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Historical Reading from 'Thucydides'


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The second of the series of Historical Readings is taken from the famous History by Thucydides of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and the Peloponnesian Alliance. Thucydides was himself an Athenian general. Exiled for his failure to save the great city of Amphipolis from the attack of the Spartan Commander Brasidas, he spent the rest of his life: in travelling, and the writing of his history, which has won him a reputation second only to that of Herodotus among ancient historians. The first extract to be read this evening includes the description of the great plague, which did as much to ruin the Athenian cause as all the armies of Sparta. Penned within their long walls joining Athens to the port of Feirseus, the inhabitants of Athens died in thousands from the deadly sickness which is supposed to have been introduced through shipping from the East. The second extract tells of the last battle in the great Harbour of Syracuse, where the Athenian Fleet was destroyed by the Syracusans under the eyes of the expeditionary force it had transported to Sicily. This description has probably never been surpassed for vivid picturization and dramatic tension of writing, which has made the battle almost the best known incident of ancient war.


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