The excursus of Thucydides on the last years of Pausanias and Themistocles is remarkable for its simple, rapid-flowing style, its storytelling tone, its wealth of personal ancedote, its marked deviation from his normally strict criteria of relevance. These characteristics, which give the excursus a Herodotean flavour, have often been noted by modern scholars, but until recently acceptance of its general credibility has been widespread, and indeed, with one important exception, which seems to have created very little impression almost unchallenged.
In a recent paper I attempted to show that Plutarch founded his Timoleon upon a Hellenistic biography and made direct use of Timaeus only for the major episodes, where the material contained in this biography was insufficient. The Pelopidas is similar in colouring to the Timoleon, both belonging to what might be described as the ‘chivalrous hero’ class of Plutarch's Lives. Yet this similarity does not originate from the use of similar authorities; for in writing the Pelopidas he was compelled (...) by the nature of the sources available to him to adopt an entirely different process of composition. The bulk of the Life is, as I hope to show, directly derived from the work of a fourth-century historian, and a considerable amount of supplementary material is added from miscellaneous sources. (shrink)
Although the decision of Pericles to abandon Attica to devastation in 431 has often been severely criticized, the conviction of Thucydides that his defensive strategy was sound has been widely accepted during the last half-century. On the other hand, the offensive side of his strategic plan, consisting mainly of using his fleet to raid coastal districts of the Peloponnese, has tended to be dismissed as unimportant by modern writers, while a few have condemned it as pointless and wasteful. Because Thucydides (...) devotes so little space to these raids, it is tempting to regard them as minor operations, but his careful record of the naval and military resources engaged, together with his statement that the force which Pericles commanded in 430 was approximately equal to that sent to Sicily in 415 , shows that they were on a substantial scale. Their influence upon the course of the war was slight, but if Periclean strategy is to be fully appreciated, it is clearly important to inquire why they were undertaken. (shrink)
It was at one time almost universally believed, and is still believed by some scholars, that Thucydides cannot have written his account of the Pentekontaetia before his return from exile because he refers in it to the of Hellanicus, in which an event belonging to the year 407/6 was mentioned. This argument in favour of a late date for the composition of the excursus has been disputed and is now much less widely supported. It has been suggested that the reference (...) to Hellanicus in 97. 2, or the whole of that section, was added by Thucydides to a part of his work written much earlier, or that an edition of the including an account of the Pentekontaetia may have been published long before 406 and the work have been subsequently continued. (shrink)