains it, "the fortune given by heaven" (ἡ τύχη ἐκ τοῦ θείου), the inscrutable dispensation of a divine Providence. The course of this fortune not only baffles prediction, but is sometimes directly opposed to the reasonable beliefs of men concerning the source which dispenses it. Thrice only in the long tragedy of the war, as Thucydides unfolds it, do men appeal expressly to the gods, invoking the name of religion, in their agony, against tyrannous strength; thrice the power behind the veil is deaf, thrice the hand of the avenger is withheld, and the miserable suppliant is struck down by the secure malignity of man. The Plataeans appeal to the altars which had witnessed the consecration of Greek liberty, and the Spartans kill them in cold blood. The Melians are confident against the Athenians as the righteous against the unjust; their city is sacked, their men are slain, their women and children enslaved. Nicias, after the great defeat at Syracuse, believes that the jealousy of the gods must now be exhausted, and has a firm hope, based on a good life, for himself and his followers; but the wretched remnant of his defeated army are in great part butchered as they slake their thirst with the bloody water of the Assinarus; he himself is put to death lest he should tell tales under torture, and the survivors pass into a horrible slavery. Thucydides feels that the ways of Heaven are hard to understand, but he does not complain of them; they are matters not for reasoning but for resignation. He regards the fear of the gods as a potent check on the bad impulses of men, and notices the loss of this fear as a grave symptom of moral anarchy. As to omens, oracles, and similar modes of seeking miraculous light or aid, he nowhere denies the possibility of such light or aid being occasionally given, though his contempt is excited by the frequency of imposture; this, however, he would affirm—that such resources are not to be tried until all resources within human control have been tried in vain. There is one way only, Thucydides holds, by which man can certainly influence his own destiny, and that is by bringing an intelligent judgment (γνώμη) to bear on facts. Some have traced the influence of Anaxagoras in the prominence which Thucydides gives to the intellectual principle; but no such prompting was needed by a strong understanding of sceptical bent, and it may be observed that Thucydides has at least not adopted the language of Anaxagoras. It is the peculiar merit of the Athenian character, as portrayed in Thucydides, to recognise intelligence as the true basis of action and the true root of courage, instead of regarding mental culture as adverse to civic loyalty and warlike spirit. If soothsayers cannot give us prescience, reason well used can enable such a man as Themistocles at least to conjecture the future. In a trial of human forces the chances baffle prediction, but superiority in ideas (διάνοιαι) is a sure ground of confidence. Yet the man of sound judgment will not presume on this confidence, for he will remember that the other element, "fortune," is beyond his control. Justice, rightly understood, is the "common good," and is identical with true self-interest. As the remorseless exaction of an extreme penalty, "justice" may be opposed to "equity"; or as a moral standard, it may be opposed to "self-interest" in the lower sense. And self-interest, when thus opposed to justice, can appeal to "the immemorial usage," believed to obtain among the gods, and so certainly established among men that it may plausibly be called a sort of natural necessity,—that the stronger shall rule the weaker. No speaker in Thucydides goes quite so far as Callicles in the Gorgias, or proclaims this to be "natural" as distinguished from "conventional" justice. It is not said to be just, but only natural and not unreasonable. The argument against capital punishment, which is put into the mouth of Diodotus, rests on the observation that no restraints have yet been devised which can be trusted to keep human passions in check. Legislators have gone through the whole list of possible penalties, and even the prospect of death is found insufficient to deter those who are goaded by want or ambition, and tempted by opportunity. The friendship of men and of communities must be founded in the first place on a persuasion of mutual benevolence, and on some congeniality of character; but in the long-run the only sure bond between States is identity of interests. The Peloponnesian league is loose just because the interests diverge. In default of a common interest, the only guarantee for an alliance is balanced fear. Similarly, in the relation of the citizen to the State, patriotism is enforced by the dependence of private on public welfare. Pericles even says that no fair or just legislation can be expected from citizens who have not such a stake in the country as is represented by the lives of children. The distinctive merits of an oligarchy—always provided that it is constitutional, and not of the narrow type which Thucydides calls a "dynasty"—are fairly recognised in the History. Archidamus and Brasidas claim stability, moderation and disciplined loyalty for the Spartan State. A true democracy is pictured as one in which three elements work together for the common good: the rich are the guardians of property, the able men offer counsel, and the mass of the citizens decide on the opinions laid before them. Democracy was the form of government under which Athens had been greatest and most free: and the best phase of the Athenian democracy in his recollection, Thucydides says, was just after the Revolution of the Four Hundred, since then the oligarchic and popular elements were judiciously tempered. Destiny may alter the part which a State is called upon to perform, and its institutions may require to be modified accordingly. Thus the Corinthians say to the Spartans, "Your system is out of date if you are to cope with Athens. In politics, as in art, improvements must prevail. Fixed institutions are best for a city at peace. But the call to manifold enterprise imposes the need of manifold development. Hence—owing to their varied experience—the Athenians have been greater innovators than you." The analogy suggested here between politics and a progressive art is the more significant when it is remembered what the historian's age had seen accomplished in sculpture, architecture and drama. It is also worthy of remark that the only unqualified censures of democracy which occur in Thucydides, and the only protests against change as such, are ascribed to the "violent" Cleon and the "licentious" Alcibiades.
§ 10. The choice of moments for the introduction of speeches is not, with Thucydides, a matter of rhetorical caprice, but has an intelligible relation to the general plan of his work. A speech or debate reported in the direct form always signalises a noteworthy point in the inner or mental history of the war, as distinguished from the narrative of its external facts: it announces thoughts and arguments which exercised an important inHuence, and which therefore require to be apprehended with the utmost possible distinctness. The event which furnishes the occasion for inserting a speech need not be of first-rate importance in itself, if only it is typical of its kind, and therefore suitable for the dramatic exhibition of reasonings which applied to several similar cases. The destruction of Plataea by Sparta was an impressive event; but its effect on the general course of the war would scarcely have warranted the amount of space devoted to the Plataean and Theban pleadings, if the occasion had not been a typical illustration of Spartan and Theban policy. Such, again, is the case of Mitylene, viewed as exemplifying the relation between Athens and her subject allies; and the dramatic form is given accordingly, not merely to the Athenian debate on Mitylene, but also to the appeal of the Mityleneans at Olympia. The speech of Brasidas at Acanthus is given in the direct form as a specimen of his persuasive diplomacy in dealing with the cities of the Chalcidic peninsula. The rival overtures of Athens and Syracuse to Camarina have a similarly representative character in relation to the wavering neutrality of the Sicilian cities, and accordingly the direct form is given to the arguments of Euphemus and of Hermocrates. The absence of speeches in the Eighth Book has been reckoned among the proofs that this book had not received the author's last touches. There can be no doubt that Thucydides was prevented by death from completing or revising the Eighth Book: but if his general practice is considered, the argument from the absence of speeches will appear questionable. Much of the Eighth Book is occupied with negotiations, either clandestine or indecisive, or both; and in a period of similar character which fills the greater part of the Fifth Book Thucydides nowhere employs the dramatic form. It cannot surprise us that Thucydides has not given a dramatic emphasis to the mere misrepresentations by which Alcibiades and Chalcideus prevailed on the Chians to revolt. The Revolution of the Four Hundred certainly afforded opportunities for the insertion of speeches made in debate. But that Revolution was primarily concerned with the form of the Athenian constitution; its special importance for the history of the war lay in the use which Alcibiades was making of it to procure his own recall. This is perhaps the only point in the extant part of the Eighth Book at which the usual practice of Thucydides would lead us to expect the dramatic emphasis; and just here it is found. Peisander brings his opponents to admit that the case of Athens is desperate without the help of Persia. "This, then," he says, "we cannot get, unless we adopt a more temperate policy, and concentrate the administration in fewer hands, so as to secure the confidence of the king, . . . and recall Alcibiades, the only man living who can gain our end." In a revision of the book Thucydides would possibly have worked up the speech of Peisander at greater length.
§ 11. As regards the language of the speeches, Thucydides plainly avows that it is chiefly or wholly his own. The dramatic truth, so far as it goes, is in the matter, not in the form. He may sometimes indicate such broad characteristics as the curt bluntness of the ephor Sthenelaidas or the insolent vehemence of Alcibiades. But, as a rule, there is little discrimination of style. In all that concerns expression, the speeches are essentially the oratorical essays of the historian himself. At the end of the war, when he composed or revised them, the art of Rhetoric was thoroughly established at Athens. The popular dialectic of the Sophists had been combined with lessons in the minute proprieties of language. Protagoras taught correctness in grammatical forms, Prodicus in the use of synonyms. The Sicilian Rhetoric had familiarised Athenian speakers with principles of division and arrangement. Gorgias, with his brilliant gift of expression, had for a while set the fashion of strained antithesis and tawdry splendour. It might have been expected from the character of his mind that Thucydides would be keenly alive to what was hollow and false in the new rhetoric. Several touches in the History show that he was so. Citizens in grave debate are contrasted with men who play audience to the empty displays of sophists. A contempt for rhetorical commonplace is frequently indicated. Thus Pericles declines to dilate on the legendary glories of Athens or on the advantages of patriotic fortitude, and Hermocrates begs to be excused from enlarging on the hardships of war or the blessings of peace. On the technical side, however, Thucydides shows the influence of the new art. This often appears in his method of marshalling topics and in his organisation of the more elaborate speeches. It is seen still more clearly if his style is compared with that of the orator Antiphon. The extant work of Antiphon as a writer of speeches for the law-courts falls in the years 421—411 B.C. The warmth of the terms in which Thucydides describes him as "a master of device and of expression,"—a phase identical with that which is ascribed, as a definition of statesmanlike ability, to Pericles—testifies at least to an intellectual sympathy. There is, however, no evidence for the ancient tradition that the historian was the pupil of the orator. Thucydides and Antiphon belong to the same rhetorical school, and represent the same early stage in the development of Attic prose. Both writers admit words of an antique or a decidedly poetical cast. Both delight in verbal contrasts, pointed by insisting on the precise difference between terms of similar import. Both use metaphors rather bolder than Greek prose easily tolerated in its riper age
Herodotus and Thucydides were two Greek historians that shaped the way writing is today. Herodotus, known as the "Father of History" was also commonly called "the father of lies" due to his knack of interjecting opinion in the absence of facts. Thucydides, on the other hand is known throughout history as a "reliable" source and has been praised for his accounts of the Peloponnesian War because of his ability to retell history from an unbiased perspective. Although, the each chose different ways to tell their stories the two historians are primarily responsible for what is known of Ancient Greece.
In the History of Herodotus, one will find that he began the accounts of his "histories" with mythology in the beginning of Greece and from there writes about the Persian War. This in fact raises a skeptical eyebrow because Herodotus did not actually see the building of Greece. Herodotus', work although entertaining, does not have any substantiated facts to support his accounts. In fact, Herodotus himself tells his reader that his account are not accurate when he writes "if, I say, we are to form a conjecture from any of these, we must pronounce that the Pelasgi spoke a barbarous language. If this were really so, and the entire Pelasgic race spoke the same tongue, the Athenians, who were certainly Pelasgi, must have changed their language at the same time that they passed into the Hellenic body; for it is a certain fact that the people of Creston speak a language unlike any of their neighbours, and the same is true of the Placianians, while the language spoken by these two people is the same; which shows that they both retain the idiom which they brought with them into the countries where they are now settled."
This statements is telling in the fact that Herodotus openly speaks of conjectures he made in his accounts of history. Herodotus openly admits that he does not do his due diligence to trace the origin of the Pelasgic race instead he utilizes one fact to leap to an opinion of how the language derived. He further his 'claims' when he writes, "The Pelasgi, on the other hand, were, as I think, a barbarian race which never greatly multiplied. Herodotus is quick to offer his thoughts and opinions as accountable history. Here again Herodotus is delivering an opinion in lieu of facts. This is evident from his use of the words "I think", which is a true indication that the stated accounts are not documented historical fact.
In contrast to the assumptions of Herodotus, Thucydides was careful to do proper research. He writes, "Of the events of the war I have not ventured to speak from any chance information, nor according to any notion of my own; I have described nothing but what I either saw myself, or learned from others of whom I made the most careful and particular inquiry." Not only does