David Bolotin, "Thucydides" in History of Political Philosophy, Eds. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1987.


“Thucydides is the author of a single book, The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians. He is not generally thought of as a political philosopher, and for obvious and weighty reasons. Not only does he never use the term “political philosophy,” but he doesn’t address, at least not explicitly, its universal questions. Though he tells us what he regarded as the best Athenian regime during his lifetime, he never speaks of the best regime simply; and though he praises several men for their excellence, he never discusses the best or most excellent way of life as such. Moreover, he presents the results of his “quest for the truth” as an account of a single political event, the twenty-seven-year war though which the Spartans and their allies brought down the Athenian empire. For these reasons, one is inclined to classify him as a historian. Yet unlike his predecessor Herodotus, Thucydides never uses the word “history.” Nor, in fact, is his theme limited to the one particular war. He claims that his study of it will be useful for those who seek clarity, not only about the war, but more generally about the past, and even about the future, which in his view will again resemble the past that he has brought to light. Accordingly, he dares to call his work “a possession for all time.” Since, therefore, he sees his theme as a particular event that reveals the comprehensive and permanent truth, at least about human affairs, his focusing on that one event does not entitle us to regard him simply as a historian. Yet it is still hard to think of a man who says so little about universals, who, indeed, hardly even discusses his own claim for his work’s universal significance, as a philosopher or a political philosopher. Perhaps it is best, then, instead of attempting to classify his thought, to turn to a closer look at the book’s most distinctive features.”