Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre
By David Grene, Thomas Hobbes
Why this book?
There are lots of excellent modern translations of Thucydides (I tend to recommend either the Oxford World Classics edition by Martin Hammond or the CUP one by Jeremy Mynott), and Hobbes’ version, the first proper translation into English, is not the easiest place to start, not least because at times you effectively have to translate it out of seventeenth-century English. It is powerfully and elegantly written, and above all it offers the spectacle of one great thinker on matters of politics and war engaging with another – you can almost feel Hobbes developing his own ideas (some of which later appeared in works of original philosophy like Leviathan) as he works to make sense of Thucydides’ ideas. If you read nothing else, the introduction To the Readers and the sketch of Thucydides’ life and work are short and brilliantly insightful, capturing the particular nature of Thucydides’ text – neither a conventional history nor a conventional work of political philosophy – in a manner that has eluded many later readers.
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