The most recommended Thucydides books

Who picked these books? Meet our 22 experts.

22 authors created a book list connected to Thucydides, and here are their favorite Thucydides books.
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What type of Thucydides book?


Book cover of The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others

Kathryn Lomas Author Of The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic Wars

From my list on the ancient Mediterranean.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a lifelong fascination for history and archaeology. Following a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology (University of Edinburgh), and a brief period as a field archaeologist, I undertook a PhD (University of Newcastle) researching the history of Greek settlement in southern Italy. My subsequent career has been devoted to the study of ancient Italy and Sicily, with a specific focus on the development of ethnic and cultural identities, and the formation of urban societies. I have held posts at several UK universities, including research fellowships at UCL, a lectureship at the University of Newcastle, and I am currently a part-time lecturer and Honorary Fellow at the University of Durham.

Kathryn's book list on the ancient Mediterranean

Kathryn Lomas Why did Kathryn love this book?

The volume (the publication of a Cambridge lecture series) addresses one of the key themes of modern culture: the nature of identity. The question ‘what is a Greek?’ is not as straightforward as it seems, given that the Greek world was very diverse, and the book explores this by examining Greek culture as a series of polarities: Greek vs barbarian; free vs slave, citizen vs non-citizen; male vs female and gods vs humans. It traces how these polarities illuminate how the Greeks thought about themselves, and how we think about them.

Although aimed squarely at a student readership, it is an approachable introduction to the nature of Greek culture and reflection on questions of identity, difference, and belonging which are at the forefront of contemporary political and cultural debate.

By Paul Cartledge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greeks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides an original and challenging answer to the question: 'Who were the Classical Greeks?' Paul Cartledge - 'one of the most theoretically alert, widely read and prolific of contemporary ancient historians' (TLS) - here examines the Greeks and their achievements in terms of their own self-image, mainly as it was presented by the supposedly objective historians: Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.

Many of our modern concepts as we understand them were invented by the Greeks: for example, democracy, theatre, philosophy, and history. Yet despite being our cultural ancestors in many ways, their legacy remains rooted in myth and the…

Book cover of The Peloponnesian War

Tom Kratman Author Of The Romanov Rescue

From my list on history and practice of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by war since I was literally a toddler. True story, I was the only two-and-a-half-year-old in South Boston, Massachusetts with an adult library card. I had to get one, and to get it to prove to the librarian that I could read, in order to check out certain books that I wanted. I only recall one title, The Battle of Midway. Since then, though I’ve done other things like practice law and become a novelist, most of my adult life was still spent as an enlisted man, non-commissioned officer, and company grade and field grade infantry officer in the Army.  

Tom's book list on history and practice of war

Tom Kratman Why did Tom love this book?

Written around twenty-five centuries ago, this remains the seminal work of history, political science, man as he is, war, and diplomacy. The author expressly intended that it be “a work for all time,” and so it remains. Moreover, it serves still as an example of a civilization ruining itself, as Europe did in the Great War. Thus, it continues to warn.

By Thucydides, P.J. Rhodes, Martin Hammond (translator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Peloponnesian War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest historian that ever lived'

Such was Macaulay's verdict on Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) and his history of the Peloponnesian War, the momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta as rival powers and political systems that lasted for twenty-seven years from 431 to 404 BC, involved virtually the whole of the Greek world, and ended in the fall of Athens. Thucydides himself was a participant in the war; to his history he brings an awesome intellect, brilliant narrative, and penetrating analysis of the nature
of power, as it affects both states and individuals.

Of his own work Thucydides wrote: 'I…

Book cover of Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre

Neville Morley Author Of Thucydides and the Idea of History

From my list on understanding Thucydides.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian and classicist, teaching at the University of Exeter. I am equally interested in classical Greece and Rome, especially their economy and society, and in the ways that classical ideas and examples have been influential in the modern world.

Neville's book list on understanding Thucydides

Neville Morley Why did Neville love 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 –…

By David Grene, Thomas Hobbes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

Book cover of Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past

James M. Banner Jr. Author Of Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today

From James' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Institution-creator Political activist Outraged citizen

James' 3 favorite reads in 2023

James M. Banner Jr. Why did James love this book?

Meant to be entertaining as well as informative, this book romps without reverence through the lives and writings of historians, some from beyond the Western world, from ancient Greece to today. That’s 2500 years of written history!

You'll discover that, rather than being just the sober history that teachers may have taught you, historians have come in all forms and with all kinds of minds. They’ve argued with each other, sometimes been fools, showed themselves entirely human—and yet left us some of the world’s greatest texts of religion, literature, and learning.

Cohen defines “historian” controversially as well as liberally, to include Shakespeare, novelists, political figures, and television personalities. But then, as humans, don’t we all have a past and think historically? Food for thought—and fun along the way.

By Richard Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A huge, fizzing omnium-gatherum of a book . . . marvellous' Daily Telegraph
'Witty, wise and elegant . . . a classic of history itself' The Spectator
'Grave and witty, suave yet pointed . . . full of energy' Hilary Mantel
'An enthralling investigation . . . consistently entertaining' The Times
'Epic . . . whatever Cohen writes about he writes about with brio' New Yorker

Who writes the past? And how do the biases of storytellers - whether Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare or Simon Schama - influence our ideas about history today?

Epic, authoritative and entertaining, Making History delves…

Book cover of Hippocrates

Vivian Nutton Author Of Galen: A Thinking Doctor in Imperial Rome

From my list on Galen and Galenism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Vivian Nutton is an emeritus professor of the History of Medicine at UCL and has written extensively on the pre-modern history of medicine. He has lectured around the world and held posts in Cambridge and Moscow as well as the USA. His many books include editions and translations of Galen as well as a major survey of Greek and Roman Medicine, and he is currently writing a history of medicine in the Late Renaissance.

Vivian's book list on Galen and Galenism

Vivian Nutton Why did Vivian love this book?

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, was Galen’s hero. This study by the leading expert in ancient Greek medicine sets his life and ideas in the wider context of life in the Aegean world of the fifth and fourth centuries BC.

By Jacques Jouanna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hippocrates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hippocrates, considered for more than two thousand years the father of medicine, came over time to be credited with a life of mythic proportions and an enormous body of work. Hippocrates' pronouncements on health, disease, and prognosis went unchallenged in the Western world until scientific advances in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made many of his ideas obsolete. And yet medical students in the United States and Europe still recite the Hippocratic oath upon completion of their studies. In view of Hippocrates' exceptional importance in the history of medicine, it may seem surprising that our knowledge of this fifth century…

Book cover of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?

Bryant Wieneke Author Of Priority One

From my list on political thrillers promoting peaceful solutions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I quit my job in 1994 to write. Fiction. It took me a while to find my niche, but what I realized is that I wanted to write political thrillers that were about more than how to stop the bad guys from killing the good guys by killing them first. There is another way. Starting with Priority One, and continuing to what is currently my tenth novel in the series, I imagine an American foreign policy that promotes the building of a more peaceful world through a combination of economic justice and humanitarianism, applied practically and pragmatically. It’s my dream for my fiction, as well as the real world.

Bryant's book list on political thrillers promoting peaceful solutions

Bryant Wieneke Why did Bryant love this book?

Destined for War is a brilliant study of the circumstances surrounding the global economic competition between the U.S. and China, with the goal of predicting whether or not war is likely. This is a real-life political thriller. Allison cites cases throughout history of a pre-eminent economic power being challenged for supremacy, and then describes why, in many cases, the competition became fierce enough to erupt into war. He also describes situations in the past where there was no war, and he explains how and why war was avoided. To me, as a fiction writer, who actually pushes the U.S. and China to the brink of war in his novels, this book was an important education and resource.

By Graham Allison,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Destined for War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Sunday Times and FT Book of the Year

When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war.

In this razor-sharp analysis, Harvard scholar Graham Allison examines the phenomenon known as Thucydides's Trap, which is currently playing out between the world's two biggest superpowers: the US and China.

Through uncanny historical parallels, Destined for War shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past - and what painful steps international leaders can and must…

Book cover of The Plague of Athens

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti Author Of Imprimatur

From my list on how the Plague changed history.

Why are we passionate about this?

We have always been fascinated by literary masterworks that stage the plague as a pivotal factor in the plot. We added the next ingredients: a whodunnit with a claustrophobic setting, the Baroque Age, a (real) financial thriller between Rome and London, and an unusual protagonist. Rita is a historian of religions, Francesco is a musicologist. After working as journalists, meeting in a newspaper bureau, and getting happily married, we started a writing career publishing 11 novels translated into 26 languages and 60 countries with more than 2 million copies sold. Our novels are a mix of literary creativity and meticulous research, characters and settings are strictly based on original documents and eyewitness accounts. 

Rita's book list on how the Plague changed history

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti Why did Rita love this book?

Nobody can describe the plague better than... one who’s been infected. 430 BC: coming from Ethiopia through Egypt, a massive plague outbreak hits the overpopulated Athens, right in the middle of a bitter war against Sparta. Thucydides, the first Greek historian with a modern approach, witnesses the tragic days (doctors and authorities were totally unprepared) of the largest metropolis in the Mediterranean. The author himself is contaminated and later recounts his experience in this unforgettable section of his History of the Peloponnesian War.

By Thomas Sprat,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Plague of Athens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. In its determination to preserve the century of revolution, Gale initiated a revolution of its own: digitization of epic proportions to preserve these invaluable works in the largest archive of its kind. Now for the first time these high-quality digital copies of original 18th century manuscripts are available in print, making them highly accessible to libraries, undergraduate students, and independent scholars.
Western literary study flows out of eighteenth-century works by Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding,…

Book cover of The Plague

Alexander Fisher Author Of Delirium

From my list on where a catastrophe makes society fall apart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the strangeness of human character when tested to the limit by overwhelming catastrophe. I’ve always wanted to write a story that brings into stark relief the courage, fear, ambition, tragedy, absurdity, and the ecstatic. In other words, a disaster. And if character is destiny, then an apocalypse maybe the best way to show us who we really are and where we’re going. My debut novel, Delirium focuses on these extremes of character. And after writing it I reached one indelible conclusion: that the human being is the most disturbed creature, but also the most hopeful.

Alexander's book list on where a catastrophe makes society fall apart

Alexander Fisher Why did Alexander love this book?

Camus’ Stranger brought me to this book and I was once more pulled in by the same direct prose, the same detachment and the same philosophical inquisitiveness.

There’s a feeling that plagues are inevitable, that they will come no matter what we do, and that our efforts to stop them always degenerate into the absurd. But what struck me most was that this is not fatalism, because although the collective effort is largely useless, hope lies in the small acts of kindness between individuals.

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Plague as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Its relevance lashes you across the face.” —Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times • “A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post 

A haunting tale of human resilience and hope in the face of unrelieved horror, Albert Camus' iconic novel about an epidemic ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature. 

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they…

Book cover of Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians

Paul Cartledge Author Of Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece

From my list on ancient Greece and their world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied Classics and Ancient Greek history since my teens, I read ‘Greats’ (Ancient History and Philosophy) at Oxford, completed an archaeological doctorate on early Sparta also at Oxford (1975), while spending my teaching career (1972-2014) in Northern and Southern Ireland, and in England at Warwick and Cambridge Universities. I retired as the inaugural, endowed A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture before taking up my current position as A.G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. I have been the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of some 30 books on ancient Greek history, most recently Thebes: the Forgotten City of Ancient Greece.

Paul's book list on ancient Greece and their world

Paul Cartledge Why did Paul love this book?

Thucydides of Athens (c. 455-400 BC) was an Athenian aristocrat of supreme intelligence and a failed politician who turned his 20 years of political exile to excellent account by turning himself into the most acute analyst and historian of the great Atheno-Peloponnesian War of 431 to 404. Thucydides was born within the world’s first democratic political state but was out of sympathy with the rule of the majority, the masses – except when they themselves were kept in check and did what they were advised by a superior statesman of the unique calibre of Pericles (c. 493-429).

Thucydides outlived the end of that War, which was a major defeat ultimately for his own home city by the Spartans aided financially by the old enemy, the Persians. But he did not live long enough to complete his History, which breaks off in mid-sentence in what we call the summer of 411…

By Thucydides, Jeremy Mynott (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thucydides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thucydides' classic work is a foundational text in the history of Western political thought. His narrative of the great war between Athens and Sparta in the fifth century BC is now seen as a highly sophisticated study of the nature of political power itself: its exercise and effects, its agents and victims, and the arguments through which it is defended and deployed. It is therefore increasingly read as a text in politics, international relations and political theory, whose students will find in Thucydides many striking contemporary resonances. This edition seeks to present the author and the text in their proper…

Book cover of Thucydides: The Reinvention of History

James M. Banner Jr. Author Of The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History

From my list on historians and how they think and write.

Why am I passionate about this?

An experienced historian who’s occupied both academic and public posts and written for popular as well as academic audiences, I’ve become absorbed by what’s behind the history so many of us read for all the reasons we read it: enlightenment, pleasure, and lessons about life in a fragile world. That’s taken me to write and teach about the professional lives of historians, about some fundamental realities of historical thought, and now about historians themselves: who they are, what they do, and why they do it. It’s often said that if you wish to understand books, know the people who write them. The books I’ve recommended help do that.

James' book list on historians and how they think and write

James M. Banner Jr. Why did James love this book?

This book is important, authoritative, and compelling because it demonstrates that a conservative historian can be comfortable with revisionist history. Kagan, a Yale historian noted as a leading academic traditionalist, terms Thucydides “the first revisionist historian” not because he was like today’s leftists but because he took issue with his pioneering predecessor, Herodotus. In his great history of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides threw down the gauntlet over which was the “best” and “right” way to do history. He thought its subjects should be politics, warfare, the relation between states, and—a surprise?—men. His views held the field for centuries. The Framers of the Constitution were its legatees. So were we until the late 20th century, when social and cultural subjects gained attention. This wonderful book shows why.

By Donald Kagan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thucydides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A reconsideration of the first modern historian and his methods from a renowned scholar

The grandeur and power of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War have enthralled readers, historians, and statesmen alike for two and a half millennia, and the work and its author have had an enduring influence on those who think about international relations and war, especially in our own time. In Thucydides, Donald Kagan, one of our foremost classics scholars, illuminates the great historian and his work both by examining him in the context of his time and by considering him as a revisionist historian.

Thucydides took a spectacular…