Thucydides the Constructivist Author(s): Richard Ned Lebow Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 95, No.

3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 547-560 Published by: American Political Science Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 15/08/2011 02:46
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most notably Michael Doyle (1997). The postwarattackon positivismin social sciences and history encouraged a rethinkingof Thucydides. Victor Hanson. 95.Thefeedbackloop betweenlogoi (words)and ergoi (deeds) createdGreekcivilization also the international civilstrife(stasis)associated but and withthe Peloponnesian War.Thucydides behavior individuals societies. and Stahl (1966) made the case for a passionateand politicallyengaged writerwho can be considereda critic of the scientific approachto history. Bruce Heiden. Nomos can refer to all the habits of conforming to an institutional and social environment.subverted. Nomoi. Friedrich Kratochwil. Brien Hallett.Connor(pp.3Spebr20 Vol. Kagan someone who stripped awayall moralpretensesto expose the calculationsof power and advantagethat of necessity motivate sucRichard Ned Lebow is Professor of Political relationship andphusis (nature)and its implications the develfor and preservationof civilization. Realists claim Thucydidesas their forebear. I am very grateful to David Hahm. The underlying purpose of his history was to explore the betweennomos (convention. and what this reveals about the evolution of the author'sthinkingover approximately decades two of researchand writing. 3 September 2001 the Constructivist Thucydides RICHARD NED LEBOW The Ohio State University levelof Thucydides' he most superficial examines destructive the history consequences domestic of concludesthat nomos constructs identitiesand channelsand restrains the for civilization. of convey a more profoundunderstanding the human condition.and inconsistenciesin the form of argumentsand judgmentsthat are "modified.N.To makeChristianity more attractive to Jews. Detailed analysisof Thucydides' historyin the midnineteenthcenturycalled into questionits consistency and unity. Strassler (New York: Free Press. and Plato later wrote a treatise. scholars assumedthat Thucydides would have "cleanedup"his to if manuscript remove all the inconsistencies he had lived long enough. Wallace (1964). a controversyabout how many distinct parts there are to the history. To Connor. The Mershon Center. AND THEIRCRITICS REALISTS Since the time of Thomas Hobbes.a scientist in the traditionof Hippocrates. to statutory law. 1996). A growingnumberof scholarschallenge the claims of neorealists. Niall Slater.the order in which they were written. Other realists.Meiggs 1972). Columbus.custom. History. OH 43201-2602 (lebow. Because ordered thought and presentationare absolutely essential to such an enterprise. and foreign policies framed outside the language of justice.Thucydides' understandingof these relationshipswas insightfuland points to the possibility. totally controverted" 18) to tell a more complexstoryand (p. Robert B. Peter Nani."the 547 .Connor'sThucydides (1984) represents a dramatic break with the past in that it attemptsto restorea "unitarian" readingof the history. 2 Nomos first pertained to customs and conventions before some of them were written down in the form of laws and.Thucydidesis a masterfulpostmodernist who carefullystructures text to evoke an intended his set of responses. Croix1972. ed. Clarissa Hayward. Hesiod makes the first known usage. and some question whether Thucydidesis adequatelycharacterizedas a realist. This researchgave rise to the search of an and of "objective" timelessunderstanding politics and war. Bowersock(1965). Dorothy Ste. M ovements establish to genealogies legitimize cessful politicalactors(Bury1975.1I make a more radicalassertion:Thucydides is a foundingfather of constructivism. and later it became associated with nature more generally. and Barry Strauss for their generous assistance. and Psychology. offer more nuanced readings that attempt to understandThucydides in the context in which he wrote.International and civil orderdependupon recovering meaningsof wordsand the the security conventions they enable. His deeperpolitical-philosophical aim was to explorethe relationshipbetweennomos (convention) and phusis (nature) and its implications themselves.indeed the necessity.the New TestamenttracesJesus's lineage to King David.2His work opment showsnot only how languageand conventionestablish identities and enable power to be translated into influence but also how the exercise of power can underminelanguageand convention. of a symbiotic and productive partnershipbetween two currentlyantagonisticresearchtraditions. 1 All English references to Thucydides in this article refer to The Landmark Thucydides:A ComprehensiveGuide to the Peloponnesian War. 15-8) No.Thucydides was considereda coldly detachedand dispassionaterationalist. Neorealistsassert that his historyvindicatestheir emphasison the system level and containsimplicitpropositionsabout power transition and the onset of hegemonic war as well as the inabilityof norms and conventionsto keep the peace underconditionsof international anarchy (Gilpin1986.He uses omissions.9. later. In recent years. Phusis is used by Homer to designate things that are born and grow and can be derived from the verb phuein.Ameica cec Poiia American Political Science Review eiwVl. a numberof internationalrelationsscholarshave offeredmore subtlereadings of his historythat suggestrealismis only one facet of his work.l@osu. Thucydidesshould properlybe considered a constructivist. or restated. in which he suggests that long-standing customs have higher authority than laws. The Ohio State University.Ultimately.Speechand reason(logos) in turnmakenomospossiblebecauseall and of conventions dependon sharedmeanings. Thucydideshas been celebratedas a realist. The research was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and its Bellagio Center. Waltz 1979).

hold.For Garst. a mechanicalresponseto a balanceof power. The single-minded focus on self-interest was the underlyingcause of discord at home and reckless expansionismabroad. Thucydidespaints an "unflinching" portrait of the harshnessand even brutalityof the time but with the goal of showing how human beings.whichare trackedby Thucydidesin his speeches. 1992) and Orwin (1994) approach from a more Straussian Forde Thucydides perspective.if ever. like Plato. ally.this processillustrates power of agency and reveals that foreign policy is rarely. andhis conceptionof meaningtranscends lexicalto the of encompassunderstandings self. the Athenianscan no longerspeak and act coherently. manners.and they they struggle finallyresort to assertionsof pure self-interestbacked by militaryclout. we need to track the ways in which words acquire.they had become imperviousto reasoned argumentand thereforeto the risksinherentin theirinitiatives. rationalized form. or lose meanings and how new meanings arise and spread. people act in the world by using the languageof the world. For Crane (1998). but at the time of the SiciliandebateAlcibiadesasserts that the state countsfor nothingif it does not support him as an individual(6." Thucydides'careful attention to language is the startingpoint of another seminal study.the historyof the Athenian not only indicatesthe tension betweenjustice empire but and self-interest also revealsthat theyvalidateand give meaningto each other. Thucydides'history is a realist classicbecause it revealshow the strongdominatethe conweak and intereststrumpjustice.2-4) on this question in his funeral oration.They act as if alliancesare markettransactions: short-term exchanges unaffected by past dealings.the terms of discourse that function at the outset in intelligible waysshiftandchange. Thucydides consideredthis approachto politics destructiveof the relationshipsthat are the true source of securityand prosperity.In post-Periclean Athens. and deprives its speakers of their culture and identities.Thucydides was shows that Athenian imperialism successfulwhen powerwas exercisedin accordwith well-definedsocial conventions governing Greek speech and James Boyd White (1984).and this led to acute discord.The Corinthianplea to the Athenian assembly not to ally with Corcyra.In effect. colony.As the PeloponnesianWar progresses. two Rahe (1996) also acknowledges sides to Thucydides: the hard-headedanalystof power politics and the critic of realism.and defeat.2-5).which in turn requiresacof ceptance and internalization the claims of justice and humandecency. By the time of the Siciliandebate. to Garst (1989) relies on White'sarguments accuse neorealistsof havinga narrowdefinitionof powerand of unfairlyprojectingit onto Thucydides.Changesin meaninginvolvereciprocal interactions betweenbehaviorand language. to find an alternatelanguage. Pericles. Accordingto White. Cranebelieves that Thucydides' goal was to reconstitute the "ancient of simplicity" (euethes) the aristocracy in a new. 1998) blends the traditionsof classical and internationalrelations scholarship. White contendsthat Thucydides recognizedthis truth.He invokes Austin's(1975) conceptionof performative speech acts and Searle's (1995) distinction between brute and social facts to analyzeAthenian politics (Ober 1998).92. Thucydides'portrayalof postPericlean Athens shows how lust (eros) for power ultimatelymade prudentcalculationof advantageand of calibration means and ends impossible. and dialogues. Their foreignpolicybecamea policyof coercionandlimitless the expansion." transcendboth the securitydilemma and cripplingdomestic discord. recognizedthe possibility reconciling justice and interest throughthe citizen's love for and identification with his polis-the principaltheme of Pericles'funeraloration. debates. He argues that Searle's all-importantdistinctionbe- . Such a language is not rooted in ideas.o Thcddste Thucydides the Constructivist sr ci isS p e b r20 September 2001 work leads the reader-ancient or modern-far beyond the views and values it seems initiallyto utilize and affirm. who speaks for Thucydides (2. insiststhat the individualis nothingwithoutthe state.To do this they must take justice seriously. is unstable. Ober (1989. wantsreadersto recognize Thucydides that without moral boundarieshumanbeings develop unlimited ambitions. For Orwin.and this failureis the underlying reason for their empire's decline. through their can "humanity. These conventionsare ignored as the war progresses. For and Thucydides for White. they abandon the culture throughwhich self-interestcan intelligentlybe defined. domestic instability. a concernthat criticizesneorealistsfor ignoring justice. was central to such early postwar realists as Hans and Morgenthau John whichforeignpolicywas an extension of aristocraticfamily connections and 548 enmeshedleaders and theirpoleis in a web of mutual obligations.The Athenians reject the appeal because they formulate their interests and foreignpolicyon the basisof immediateinterests. neutral. citizensput theirself-interest first.To understand theirbehavior and the social context that enables it.andthe languageand community(homonoia) constitutedby it deteriorate into incoherence. Forde (1989. and sentiment.conduct. When the Athenians can no longer use the tradifor tional languageof justification their foreignpolicy. and enemy and make the world their enemy througha policy of limitlessexpansion.60.The sober constructionof selfinterest requiresrestraint. The Melian Dialogue and the Sicilian debate reveal how the Athenians destroyed the rhetoricalculture through which their interests as an imperial power were intelligently formulated and expressed. WhenWords Lose TheirMeaning.and bounded. expressed. the Atheniansdestroy the distinctionsamong friend.reflectsthis approach and uses the time-honoredlanguage and argumentsof reciprocity.based on Corinth's priorrestraint duringthe Samianrebellion. He contendsthat Thucyof dides.But Thucydides sidered such behaviora fundamentaldeparturefrom traditionalGreekpractice.The Melian and the debate over the Sicilianexpedition Dialogue indicatethat Athenianshad lost all sense of measure and proportion.By using it.

whichis vention.There is a near consensusthat Thucydides'depiction of the socalledrealismof the Atheniansdoes not reflecthis own views.cellence.and the successiveanswerscan be read back abilityof third parties to manipulateSpartafor their to provide a deeper understanding the questions own parochial interests. Ober contends that teachings-he was undoubtedly troubledby the social sides with the latter. for they maintainedthat arete(exbecause successfuloratorsimposed their own speech.andtheymustponderthe ences to other fifth-century texts-Herodotus' History. The histhe Hippocratic one corpus. Each layeraddressesa different transformation Greece spearheaded Athens.INTEREST. Not all inconsistenciescan be resolved in this works or oral presentationsas courses of study.At the deepest levels.and implicitrefer.They way.andthe tragediesof Aeschylus..Debates and decisionsbecame "socialfacts" the deepest sense. tween social and brute facts becomes blurredin the contextof the awesomepowerwieldedby the Athenian Sophistswere subversive the old aristocratic of orderin assembly.threatened by the political.andEuripides-as "signs" (semata)to move backandforthbetweensectionsof the text to graspthe us from one level of the text to the next. torycannotbe read in a linearmanner. Almost all the works I have discussed address questions of interest and justice in the history." goes on to describeAthens He of the history.(3) the relationshipbetween nomos (con.I take issue with some of of the sophistic method.interests are equated with power and 549 . which was widely used before the law courts as a analysis text some of rationalization suits. At the onset (1. Egypt. as dominatedAthenianphilosophyduringthe secondhalf thoughtand wrote in this binarytradition.By his use of the wordprophabuildson Connor'sinsightthat the structure of sis.Sophists (harmonia) that unites them.23. and the alarmwhich this inspiredin Sparta.I contend it is about the rise and fall of and Sparta making their respective cases before the civilizationand what mightbe done to salvageit. My main differencewith my political Athens.Thucydides providesa striking exampleof his use them in importantrespects.For Connor.5-6) he their interpretations reach the same conclusionby or attributesthe war to "the growth of the power of differentroutes. their between opposing forces and that philosophersmust were left implicitto encouragestudentsto look beneath the surface to find the deeper unity arguments drawthe intendedconclusionsfor themselves.In this conflictbetween of good breeding.interest. economic. of the fifth century and had considerable political We must distinguish between Greek civilizationand civilizations more generally. science and classicalcolleagues concernsthe purpose made war inevitable. 95 No. contrastsand ironies embeddedin structureand lanThere are sound historicaland textual reasons for guage and the ways in which differentcontexts and reading Thucydides this way. and I arguethat Thucydides of his narrative. The subsequent ships amongpower.which he adopted for his own and quite the past.But he was greatlyattractedto their style of of data collectionand evaluation(techne)to principles argument. choice of language. Vl. see them playing this role within dience. Thucydidessignals to more for Thucydides' providesclues for reconciling his seeminginconsistencies. and those that remain are intended to draw opened with the statement of a problem and simple attentionto tensions inherentin the situationand the responses to it and went on to develop increasingly possibilityof a deeper truththat helps reconcilethem. Thucydides. and the miscalculationof of posed by previouslayers.narrativeand paired speeches of Book I describethe fear for its way of life. Thucydidesrejected some Sophist policy. 3 influence. not socialmeaningsdiverged. implicationsof any apparentcontradictions. customand law) and phusis (nature).leaders throughoutGreece at criticaljuncturesof the and etitions. In his treatmentof the originsof the Peloponnesian process in everydaypolitics. and cultural cationsfor civilization.the of by question. I identify sophisticatedreaders that charge and countercharge four layersto the history:(1) the natureand relation. 95. had of Thucydides certainly in mindthe restoration civil societyand international orderin Athens and Greece.and (4) deeper causes:Sparta's the relationship between erga and logoi and its impli."so it is reasonable inferthat he looked to to a futurereadership beyondthe confinesof Greece.Heraclitus taught that the world is a battleground cut their initial argument. 3 AND JUSTICE POWER. Fifth-centurysophists ordersof presentationencode insightsand interpretaconsidered themselves teachers and intended their tions.omissions. argumentsare intended to move readers to deeper Thucydides requiresa dedicatedand thoughtfulauI understandings. mustmove Sophocles. words (logoi) and deeds (erga).are little more than propaganda that obscuresthe real causes of the war (Rawlings 1981).SciecePoitica Science Review Reiew American Political Amerian Vol.As brutefacts and spected leader) could be acquiredthroughstudy.the latterbecamethe basisof with men just throughheredityand lifelongassociation and this led to disaster.inconsistencies.andjustice.Persia)and and had past (Mycenaean Homeric)civilizations.g. My analysisbuilds on these works but differsfrom War. Towardthis end.The historyattempts consequencesof Sophistridiculeof objectivestandards Thucydides' to reconstruct of ergathroughthe application scientific of justice.mentsspecificto these levels. Thucydides a clear sense of the rise and fall of civilizations describes history"as and his a possessionfor all time. and by doing so it points the way to a similar differentpurposes. Readersmust be willingto recognizemultiple offersthe structure levels of analysisas well as the questions and argulevels. Otherwise. that complexand sophisticated arguments often under. subvertedsentimentsand crisis (Lebow 1991. especially the kind that made a man a redependentmeaningson brutefacts.3 My courtof publicopinion.rep. Justice must be consideredbecause it provides the languagefor any reasonableformulationof interest. did Plato.Pericles himself was their principalpatron. Did he look beyond Greece geographically historically? or Fifth-century Greekswere awareof other contemporary (e. 1996).(2) Athens as a tragedy.

and initiallyappliedto authority citystate andonlylaterto ruleor influenceovercitystates. policies. indeed invert. Athens also earned time because her intellectual made her the "school of and artistic accomplishments Arkheconnotedsomethingakin to our notion of Hellas. ContemporaryGreekswouldhavebeen shockedby the failureof Athens to offer any justification (prophasis)for its of invasionof Melos and by its repudiation the Melian 550 . They deny the relevanceof justice. 31) considered their language to Greeks. Forde (1992).Perlman by 1991]. and if the Atheniansviolate the establishednormsof justice and decency their fall "would be a signal for the heaviestvengeance and an example for the world to mediate upon" (5.and in their pursuitof short-term gain alienate allies and dry up whateverreservoirof good will their early heroic behavior had created. 5. Periclesunderstoodthat the overriding interest of Athens was preservation of the White (1984).95).89). when Athens tried to form the Second Athenian Confederacy. The Melians suggest it is in their mutual interest for Melos to remain neutral and a friendof for many Greeks. Realists define the national interest in terms of power. The Atheniansfocus on the immediatefuture. "Thestrongdo whattheycan.8).just as the Meliansrejectan Athenianofferof alliancebecauseof the valuetheyput on theirfreedom.Thucydides how is also interestedin the "outsidein" perspective: and neutralsrespondto Athens and its allies.91-9). Allies who see themselves as exploited will arises.The Athenians spurn his olive branchand accept the danger of confrontinga seeminglyinvincibleforce in the name of Greek freedom and culturalidentity. His work documentsnot only the process by to whichAthenssuccumbed a foreignpolicyof limitless but expansion also the reasonssucha policywas bound to fail. Garst (1989).90). Thucydidesdistinguished as translated hegemony. The demagogueswho followed him were at best successfultacticians. and the weaksufferwhat they must. grantingonly a privateaudiencewith the and magistrates the few (olgioi). the symbolof rankdepotismin the Greek the osrciitSpebr20 Thucydides Constructivist TuyIde September2001 offer of neutralityon the groundsthat "your[Melian] hostilitycannot so hurt us as your friendship" (5.d. The languageis similar. Fifteen years into the war the Athenians repudiate." withina politicalcontrol. By 416. The Athenians insist they are only concernedwith the present and the preservation of their empire. the Athenians of 416 have become the Persiansof 480.and expandtheir empire."Thucydides have modeled his dialogueon a passagein Herodotus (7. when the assemblyvoted to occupy Melos and subdue Sicily. They advocatedforeignpoliciesthey to be popularwith the masses (ho homilos) expected and were more interestedin their own fortunes than those of their polis. they have antagonizedeven neutrals and close allies.Xerxes alludes to of the law of the strongerand the self-interest empires. which only comes into play between equals. Rahe (1996). both of whichare mostfrequently was For fifth-and fourth-century Greeks. The rhetorical style of the envoys reinforces the impression conveyed by their words.140. result in policies of aggrandizement.Timewasbestowedinformally free consentof the Greek communityas rewardfor achievements. Hegemoniais an essential precondition of sustainableempire.enemies.).and retainedby consent.Thucydides opposed such a narrowview of state interests. As noted elsewhere(Lebowand Kelly n. in which the Persianking Xerxes discusseswith his councilof advisorsthe wisdomof attackingGreece (Connor 1906. Herodotus(8. They acknowledgethey cannot justify their invasionon the basis of provocations or their rightto rule. The structure and language of the MelianDialogue marka radicalbreakwith past practice. because he made foreign Pericles was praiseworthy to his vision of long-termAthenian policy responsive interests. which makes their fear of the security tells us throughthe dilemmaself-fulfilling.protect.blunt.not by force. Many regardinternationallaw and associated norms as impedimentsto state interests unless they provide a rhetorical cover for policies whose real purposeit is to maximizepower and influence."and the Meliansshould put their survival firstand submit(Thucydides. Thucydides. of brachylogies: short.and he used his personalstandingand rhetoricalskills to win popularsupportfor these policies.In 378.but few empireshavethe military to and economiccapability represstheirsubjectsindefinitely. "appropriate orientalmonarchsaddressing but unfit to be spoken by Atheniansto Greekswhom seems to they liberatedfrom the Medes. and Crane(1998) develop this thesis from the "inside out" perspectiveof Athenians attemptingto manage.core Greekvalues."The fact that you are islandersand weakerthan othersrendersit all the more importantthat you should not succeed in bafflingthe mastersof the sea" (5. Dionysius of Halicarnassus(1975. extendedto The semanticfield of archewas gradually encompasstyranny. Oppressever the bonds when the opportunity sion also leaves memoriesthat inhibitfuture attempts at empirebuilding. between hegemoniaand arkhe.SpartaandAthenswere so honoredbecauseof theircontributions duringthe Persian Wars.Thucydidesmakes it clear that the Athenian empire was an arche based primarilyon military might.99) and would serve as a stimulusto rebellion.most of Greece resisted. Thucydides voice of the Meliansthat rawforce can impose its will at anygivenmoment. By the time of the Melian Dialogue.These parallelswouldnot havebeen For lost on contemporaries. The Athenians dispense with all pretense.The Atheniansexplainthatneutrality would be interpretedas a sign of weaknessby other island states "smartingunder the yoke" (5.alternating suggestive of a military encounter.The exchangeconsists verbalthrusts.Cornford1984). The Meliansdeny the Athenianenvoys access to the people. Orwin (1994). 144) also describesan offerof peace and friendship that Xerxesmade to Athens and Sparta on the eve of his invasion. The Melianswarn that the Athenian empirewill not last forever. and the argumentsrun parallel.hegemonia associatedwithtime-the gift of honor [Meiggs1972. The Meliansoffera long view on the fate of empires.

sociologicalframework and Thucydides' relationshipto tragedyand the structural to understand assessthe decisionsand behaviorof similarities Alker these people (Herwig 1997. and it had to offer positive political and economic benefits to allies.consequences of wars frequently acknowledge the damentalvalues of the community.not the uniqueness. the authorsof epic poetry different perspectives. when these figuresare intendedto be emblematicof a 1997). He introducesan idea or action.Early in Book One. Herodotus and Thucydidesdo the the tragedyof the empire'srise and fall and the Melian reverse. tive and markcriticalmomentsof decisionand turning points.advancehis careerat the expense of his city.and Xerxes experiencehis historyas a tragedyand to move from receives similar advice from Artabanus. 551 .speech strung class.course.All subseThucydides and structure. personalqualities. has intelligenceand rhetoricalskill but uses them to paired and group speeches are as importantas narra. languagewith otherpassagesin his work quent leaders possess differentcombinationsof some and those of other writers. Plato. or set of shared life experiences. (1988.The MelianDialogueandthe Sicilian expedition are pathologicaldeparturesfrom rationalself-interest.they are interestedin using individuals to stress the qualities. and prose. Thucyrical production.Thucydides. narrative.9-11) uses the story of Agamemnonand the In his only statement about his intent. 3 empire. a transformationto which I shall return. They also track the progression-really the descent-of Greece fromrelatively securesocietiesboundtogether by convention. sometimes suggest their contingency. In The from undertakingthe Sicilian expedition. Nicias displayshonesty and dedicationbut The embeddingof oral forms in a literarytext is lacks the skill and stature to dissuade the assembly commonto Herodotus.and experiencethat was paid to read sections of it aloud (Luce make people distinctas success spawns powers. it alienatedallies and thirdparties. create archetypes. 1996)contendsthat the historymightbe read as Weinberg 1994).especiallyAthens. movement.Cornford(1907) prominentrole of key actors.that end in catastrophe. tragedy. Because post-Periclean Athens consistently chose power over principle. among others.overconfidence. To maintainthe latter.lost hegemonia. The typicality.Lain Entralgo1970). ancientGreekandmodernhistorians heroes. defines it by approachingit from idiosyncratic like attributes. betweenhis historyandthe tragedies. their heroes share with time when the oral traditionwas declining(Havelock other heroes.obligation.I believe he wantedreadersto nize his limits and restrainhis the use of heroes to providecontinuityand structure uals to convey insights into human beings and their to the text. Herodotus and Thucydideshardlyever take note of together).He is the sum of qualities democanalysis to discover and work through its purpose.the stories of individualsand cities prefigure he has in mindis not just aboutthe growthand decline the fate of more important personages and major of empires but.whichin the courseof humanthingsmust an overview of what will follow. and his style. lexis eiromene(literally. 95. They who wrote at a Opinion is dividedabout Thucydides. from which so much of this tradition derives.actors and situationsis a central conventionof fifthciated if read aloud. No. the speeches highlight critical junctures. but it would be difficultto grasp century poetry.and intereststo a condition of disorder and even anarchy.and societies as well as criticallyexamine or reaffirm fun. but they almost always and Euben (1990).22) offershis historyas "anaid for the interpretation navalpowerconfrontsa majorland power-to provide of the future. whomThucydides offersas the modelof a modernman deeper layers of meaning. excessive ambition. have discussed providesome kind of general. of 1963.and self-destrucThere is a more fundamentaldifferencein the way tive behavior.He intendedhis historyto of his qualitiesbut neverall of them-to the detriment be read and studied.In Thucydides.especially throughthe appositionof P American Political Science Review I - Vol. approach The Greek literarytraditionwas largelyan oral one.phrases.just as they mightwith a theat. is related to epic poetry. Even Pericles. Murrayand Millet 2000. Thucydides Trojan War-in which an alliance held together by (1. His text is written in a complex and idiosyncraticstyle that requires careful of politics. heroesto movethe narrative alongandgive it meaning. author of the first long historical of background. actions. more generally. racy and a benchmarkfor his successors.they rely on the words.and weakenedits powerbase. and fate of Dialogue as a "morality play"about might and right. Most contemporary worksdwell on the particular mix and Herodotus.and clauses. Elsewhere in the resembleit if it does not reflectit.Alcibiades and Iliad. of Athens. Bedfordand Workman (2001) suggestthat Thucydides Herodotus uses the story of Croesus to set up the centralsaga of Xerxes. and ethical sophistication. is a stereotype. They do this even His wordsare chosenwith theirsoundsin mind. Both men emotionalinvolvement with the storyto contemplation neverthelessembarkupon ambitiousmilitary ventures of its general lessons.but alwaysexamine opposing courses of action and the justifications providedfor them. Athens had to act in accordwith the principlesand values that had earned hegemonia. Solon warnsCroesusto recogadopted the tragic form to develop his critique of Athenianforeignpolicy."The cyclicalpattern history. The speeches are also vehicles for moving thematicallytoward greater depth. dides (1. Modernwriterson the origins. that make him an ideal leaderin a transitional makesextensiveuse of parallelsin setting. strengths and weaknesses. compassion. and expands its meaning and drama.and this requiredboth navalpower and legitimacy. ATHENS AS TRAGEDY Anothercommonality the Greekliterarytradition in the Fifth-century tragediesdramatized lives of individ. Thucydidescan be appre.

Thucydidesregardsthe decisions to ally with Corcyraand conquer Sicily as the most fateful decisionsof the assembly.UnderPericles.Thucydidesthe Constructivist Thucydides the Constructivist Greek tragedies consist of archetypicalcharacters who confrontarchetypical situations. He does not attempt to rebut the argumentsof Nicias but makes a calculated. Cleon is forced to sail for Pylos.65).Successintoxicatesheroes. the death of Pericles. he resists Mardonius'suggestion to exploit the revolt of the Ionians to invade Greece and add Europe to his empire.cast in the role of Mardonius.andfromthe perspective of Herodotusand Greek tragedy. in overwhelming Spartansin short order (4. and the defeat at Coroneain centralGreece in 446 (Thucycomdides 1.the revolt of Erythraeand Miletusin 452. over Xerxesat Salamis.20-3) and. 4.each is a hamartia. Cleon tries desperatelyto back down.Intoxthe icated by his riches.the principalagents of Xerxes'nememiscalsis. exerciserestraintin the longerterm.The tragichero.andwhichyou mayor maynot attain.overconfidence. makes light of the risks of the expedition and greatlyexaggeratesits possible rewardsto the assembly.36). a history within the history that describesdecisionsand events that deserveequal billing with those that led to the war. Thucydidesbegins where Herodotusleaves off and from Persiato Greece. He is defeated and only saved from beingburnedat the stakeby the mercyof his adversary.104. Sparta sued for peace to secure the return of its phase of the Peloponhostages. 6.36.Subsequentdreamschangehis mind and lead him to a fatal errorof judgment.he suggeststhe real motivesof the assembly and hints at the contradictions these entail as well as the unexpectedand tragicconsequencesthat will follow (1. Greeks used the word ate to describethe aporia this kindof seductioninducesand associatedit withhamartia (missing the mark). intended to representa figure intermediate between Pericles and Alcibiades.109-10).Alcibiadesconvincesthe to upon a policyof assembly renewthe warandembark imperialexpansion.As does Artabanusin his plea to Xerxes.At first. Hamartialeads the hero to nemesis(wrath)of the gods. later. which Nicias does his best to dissuadethe assembly. In the aftermathof his victory. Croesusmisinterprets oracle who tells himthat a greatempirewill be destroyedif he invades Persia. armyrepresentsless a triumphof the Greeksthan a failureof Xerxes. and of abandonment Pericles'defensivestrategy.2-6.44. Pericles is unable to ing empire.and the Archidamian nesian War comes to an end.and in 446 they agree to the ThirtyYears'Peacewith Sparta.whichmarksthe emergenceof Athens as a militarypower.2-13. 552 September2001 September 2001 plague. His exaltation and pride nevertheless growin proportionto his success. Nicias comes forward a second time (6. not let him do so (4. This initial hamartialeads to war. shows none of Pericles'cautionor thoughtfulness.In 449 they makepeace with Persia.which sets the and Corcyra Siciliandecisionsapartfrom other events in the history. repeatthe cycle of success. in It makesthem susceptibleto all kindsof adventures The which reasonwould dictatecautionand restraint. sets the cycle in motion.and ate makes him vulnerableto hamartia.urgedon the assembly by Alcibiades. but the will his assembly. shiftsthe locus of the narrative The encouragesthem to form inflated opinions of themselves and their abilitiesand to trustin hope (elpis)ratherthanreason. see Connor 1984.24-9).the Athenianvictory culation.44. remembering earlierbravura. second A the hamartia. recognizingthat direct arguments . catastrophe provoking by Herodotus frames his treatment of Croesus and Xerxesin termsof this progression (Beye 1987). Cleon discountsthis as mere rhetoricalposturing.andcatastrophe.emotional appeal to a receptive audience. These manifestations ego and their consequencesare often exploredthrougha standard plot line: Success carries with it the seeds of a self-centered. Convincedof his ability to control events at home and abroad.9-14) the Atheniansto keep what they haveandnot risk"whatis actually yoursfor advantages whichare dubiousin themselves.but Nicias then resignshis command. He launches a stingingverbalattackon Nicias. is as unscrupuHe lous as Alcibiades-Thucydides calls him "the most violent man at Athens"-but not as clever in his pursuit of power (Thucydides3.much to Cleon's the surpriseand relief.narcissisticfigurewho revels in his own importanceand comes to believe that he is not bound by the laws and of conventionsof man.the destruction of the Persianfleet and. from sailing against an island so large. accusinghim and his troops of cowardicein facing the Spartansin Pylos. Nemesisat Salamisis inevitable.8).29-42). Sicilianexpedition. a prolongedwar. he persuadesan initiallyreluctantassemblyto seize the of opportunity alliancewith Corcyrain the erroneous expectationthat the worst possible outcome will be a short war in which Spartawill discoverthe futilityof opposing Athens. Nicias urges(6. These setbackstemporarily pel Atheniansto recognizethe limitsof theirpower. Nicias offers to stand aside and let Cleon assume commandof his forces. He not only heightens the connectionthroughhis use of this analytical parallel but also suggeststhatwe read the Siciliandebateas a new beginning. Xerxes is an ambitiousbut cautiousleader who accumulates enormous power. where he and Demosthenessucceed. 3. Indeed. Not contentwiththe peace.In discussingthese decisions. the Athensdevotesits energiesto consolidating sprawlBut like Xerxes.leads to nemesis. The decision to ally with Corcyra requires a second debate in which the assemblyreverses itself. Cleon. like his Homeric that Thucydidesprovides"archeolofor gies"that establishthe background the momentous events that will follow (Thucydides1. is utterlyignorantof the size and populationof Sicily."Alcibiades. and togetherthey lead to nemesis. and powerful. But the most important similarity. This also happens in the punishmentof Mytileneand the Sicilianexpedition(1. distant.Rawlings1981).His sense of omnipotence leads him to attemptto punishthe Hellespont for washing away his bridge across it in a storm. 6. Athens achievesa stringof victoriesuntil ambitionand lead to militaryand politicaldisasters: overconfidence the complete annihilationin 454 of the expeditionto Egypt.

This format and analogy social strife (stasis) and the disintegrationof civil would encourage readers to consider the story of society.One exampleis the justification empirethe for These are wordsused on medicalresearch(Cochrane1929). in his Protagoras the and unravel. People were increasingly to universal laws that govern human behavior and to visit one another.Readersof Thucydides have found his work old-fashioned.inquiry on this assumption and searches for some bly and Herodotus' depiction of Xerxes at Abydus means of getting beneath the establishedsocial order and day-to-daybehavior to discover what truths lie (Connor 1984. he describestheir manifestations and charts tragic hero and the mordantcomparisonhe intended their course throughthe body politic to the point of between Athens and Persia.76).notingthe symptoms appearat the onset and that plans. more eagerit becomesto supportthe the Heraclitusmaintainsthat nature (phusis) tends to manifesexpedition. not knowingwhat was to become of wouldofferthe most sophisticated defense of whether them.3). Fear of the lotimia).the social fabric began to ticism and relativism."I shall simplyset down Greeksto expandtheirtravelandtradeandlearnmore its nature. and improvementsin shipbuildingenabled the lowingHippocratictradition. if it should ever belief that breakout again"(2. Some residents resorted to "the most eve of the war. of The plague left the city crowded with dead and importanceof humannature (phusis) and convention (nomos) (Finley [1942] 1967.immigra. tations have an underlying unity (harmonia)that can There are strikingsimilaritiesin plot and language be discoveredthroughreflection. No.2). ambition (phiquicklyand enjoy themselves.economicgrowth. by Herodotus and other Greeks to describe Xerxes' his followerschartthe courseof diseasesin the human court and military would body. Bodies accumulatedand decayed in houses.convincedthat a force of such magnitude conceal itself. then who suddenly inherited wealth "resolved to spend human drives for dominance (arche).variaward a position of culturalrelativism. dying. Those neorealists and their classical allies are right. The Athesubject common.In the fifth century. Foltion. century-long debate about the relative fatalityit causes.48. so Thucydideshoped to learn about the Ste. and underlying commoninterests. Croix ethical principle of Greek society: the obligation to afraid 1972.47-54) makes the link between physNOMOSVERSUS PHUSIS ical and social diseases explicit in his analysisof the Greek city-stateswere isolated from one anotherand Athenian plague of 430-28. Euripides."Men. the sufferingand In was an intense. 3 sooner or later undermine and defeat any effort to against the expeditionwill not carrythe day.Plato attemptssomethingsimilarand for models his inquiry campaignthat proceeded it by virtue of its lamprotes much the same reason. They cite referencesin speeches help one's ownphiloi.3). progressionof illness. In the process. They are doing nothing more than shamelessmodesof burial. the assembly. the underlying sacred or profane" (2.anchored those who came there seekingrelief. and sacred places were full of the corpses of accountof the diversityof humanpractices.Thucydides Sophocles. and many sufferersdied from behavior that appears to lend substance to these neglect.He could assume how these build to a critical moment or crisis stage that they were familiarwith the works of Aeschylus.the more he demandsfrom inferencewarranted? planned.Is this To his surprise. became utterly careless of everything. 95. Rahe 1996). who declaredthat custom is the masterof us all. and Herodotus and that most appliesthis methodto the social diseasesof revolution would recognize his personificationof Athens as a and war.Hippocrates and (splendor)and tolma(audacity).52.regardedtheir lives and riches as alike thingsof the day"(2. Pindar.conforce and more extensive provisions than originally ventions.and explainthe symptoms whichperhaps by about the customs of other peoples. and its seeminglycontradictory will be invincible(6. and self-aggrandizement (pleonexia) will 553 .AmericanPolitical Science Review American PoliticalScience Review Vol.He describesin clinicaldetail they began to question their long-standing their social practiceswere gods-givenand moved tothe onset of the disease. Kerferd 1981).family or friends on the already burning pyres of kind" (he anthropeiaphusis) that "the weaker should be others" (2.and men "coolyventuredon what creasingly nians give the same justificationto the Melians.24-6).3).Plato. Family responsibilities importanceof innate qualities. As rich and poor one pole of this debate.burialrites were claims. Thucydidesdescribesthe Sicilianexpeditionas more extravagant thananyGreek underneath. Sacredritualswere ignored.who offereda detailedand nonjudgmental water.Romilly 1990).throwing bodiesof their the acting in accordwith "the common practice of man. and corpses were disposed of in any Athenian envoysoffer to the Spartanassemblyon the which way. Athens there tion in the course of the illness.were ignored in violation of the most fundamental dides phusistrumpsnomos (Crane1998. tries to dissuade the assemblyby insisting on a much larger constructan international orderbased on norms.As physicians soughtto learnsomethingabout Athens as the basis for generalizations about Greece the nature of the human body from studying the and the humancondition. (kairos) that leads to death or recovery. Thucydides(2.53. "Lawlessextravagance" became into the stronger"(Thucydides1.died off in large numbers. Realists and some classicistsassert that for Thucy.53.Thucydides bases his between Thucydides'accountof the Athenian assem. If they had formerlydone in a corner"(2. and half-dead creatures roamed the streets in search of Herodotus.1). it may be recognizedby the student. and the disfigurement survivors. Republic.Africa but refuses to speculate about its causes.Sophoclesresistedtheiragnos. He begins by noting the the widerworldby mountainrangesor largebodies of common view that the disease arrivedin Athens via water. subsequentsymptoms. Vol.

both deeds but and words are social constructions. After Corcyra. in secure and societies:The majority people adhereto of prosperous social and religious conventions."The arrow of causation is reversed. such as have occurred and alwayswill occur.People who have people little to live for behave differentlyfrom people who have much to lose.and "honor made them unsparingof themselves.Some believed that according traitsacquiredthroughsocial practice(nomos) could. to the maintenanceof community. descriptionof what tranprecise. AND ERGA LOGOI Ober (1998) maintainsthat Thucydides privilegeserga over logoi.and the passagejust quotedcan be read as support for the universalityand immutabilityof human nature."Revolution its coursefromcityto city. in consumedby haof "butchery" which Corcyreans.whereas 554 September2001 September 2001 others were unstintingin administering the ill and to dying. As in Athens. The other stasis that Thucydides recordsin detail is the revolution. for the reasonsOber describes.but in some people it brings out the best.4). he begins with a detailed. not even in the most extreme situations.others placed honor above survival. If human nature could not be harnessed for constructiveends.82) tells us. It reconciledthe demosto the existingsocialorder and mutedthe classtensionsthat led to violentconflict and civil wars in many other polities. recognition.Democratic ideology in Athens exaggeratedthe equality among classes and downplayedpolitical. desires. some of them contradictory (Kokaz 2001). and esteem.This conclusionrefocusesour attenthe narrative: tion on the meta-themeof Thucydides' rise and fall of Greek civil society and the circumstancesin whichpositiveand negativefacets of human naturecome to the fore. But Thucydides( the Corcyrean for much the same reason.intervention the foreignallies of by oligarchic and internalrevolutionculminatein seven days both.and suppliants draggedfromthe altaror slain upon it. stasis permits the fullest expressionof the worst humanimpulses. particular These extreme situations bring out the worst in humanbeings.4-5).and . and power but also by needs for love. everyconventionis violated:"Sonswere killedby theirfathers. Social facts and social conventions on create the intersubjective understandings which all brute action depends. The Athenian democratic ideologyrestedon myths:on social facts at variancewith realityand on a historythat bore only a to passingrelationship so-calledempiricalfacts. and a minority is and unconstrained destructivein behavior.53. Thucydides(2. People appeardrivenby their needs for self-preservation.81. believes over time. has a less deterministic of Thucydides understanding human nature. while some were even walled up in the temple of Dionysusand died there"(3. of stasisdoes not so muchrevealthe hiddencharacter as it shapes that character. according to the variety of the cases"(3. is the precursorof similar developmentsin other cities. civilizationwould never have developed. and varying in their symptoms. and social inequalities. economic. account. as long as the nature of mankindremainsthe same. The plague and Corcyreanrevolution. almost day-by-day This sets the stage for a more impressionistic spired.Thucydidesthe Constructivist Thucydides the Constructivist as gods and humanlawsall but disappeared. honor. "the whole Hellenic world" is convulsed as democraticfactions seek to assume or maintainpowerwith the help of Athens. and Justas the plagueushersin an era of lawlessness boldness (tolma) that significantlyaffects domestic revolution. From Thucydides' perspective. but the Melians choose to resist because they value freedommore than self-preservation. and impulses. and oligarchs do the samewiththe supportof Sparta. The Hippocratic taughtthat phusisvaried physicians to the environment. "eachfelt that a far severer sentence had been alreadypassed upon them all and hung over their heads.In his descriptionof the plague.indicatethat human nature encompasses a range of needs. in Book One convincingly Archeology It is no coincidencethat observationsabout words (Thucydides3. The Melian Dialogue offers a nice counterpoint to the Corcyrean revolution in this respect."Some in survivors participated the greatestexcesses. fearfulof succumbing the disease.civil violence.82.Thucydides that behavior is the result of a complex interaction between the two. kill as manyof theirenemiesas theycan lay theirhandsupon.but war takes away the easy supplyof dailywants. Social facts often misrepresent but Thucydides considers this discrepancya facts. and before this felt it was only reasonableto enjoy life a little" (2. followed by generalizationsbased on that account. and he ends with a depictionof the gravest atrocities. it did in the Siciliandebate.82. as double-edgedsword. and so proves a rough to masterthatbringsmost men'scharacters a level with their fortunes. and the wide range of other "tests"to which human beings are subjected in the courseof the Peloponnesian War. and moral dispolitical: in of integration Corcyra the 420s (3. politicsandforeignpolicy. thoughin a severeror milderform.82) follow directly on a discussionof how the Corcyreanrevolution affected the rest of ran Hellas.By removingthe constraintsand obligations arising from convention. treds arisingfrom privateand politicalcauses.51) uses parallel constructionsto deto scribehow some people.The same bifurcatedresponsecan be observed at the other end of the spectrum. Violent conflict between democratic and factions.1). isolated themselves at great costs to friends and family. he gives pride of place to logoi.Thucydides (3. modifynature(phusis).It can prove destructive. Opposition to Athens is futile. The qualifier"most"is important because it indicates that not everyone responds the same way to social stimuli. But it is potentiallybeneficial.70-81). as the demonstrates.2) modifies his generalizationin the next sentence: "In peace and havebettersentiments statesandindividuals prosperity because they do not find themselves suddenly confrontedwith imperiousnecessities.if not essential. pleasure. As in the account of the plague."Thesufferings which revolutionentailed upon the cities were many and terrible.

will be forcedto yield "inobediencewith the so uncivilized that "they speak a language that is generallaw of decay"(2.the stories of Croesus and Xerxes ties combinedto undertakecommonaction. the gods largerkingdoms alliances. of the gods and the power of situationsto generate theirsociety. No. tragedyalso relies on the intervention changed the way people thought about one another. 3 and eat their flesh exceedinglydifficultto understand.and all indicatethe extentto whichmeanings and the values they expressedwere subverted: Vol. The Archeology ulate this perspective. Thucydides(3.and theirobligations it but also encour. The chorus. rest (hesuchia).prudent hesitation.but mythand saga portraya largelyunalterable opponenta man to be suspected.althoughnot yet framedas a tragedy The word omos (raw) is used three times by Thucy. setting understanding "the lust for power arisingfrom greed and ambition. 3. which the audiencedwells.(1. When he has second thoughts. parties once engaged in contention. the power of Persia and the stressis givento the powerof tyrants cobbletogether insolence of the Greeks compel him to attempttheir to smallsettlementsinto increasingly and conquest.To succeedin a plot was one that is only tenuouslyconnected to the time in to have a shrewdhead.The cargreat playwrights but to try to provide againsthavingto do either was to ried on this tradition.2-21). somehow comes with force and violence. Altered meanings not only myth and epic. Common action required hubris-ate-hamartia-nemesis can be expected to that common understanding. 3.94. abilityto speak and their preferencefor cooked meat. 95. to describethe and stasis that convulsedthe Greek world beginningwith the revolutionin Corcyra.Rahe (1996) suggests that the word is used on the last two occasionsto indicate that the war. The came to be consideredthe courageof a Recklessaudacity Greeksbecame increasingly irrationaland inarticulate loyal supporter. to characterizewhat many Athenians think about the previousday's decision to execute all the Mytilenians."Politiciansused and there comes to us all unwillingprudentmeasured "fairphrasesto arriveat guiltyends"and degradedand thought. was ability (alogistos) to see all sides of a question.8) attributesthis process to shows man the way to think.64). incapacityto act on any.Likethe plots of so much succumbed to stasis. too.In aged standing conventions and the constraints they en. and revolutions reversed the process describedin the Archeology.pressuresandpsychological to statesthatmove the action barbarismand violence by undermininglong. includingthose of language.who speeds downfrom Olymtural resources.82.The Athenian envoys at Sparta sets the stage for the historyof decline that follows.and encouragedthe kind of brazen daring (tolma) that provoked "raw"and savage deeds.defined as a state of peace and (Homer 2. including are concrete manifestationsof a timeless cycle of the suppressionof piracy. world. languagewas the vehicle of repeat itself so long as humanswalk the earth.only became possiblewhen communiFor Herodotus. and they also tabilityof things(Beye 1987).Not just in Corcyra throughoutmuch of Greece. "wordshad to change their ordinarymeaningsand to take those whichwere now given them.whose lines I quote. and. The this understanding the veryfoundationof political same attitudeof resignationand acceptancehas been and and civilization.less emphasisis placed on agriculture the development of material technology and more control over his fate. Language is the vector by whichthe disease of revolutionspreads.Civilization.along and leave limited choice to the individual. Pericles warns his countrymenthat one day dides (3.againstTroyby Athena.1):to describean Aetolian tribe they. 95. 555 . He portrays archaic Greece as being in intervene through Mardoniusto push him to invade constantmovementas a result of frequentmigrations Greece. His Xerxes has no civilization. like animals. from havingheard what had been done before. the Mytileniandebate.135-210). of dependson the inevitability nemesis and the immuWords are the ultimate convention.but it is also a cause of constantmovement(kinesis)and contributing but destruction (Saxonhouse1996). The Is the rise and fall of civilizationinevitable?Greek his advocateof extrememeasureswas alwaystrustworthy.depletion of local agricul.82. no longer capable of moderation held to be a cloakfor unmanliness. the grace of gods who sit on holy thrones abasedthe language.Civilizationis also due to a attributedto Thucydides.3). historicaldrama. Some of his actorsdo articstability reinforcingcycle of logoi and erga.which by underminedconventions(nomoi).Agamemnon(176-83).just as the Argivesare compelledto makewar due to populationgrowth.In the heart there and from these passions proceeded the violence of drips instead of sleep a labor of sorrowingmemory. tious plotting a justifiable means of self-defense. carriedto a still greater as excessthe refinementof theirinventions. Aeschylusexplainsthat "Zeus forced. securelyin the midst of suffering. and to divinea plot still shrewder. manifested in the cunningof their enterprisesand the atrocityof their reprisals"(3.75). portraythemselvesas prisonersof historyand seem to Greeks distinguishedmen from animals by their understandthat they are playing roles in a grand.The measureof rest (hesuchia) and peace civilizationbrought about was disrupted the movement(kinesis)of war.82. which he describes the rise of Hellenic culture. and the depredationsof pirates and pus to convince Odysseusto prevent their departure invaders. and the tragic sense of life breakup your partyand to be afraidof your adversaries. No. employingthe logos (rationalfacilities and language) Franticviolence became the attributeof manliness. in whichthere is no exit. In reminds us that the most he can do is preserve his contrastto other fifth-century accountsof the rise of dignity and learn from his suffering. raw"." Thucydides(3. specious cowardice.82) gives a string of examples.Herodotus imand ported this tradition into prose. plague.36." Orestes follows the introductoryremarks in confrontsa dilemmanot of his own makingand from Thucydides Book One with the so-called Archeology(1.caunecessaryfor communaldeliberation.AmericanPolitical Science Review American PoliticalScience Review the places which it arrivedat last.

whichfollowshis description stasis at Corcyra.The intended inference is that religion. the "ancient to simplicity" which he was born and raised. disappointment. Atheniansand other Greeksto relivetrauencourages maticpoliticalexperiencesin the mostvividway and to for workthroughtheir meaningand implications their lives and societies. Connor(1984) observesthat the "lawof the stronger" becomes an injunctionfor the weaker to unite. not merely the democraticor aristocratic faction. coinage. all believe that (saphesskopein) can only be genuine understanding internalizedand influencebehaviorif it arises from a history Thucydides' processof catharticself-discovery. Spartanshad to become more like their adversary defeat it. the anguish. who mediated and muted these class-based tensions.readers could gain enlightment. the division of and empire have labor. and Hermocrates(4. The Athenian empirehas become so powerfulthat it no longerneeds to rely on the standardpattern of client-patronrelations. Thucydides Periclesas someportrays one who personifies the ancient simplicitybut has masteredthe new arts of oratoryand statecraft. By experiencing elation. which is perhapsthe to most compelling evidence that the old ways were doomed. trade. invertskey realisttenets of foreignpolicy Hermocrates with Pericles(Thucydides that are associated 4.The need of each groupto take the other into account and the presence of leaders such as Pericles. Sophists relied on a somewhatsimilarprocess. of offersHermocrates Syracuseas another Thucydides role model (Connor 1984.Whywould he invest decades in the researchand writing of the history and offer it as a "possessionfor all time" if he thought humanbeings and their societies were the prisonersof circumstance andfate? He musthavebelievedthat people possessat least some abilityto control their destiny. Euripides' Phaedra and Andromachedescribe words as sources of power and psychological The compensation. of Thucydides recognizesthe impracticality tryingto orderandits values turnthe clockback.He has a subtler project in mind: Adapt older values and language to present circumstances to create a more workablesynthesisthat can accommodate progressbut mitigateits excesses. Its influence in Greece derived largely from the symboliccapital it had accumulatedin the in formof reliability the eyes of others. international In his appeal to Siciliansfor unity againstAthens. It functioned balanceof powerbetween the masses (ho demos) and the smallerelite of rich.62) goes on to exploitthe widespread fear of Athens to justifyforethoughtand restraintbut . riseto new classes.andnew given social and political practices to cope with a more complicated and competitive world.of learningand transcending one's situationthroughthe pain associatedwith understandingthat situation. and especiallyAthens.Theirworkswere offeredas courses of study that engage the emotions and mind. tell people what lessons to learn. Monoson and Loriaux 1998). based on obligationand the mutualexchangeof favors and services. to reconstructthe aristocraticideology.59-64).and powerfulmen (hoidunatoi). Here and elsewhere Thucydides recognizesthe gulf between the old and the new.83). assumesthat people will repeatedlyenact counterproductivescriptsuntil they confrontand come to terms with the experiencesthat motivatethis behavior.Success has made the traditional system of political relationshipsand the values on which it rested look old-fashionedand unnecessary. Spartaemergedas the victor in the war. The passage is unabashedly nostalgicbut also brurealistic.The ancient simplicityhad not merely tally downand disappeared" declined.The fate of Spartaalso testifies to this change. neithersophistsnor tragicplaywrights Like analysts. hadgone to warto preservethiscapitaland in Spartans the vain hope that defeat of Athenswouldstaveoff the changes that threatenedtheir traditionalway of life. and he knows the life-style associated with the ancient simplicityhas passed and cannot readilybe restored. playsof Aeschylusare basedon the maximof pathei mathos. But his praiseof Periclesis anotherone of his judgmentsthat is in part subvertedlater in the text. values promote a tranquiland honor. In Book Four.especiallyallies. even a hindrance.Ober (1998) contends that Thucydideslooked to Periclean well becauseof the Athens for his model.influential. people must allow themselves to relive painful experiences they have repressed and come to understandhow these shape their present behavior. and their decline removes restraints to unprincipled self-aggrandizement.This can only be achievedthroughregression. 556 September2001 September 2001 Population growth.His success in governingAthens under the most trying circumstancesmay have convinced Thucydidesthat such an amalgamwas desirableand possible.the aristocratic had become anachronistic.The approFreudiantherapy priate analogyis to had been "laughed (Thucydides3.but it was no longer the same polis.There is ample Greek precedent for Thucydides' project.and by applying reason to work through its broader meaning and implications. and other emotions a storyprovoked. the effortto reimpose and oligarchicrule at the end of the PeloponnesianWar failed miserably.83). He is intendedto be a counterpointto Pericles and a more accurate guide to how foreign policy restraint be sold to the publicand a more peaceful can order maintained." dence for this lies in the locationof his discussionof it of in the text (3.led to policiesthat often reflectedthe interest of the community (hoi Athenaioi). has been transformed by what can only be called a processof modernization. major ideasandvalues. wisdomthatenablessocietiesto transcend voold scriptsrequiresan alternative Transcending wanted Crane(1998) arguesthat Thucydides cabulary. He was Eviundeniablyattractedto the "ancientsimplicity. In Book One.I believe he harboredthe hope that could help free people of such a course of "therapy" the burdens of the past and produce the kind of theirscripts.Hippocraticphysicians great store in the curativepower put of words. and aristocratic secure social and political order. Greece.Thucydidesthe Constructivist Thucydides the Constructivist Thucydidesis not as pessimistic as many realist readingssuggest.

the arche. the social sciences.Successors Pericles. In the modern era." larger purpose was to make them wary not only of the sweet and beguiling words of demagoguesbut also. "the conceptofphusis was transferred from the whole universeto a singlepartof it-to mankind. advances in mathematics have contributed to modern science by convention. of any politician who advocates policies at odds with conventions that maintain domestic and international order.speed of execution. he was infamous for his corruption and brutality (Guthrie a 1969. No. waiting to be describedin termsof impersonal forces and the agency that also expressedthose forces." regardedthe social world as distinctand humanrelations as an expressionof culturallydetermined and 557 .whichis based on the robustpsychological finding that people are generally more concernedwith preventingloss than they are with making Sophistspioneered the rhetoricalstrategyof "antilogic. Philosophical nihilismreached its fullest expressionin Critias. there it and took on a special meaning. sophists directed their inquiry away from nature to humanbeings.They were opposed by "constructivists. the age of mathematical discovery came after these philosophical debates were under way.Hermocrates'speech is the most overt attempt to point readersin the rightdirection. "Positivists" insisted on the unity of the physical and socialworldsas well as the existenceof an ordered reality that can be discoveredthroughthe process of who inquiry. He in his dialogues(see especiallyProparodiedsophists tagoras) and argued against their efforts to explain 4 I do not want to exaggerate the parallels between ancient and modern philosophies of social inquiry.but Hermocrates Athens and its enemies attributed Atheniansuccessto ingenuity.cold by convention. proclaimedthat things were "sweet by convention. Euclid wrote his Elements at the end of the fourth century.He examineseveryso-called law of politics. In the fifth century. Hermocrates implicitly urgeshis audienceto considerthe advantages they alreadypossess and the loss that war may entail. ultimately. who is the best known representative.3546). Critiasis good grist for the mill of any contemporary criticof postmodernism.unified scheme of nature. there were important differences in ideas and the relative timing of social and scientific advances.68-71. and Archimedes made his contributions almost a century later.Through emotionsand intellect-feeling the painof the rise and fall of Athens and grasping reasonsthis occurredthe readers could experience the history as a course of Its "logotherapy. Givensophisticepistemology. Philosophical inquiryand experience of cultural diversity combinedto encouragea subjectivist epistemologyin which nomos was contrastedwith phusis and considered by manya more important determinant human of behavior.1996. is not surprising it that it spawneda cognate to postmodernism. and dialogues. but ultimately subvertsit by showingthe unintendedand contradictory consequencesthat flow from its rigorousapplication. but it is also true of more honorablepoliticianslike Pericles. 3~~~~~~~~~~ ever evolvingconventions. On the eve of war Pericles sought to inspire confidence in his fellow wantsto intensifytheirfears.especiallyCleon and Alcibiades. A politician and one of the thirty tyrantswho briefly ruled Athens after its defeat in 404.speeches. 95.Tversky Kahneman1992)." Zeno silenced his opponents by showinghow their arguments also impliedtheir negationsand were thus contradictory (Kerferd1981). THUCYDIDES THE CONSTRUCTIVIST Greece experiencedthe firstMethodenstFifth-century reit. citizens. Vol."and he went on to reason that all observationwas illegitimate.Thucydides not did spoon feed conclusions.The goal of the Ionian protophysicists to was discoverthe originalprinciple. Hermocratesfinds strength in the restraintand caution that come from recognitionof the limits of of knowledgeand powerand contemplation the future (promethia)with an eye toward its unpredictability.who definedjustice in terms of power and found justification for this in humanpractice-the veryargument the Athenian envoys made at Melos. 1. Thucydidesmakes extensiveuse of antilogic. as Monosonand Loriaux(1998) suggest.Such skepticismencouraged the belief that truthwas relative(Lloyd 1978). This is most obviouswith the principlesespoused by demagogueslike Cleon. bitter by convention. appears to validate it.Strauss1986). No.Democritus (1956. 95. Reality was out there. did the assumption that either could be understood through observation.306). 2.regarded all claims to knowledgeas nothing more than rhetorical Justicewas a constrategiesfor self-aggrandizement.Accordingto Jaeger (1939-45.Platorepresented reactionto the sophists.4 Early Greek thinkersaccepted the divine natureof the world and considered human customspart of an overall. Periclesurgedhis countrymen spurnSparta's to peace but favorsaccommodation and overtures. The deeds themselves (auta ta erga) and as conceptof the "realworld"becameproblematic.of the universe." by This shift coincidedwith exposureto alien cultures and the discovery practicesthat differedremarkably of fromthose of the Greeks.Man is subjectto certain rules prescribed his own nature. social and physical.he wanted readers to draw them by reflecting on his narrative. Hermocrates of settlement. gains.This cautionis the firstand essential step toward the restructureof language and the reconstitution conventions of thatcan permiteconomic and intellectual progress while maintainingpolitical order. In Greece. that determined all the other regularities. and confidence in the ability to face challenges (Thucydides1. Protagoras. Athenian interest in mathematics began a generation after Thucydides.he was horrifiedby their reductionof law to customand by the equationof justicewith tyranny.encouragedthe Atheniansto contemplate the rewards from imperial expansion.People in these culturesalso found differentmeanings in the same events. 3 Vol. Hermocrates-and Thucydides-had an intuitive and graspof prospecttheory(Levy1992.American Review Political Science American Political Science Review urges common defensive action. invokedby the powerfulto justifytheir authority cept and advance their parochial interests. fragments9 and 11).

what makessome actions more imaginableand thus more probablethan interestedin the that logic of intelligibility. as in the thin institutionalistaccounts of logically. When languagewas subvertedand conventionsignored or 558 .They did not break down until late in the truces War.the character were still but warchangedsomewhat.when even the quasi-sacred Peloponnesian that enabledproperdisposaland honoringof the dead often were no longer observed. With the of introduction the hoplite phalanxand later developof ments againstmassivePersianarmies. The core of constructivism hardto definebecause is thereis so muchvariation amongauthors.wars were waged to establishprecedenceand settle border disputes. he anticipates Plato. Kratochwil(1989). fire on the remnant of retreating Alabamians and insteadthrewtheir caps into the air and cheeredthem In for theirbravery. Germanand Allied armiesbehavedon the whole quite honorablytoward each other and civilians. of The secondcomponentis the acceptance the mutual of constitution agentsand structures 1989. differor ences were not due to the harshness durationof war but to the characterof the political systems. I see no evidence that he believed in the original meaning of words. An attempted solution was to assert that names are not arbitrary labels but imitations of their objects.2). their force."was embedded in a web of interlocking and relationships obligationsand governedby an elabwere orate set of conventions. Plato. initiatedthe "linguistic but he certainlysharedthe constructivist emphasison the of importance language. Like contemporary constructivists. Greek philosophy debated the importance and meaning of language. His history explores the relationship betweenwords and deeds and documentsthe doublefeedback loop between them.Constructivand ism. Dealingswith foreigners an extension of domestic relations. and Thucydides must be situated in that tradition.) suggeststhat has constructivism two components. all attempts at imitation become corrupted over time.The firstis apprewhetherunderstoodsociociation of social structure. His historyexamineshow language in shapesthe identitiesandconventions termsof which interestsare defined. mostconventions observed. Hermogenes) insisted that words are arbitrary in origin and do not represent any reality. ultimate realitythat would provide a foundation for a universal nation of justice and social order (Guthrie1969.In a thoughtful analysisof this literature.but even this reflected a convention. is.or theirmeaning that dependon them lose is subverted.d. The history makes clear that he regardedconventionsnot only as but constraints also as framesof referencethat people use to understand worldand define their interests. and Ruggie (1998) attemptedby Kratochwil Ruggie (1986). that had been subverted. 260b. especiallyon the Easternfront. supportive of homonoia. and may Thucydidesis undeniablya constructivist have been the original practitionerof the thicker linguisticversion.and he probablycoined more author. the It may be going too far to claim that Thucydides turn"in ancientphilosophy. communication the growthand ilizationdeclines. Onuf (1989). or linguisand tically. domesticand "international.5In this sense. With rareexceptions. Troops on both sides behavedin waysthat baffleus today. but both sides generallyobservedthe conventionsof war.Onuf 1989).the Thucydides Constructivist Thucydides the Constructivist physicaland social realitypurely in terms of its phenomenalaspects. He is clearly tilting at rhetoricians and politicians who advocate evil as good.these changes are attributedto the effects of war. makes a similar argument when he discusses a skilled rhetorician who convinces someone to use the name "horse" to describe a donkey and thus transfers the qualities of one to the other. in its thickerlinguisticversion. Shared meanings of wordsare the basis for conventionsand civic cooperation. Modern analogies spring to mind. but certainly he wanted to restore earlier meanings. (Kratochwil 5 Well before Thucydides. The AmericanCivil War was brutalby any standard. Moreover.He sought to restoreobjectivity and the statusof universallaws by discovering underlyan ing.At BloodyAngle New Yorkersrefusedto followordersto at Gettysburg. WorldWar I. in Phaedrus. and this is why languages vary so much.Combatwas highlystylizedandwas designed to minimize casualties and allow individualsto gain honor through the display of heroism. Thucydideswas fascinated by convention (nomos) and the role it played in regulating human behavior. ditionalGreeksocial intercourse. which generallyis translatedas "guest friendship. Truces were to obligatory permitboth sides to gathertheirdead and the victor to erect a trophy(Adcock 1957).in sharp contrast to World War II..82." War was not infrequentbut was limited in means and ends. Whenwordslose theirmeaning. One neologisms that any other fifth-century of the history is the considered restorationof goal traditionalmeanings of words to help resurrectthe conventionsthey sustained. Finnemoreand Sikkink(1998) and others. because the Persianwarswere equallyharsh. The thin version gives more weight to the role norms play in advancinginterests than to the creation of normsby identities. This explanationis not convincing.the independenceand social systemof other city-stateswere respected.whichapproxThe imatedThucydides' depictionof barbarism. To the extent that realist readings of Thucydides addressthe breakdownof conventions. There was no relations-the closest is specificwordfor international xenia.yet most conventionsheld. which is "a rough master"(3.whichhe thoughtenabledthe shared meaningsand conventionsthat make civilization possible.Hopf (n. conventions the and civbecomes difficult. Others (e.Thucydides exploited evolution of the Greek languagefor purposesof expressionand precision. September2001 September 2001 Kratochwil Ruggie 1986. Socrates tried to split the difference by arguing that things have a fixed nature that words attempt to reproduce. Confederatemistreatmentof African American prisonersof warwas the principalexception. Considerable effort went into recapturing the meaning of words and names in the late fifth century. but the imitation is imperfect.He drivesthis point home in the most graphicway by showingthat it is impossibleto formulateinterestsat all whenconventions breakdown Traand the meaningof languagebecomessubverted.Kerferd1981). There was some recognition that it mediated human understanding of reality and thus constituted a barrier to any perfect grasp of that reality.

J. Thucydidestakes the constructivistargument another step and implies that civil society is also what actors make of it. For this reason alone. Pp. 1929.61) cited Edward Gibbon's observation that the balance of power functionedwell in the eighteenth centurybecause Europe was "one great republic" with common standardsof "politenessand cultivation" and a common "systemof arts.both are inherentin their phusis. ed." American Political Science Review 82 (September): 806-20. Agamemnon. Materialist interpretationsof Thucydides. Princeton. justice enables interests. L. in Corcyra city-states.consensual. Constructivist mustavoidthis readings error. Cornford. The creation and maintenanceof homonoia depends on enduring individualcommitmentsto justice and respectfor other humanbeings (or politicalunits).like Democritus." Review of International Studies 27 (January): 51-67. David. 1988. Jr. E. and almost in Athens after 412. M. Thucydides' historysuggeststhat interestandjustice are inextricably connected and mutuallyconstitutive. interestedin the underlyingand often hidden nature of things. Ancient Greek Literatureand Society. Bury. Beye.Ameica eiwVl cec American Political Science Review Poiia Vol. New York: Random House. conventions restrainthe behaviorof actors. In the most fundamental sense. Bowersock.literally. 1998. 167-225." REFERENCES Adcock. Oates and Eugene O'Neill. 1907.that is..They highlightthe paradoxthat a focus on short-term interests-by individuals. is Stasis and homonioa represent two faces of human beings. 1938. and laws. At that level.and of identities defined at least partlyin terms of it. aimswere limitless. 1975. war and the rules of warfarewere disregarded. for the same reasons.whetherindividuals or When the latter dominates. 1957. 3 5 o destroyed. Antioch Review 35 (1): 135-45. Austin. 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