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G. E. M. de Ste, Croix


Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, N.Y., 1972, 442 pgs., index, bibliography, footnotes


Reviewer Comment:
This is a remarkably scholarly study based on detailed analysis of the Greek texts. The subject matter includes much more than only the 'origin's of the war, although that is the main theme. But in considering the real 'origins' the author describes many very detailed aspects of Spartan, Athenian and Greek society, mentality, politics, personalities and more. The appendices delve even deeper in to such matters.

He follows Thucydides and Greek thought in placing all actions as the results of individuals' decisions based on basic psychological factors, not on some concept of abstract notions of a 'state'. Thucydides states these dominant considerations as desires to have and preserve saftety, honor, and interest (meaning wealth). And pursuit of these creates the desires to dominate and avoid domination. From recognition that these are continually in contention with others comes the fear of loss.


The author states that his book is intended for general student readers as well as for professional historians. It is intended for those who do not read classical Greek but of necessity has had recourse to analysis of Greek terms in the footnotes and appendices.


I Introduction
Dr. Ste Croix notes that both Thucydides as an author and historian and the Peloponnesian War of which he is the principle written source have generated copious literature through the centuries and especially in modern times. He considers that the general modern opinion on the 'causes' of the war is 'disappointing in the extreme'.

After reading the following pages in which the author presents in details., including naming names, he totally rejects the common opinion ( that Athens was responsible) one can recognize that his 'disappointing' is a very polite understatement.
He writes: "As I shall demonstrate, the standard view of the origins of the war is in reality based upon uncritical acceptance of the brilliant fantasy presented by Aristophanes in the Acharnians."

In addition to many other disagrements he disputes the standard view about the war as beginning in 431 BC with its declaration by the Spartans, even though Thucydides himself devotes some 'background' attention to the events of the prior 30 years.
He writes further: "Proceeding step by step on the basis of Thucydides' account, supplemented by a certain amont of other contemporary evidence, we shall soon find ourselves obliged to reject a whole series of supositions which have generally prevailed in modern times."
In the remainder of his lengthy introduction the author discusses many other issues including analysis of theSpartans and Athenians and events prior to the outbreak of war in 431 BC. which was the rejection of the oaths taken at the creation of the 30 years Peace.

Aother valuable subject is the author's lengthy comparisons between Thucydides and Machiavelli and between Thucydides and Hobbs.


II Thucydides' judgment on the origins of the war


III The immediate background, c 435 BC


IV Spartan foreign policy, and the Peloponnesian League


V - Spartan relations with Athens


VI - Corinth and Athens


VII - The Megarian Decrees


VIII Conclusions:
Dr. Ste. Croix disagrees with the general opinion of modern writers that it was the Athenians who were responsible for originating the war. He considers that it was the Spartans. For this reason he has marshalled his immense scholarship.


47 Appendices




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