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2 HISTORIOGRAPHY AND ANCIENT GREEK SELF-DEFINITION 1 Paul Cartledge INVENTING HISTORY The issue of the ancient Gree...

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HISTORIOGRAPHY AND ANCIENT

GREEK SELF-DEFINITION 1

Paul Cartledge

INVENTING HISTORY The issue of the ancient Greeks' self-definition comprises a multivariate cluster of complex and highly unstable problem~ne, central member of this cluster constitutes this chapter's topic - t.he ways in which the Greeks 4.efin~es a~~tbno cultural group through the medium of written historiography. from the ti~Her~!ls (fifth century BC/BCE) tQ.that of Pluta~ch (first-second century AD/CE).2 Our English word 'history', like French histoire, Italian storia and other such European equivalents, descends to us ultimately from the Greek via Latin, as does so much else of our cultural-intellectual baggage. But en route from Greece to Rome, and again, between the Renaissance and today, the word historia and its derivatives have changed crucially in their meaning - or rather meanings. From its original senses of judgement and enquiry (which latter we preserve in 'natural history', a discipline whose antecedents may be traced back through Aristotle to the Hippocratic doctors of the fifth century and ultimately the Asiatic Greek 'philosophers of nature' in the sixth) ~cient Greek histona came secondarilY

I An earlier version of the first four sections of this chapter appeared as Cartledge 1995. I am grateful to the editor of BICS, Professor Richard Sorabji, for allowing me to draw here upon that article, where some further bibliographical references may be found. 2 Recent work in ancient Greek historiography is usefully surveyed in Hornblower 1994 (note esp. the editor's introduction, 1-72, and the consolidated bibliography, 249- 69); for a much longer perspective, going back to the sixteenth century, see Ampolo 1996. Add now Thompson 1996 , a wide­ ranging and intelligent historiographical conspectus. The most recent monographic survey of ancient Greek history-writing known 10 me is Meister 1990; far more challenging is Desideri 1996. Both Ampolo and Desideri end with M. Bernal's Black Arhma project, which since its inauguration in 1987 has acquired a formidable bibliographical rradition of its own. For this, and a more ample and nuanced collocation of ancient Greek with modern Western modes of historiography, see my Introduction on pp.3-1O.

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to denote the results of such judgement and enquiry regarding human public political actions as related purely orally at first and then in written narrative prose. 3 That secondary usage is perhaps attested earliest in about 425 BCE, in the Histories of Herodotus (7.96), although for him the primary sense of enquiry remained paramount. His illustrious successor, and rival historiographer, Thucydides avoided the word altogether, surely deliberately, and preferred to describe h.is activity as 'writing up', using the impersonal language of documentary record. But J-fefo"itotus,-too, firmly maintained the link between enquiry and record throughout his work, and, again like Thucydides, was preoccupied with explanat!2!!, from his preface onwards: 'This is an exposition ""Or the research (historia) of Herodotus ... carried out .. , especially to record the reason why they [the Greeks and the Persians) fought one another.' However, by the time that historia had become domesticated at Rome as part of the cultural process whereby 'captive Greece' had in Horace's famous phrase 'captured her fierce conqueror', it had acquired a further, moralizing an~ jucstificatory, rather than documentary and explanatory, connotatiQn. The chief function of history for the Romans, as Tacitus colourfully but conventionally claimed (Annals 3.65), was respectively to excoriate and to praise paradigmati~ examples ofhuman vice and- virtue - the former usually, as in Tacitus' own case, f~r more assiduously t an t .e latte2' Of course, the polarity between Greek and Roman historiographical theory and practice should not be overdrawn. Even the fathers of Greek history - who were perhaps also the fathers of History as such - were as incapable as the res[QG!s...are of avoiding the historian's engrained tendency to be the obedient servant of her or his own point of view. 5 BeS1aes, the successors of Herodotus and-'Thucydides wer~ mostly neither immune from nor averse to the dramatically moralizing or sensationalist uses of historical narrative. 6 the comparison, rather, raises the issue of the striking of a balance between objectivity of recorCl and explanatIOn, ontheone han , an conscIOus or unconscIous ideology, on t e ot er n what follows I shall be exploring principally these two, ideological question ow far, and in what ways, did the distinction and opposition of Greeks and non-Greek 'barbarians' influence or determine Greek historians' conceptions of their function? S~'

3 On the ancient meanings of historia, see Press 1982; Fornara 1983. On orality, see below, n. 7. 4 Tacitean historiography: Syme 1958 is classic; cf. Cook 1988: 73-96; longer perspectives are on offer in Woodman and Luce 1993; Cartledge 1989. 5 The (meta- )historiography of P. Geyl (e.g. Debates with Historians (1962 (1955)) and Encounters in History (1963 (1961))) and A. D. Momigliano (e.g. his multi-volume Contributi aI/a stona degli studi classici e del mondo antico or, selectively, Studies in Historiography (London, 1966), Essays in Ancient and Modern Histln"iography (Oxford, 1977) and Studies on Modem Scholarship (Berkeley, 1994) is instinct with the injunction 'Study first the historian, not the history.' For other viewpoints on the 'objectivity question' compare and contrast Hartog 1988; and Novick 1988. 6 Post-classical so-called 'tragic' history is discussed in broad perspective, with special reference to Aristotle and Polybius, in Walbank 1985. C. W. Macleod's (1983) contention that Thucydides' history was already (in a different sense) tragic is provocative.

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from the standpoint of their target audiences of Greek or Hellenized addressees, how far and in what ways did the Greek historians contribute to the formation of usable notions of 'Greekness'? MYTH AND HISTORY A deliberately challenging assertion by a historian of modern ideology provides a suitable starting-point: 'one of the uses of history has always been (in Western society at least) the creation of traditional mythologies attributing a historical sanctity to the present self-Images of groups, classes and societies' (Stedman Jones 1972: 112). Herodotus and Thucydides, the latter especially, would have rejected that claim with contumely. Both were scornful of myth, which they consigned to the province of the poets, and our dichotomy of 'myth' and 'history' is in fact owed ultimately to them. But they reached that position by importantly different routes. Herodotus, crucially, drew the distinction between the timelessly distant rule of the sea by legendary King Minos of Crete and the certifiably authentic thalassocracy of Polycrates of Samos within living memory, on the grounds that only the latter belonged to 'the age of humankind as it is called' (3.122). And he declared himself obliged to relate, but free to disbelieve, the multiplicity of orally transmitted 'tales' he heard on his peregrinations round the Mediterranean and Black Seas (7.152). Thucydides went much further. He dismissed what he called 'the mnhic' as no better than romance (1.21, 22), precisely because it was the product of unreliable and untested oral traditions. Whereas Herodotus was prepared to give credence ,to stories concerning events as much as two ~nerations fore his birth, Thucydides was from choice die contemporary historian ar excellence.:. One of his chief reasons for choosing as "hIs su Ject e great war between Athens and Sparta beginning in 431 was that it broke out in his own lifetime when he was already 'of an age to understand what was going on' (5.26) and could interrogate contemporaries, ideally event-making or eyewitness participants (l.22). His was a history written to be rea.d and re-read. 7 The Thucydidean model set the pattern for all subsequent Greek historiography, in this following respect at least: original history ~s contemporary history, picking up the narrative thread where one's predecessors had let it drop. For earlier periods than one's own the best one could normally hope for was to improve on the predecessors' manner, not their content. Bur in other respects Thuc;ydides' successors differed as much from each other and from Thucydides as Thucydides had from Herodotus, whom he never once mentioned by name. Indeed, the only serious agreement Thucydides seems to have had with him was that a history should be about war. 8 Bur whereas Herodotus had chosen for his subject a Russian-style 7

Murray 1987, Thomas 1992; Steiner 1994. On contemporary Greek spectarorship and audiences,

with special but by no means exclusive reference to the theatre, see Segal 1995; also very relevant to the

performative aspect of early Greek historiography is Nagy 1996.

8 War in Greek historiography: Finley 1985: ch. 5 ('War and empire', 67-87).

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from the standpoint of their target audiences of Greek or Hellenized addressees, how far and in what ways did the Greek historians contribute to the formation of usable notions of ' Greekness'?

MYTH AND HISTORY A deliberately challenging assertion by a historian of modern ideology provides a suitable starting-point: 'one of the uses of history has always been (in Western society at least) the creation of traditional mythologies attributing a historical sanct~~o~e present self-Images of groups, classes and societies' (Stedman Jones 1972: 112). Herodotus and Thucydides, the latter especially, would have rejected that claim with contumely. Both were scornful of myth, which they consigned to the province of the poets, and our dichotomy of 'myth' and 'history' is in fact owed ultimately to them. But they reached that position by importantly different routes. Herodotus, crucially, drew the distinction between the timelessly distant rule of the sea by legendary King Minos of Crete and the certifiably authentic thalassocracy of Polycrates of Samos within living memory, on the grounds that only the latter belonged to 'the age of humankind as it is called' (3.122). And he declared himself obliged to relate, but free to disbelieve, the multiplicity of orally transmitted 'tales' he heard on his peregrinations round the Mediterranean and Black Seas (7.152). Thucydides went much further. He dismissed what he called 'the mythic' as no better than romance (1.21, 22), precisely because it was the product of unreliable and untested oral traditions. Whereas Herodotus was prepared to give credens~to stories concerning events as much as two enerations befo!~is birlj}, Thucydides was from cho~emporary historian ar excellence. One of his chief reasons for choosing as'his su lect e great war between Athens and Sparta beginning in 431 was that it broke out in his own lifetime when he was already 'of an age to understand what was going on' (5.26) and could interrogate contemporaries, ideally event-making or eyewitness participants (1.22). His was a history written to be u:.ad and re-read. 7 The Thucydidean model set the pattern for all subsequent Greek historiography, in this following respect at least: original history ~as contempora.ry. bisroq:, picking up the narrative thread where one's predecessors had let it drop. For earlier periods than one's own the best one could normally hope for was to improve on the predecessors' manner, not their content. But in other respects Thucydides' successors differed as much from each other and from Thucydides as Thucydides had from Herodotus, whom he never once mentioned by name. Indeed, the only serious agreement Thucydides seems to have had with him was tbat a history should be about war. 8 But whereas Herodotus had chosen for his subject a Russian-style 7 Murray 1987, Thomas 1992; Steiner 1994. On contemporary Greek spectatorship and audiences,

with special but by no means exclusive reference to the theatre, see Segal 1995; also very relevant to the

perfonnative aspect of early Greek historiography is Nagy 1996.

8 War in Greek historiography: Finley 1985: ch. 5 ('War and empire', 67-87).

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'great patnotlc war', Thucydides wrote up a war of Greek against Greek with minimal, indeed palpably inadequate, reference to the role of non-Greeks therein. Thucydides' war, however, would to Herodotus have seemed but a 'civil war among the Greek people', and such a war Herodotus deemed 'as much worse than like­ minded war against a foreign enemy as war is worse than peace' (8.3). Not that Herodotus was simple-mindedly chauvinistic, by any means: to quote again from his preface, his self-appointed task was to celebrate 'the great deeds of both the Greeks and the non-Greeks" or, as they were by then collectively known, the 'barbarians'.

INVENTING THE BARBARIAN In order for him to do that, of course, the barbarians had first to have been invented a~ a cultural category of Greek thought and discourse. 9 Indeed, it may very well have been to challenge and undermine the overwhelmingly negative 'construction of this cultural stereotype that Herodotus conceived and conducted his even-handed project of recuperative commemoration. Herodotus' ultimate literary model was Homer,. and, seen from a post-Persian War perspective, the Iliad was among other things an epic of Graeco-barbarian military confrontation. Yet 'barbarian' was used the just once in the Iliad and used descriptively, not e'orativel to refer rians of south-west Asia Minor. unintelligible oon- ree speech of the Throughout the poem, 10 lact, something like a parity of dignity and status was carefully maintained between the two sides, the non-Greek but Greek-style Trojans and the Acha ans - not yet the 'Hellenes', as the Greeks had agreed to call themselves by Herodotus' time, and still call themselves to this day. (Our term 'Greeks', to anticipate, is derived from the Romans' 'Graeci', a deliberately diminishing and ethnocentric term suitable for their conquered subjects.) Between HQ.~r and Herodotus, in other words, a par~gm-shift of consciousne.ss.. had occurred. So far from according parity to non-Greeks, the Greeks now primarily effected their self-identification through the polar opposition of themselves to the morally inferior barbarians - 'wogs', as it were, to borrow the language of a more recent colonialist discourse. Two factors, briefly, were chiefly responsible for this sea-change in attitu~irst, there had been ongoing since about 750 a tidal wave of permanent emigration from the Greeks' Aegean and eastern Mediterranean heartlands, to sites almost all round the Mediterranean and Black Seas, so that Plato in the fourth ~ury could speak amusingly of Greeks sitting 'like frogs or ants around a pon[7ifferences between Greek settlers and indigenous 'natives' could hardly fail to oe expressed, often militarily, and they were encoded in what has been called a 'colonial narrative' of Greek self-justification (Dougherty 1993; 1994). Conversely, cultural ties, and especially religious affinity, bound all Greek 9 Hartog 1988; Hall 1989; Georges 1994. Ascherson (1995) interestingly applies Hartog's and Hall's insights on a broader canvas, but he is demonstrably in error to claim that 'conveying information was the only purpose of all their [the historians'] arduous researching and writing' (78).

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'colonists' both to their mother-cities and, through the Panhellenic shrines such as Olympia and Delphi, to each other and thereby served to foster a positive concept of 'Greekness'. Whether we define nations as imagined communities, or as objectively instituted entities, there existed by about 500 Be something that could be called a Greek 'nation,.l0 This was an unstable and inchoate compound of territoriality, ethnic homogeneity (common 'blood'), common culture and a sort of collective unconscious - almost all the factors widely understood as constituting nationality or ethnicity today (Glazer and Moynihan 1975; Smith 1986; Anderson 1991; Hobsbawm 1992; Miller 1995; see also n. 40 below). w..~at that inchoate nationhood signally lacked, however, was any strictly political component. To the contrary, a vital element in the earliest forms of Greek scJf­ - d~finition was a radically exclusive commitment to the individual and separate political community, often more on the scale of a town or even village than a city, of which one was a resident member. Greeks of another gupmunity were at_~ considered as much foreigners or strangers as. were non-Greeks, and relations between Greek communities were as likel to be hostile as peaceful, let alone arnica y co operative. Indeed, identification with one's own community was strengthened by the peculiarly communal and civic form of infantry warfare that then predominated and gave political as well as military shape to the era (Hanson 1989; 1995). It therefore required a major war of many Greeks against a non-Greek enemy on . the scale of the Persian Wars written u by Herodotus to alter r ortico­ military seff- e muon deci,gvely. Even the Persian Wars had only a limited effect, institutionally, since far more Greeks fought with than fought against the Persian­ led invaders in 480 and 479, and what followed the loyalist Greeks' victory was more inter-Greek feuding and fighting rather than any broadly inclusive 'uriited nations' or 'united states' of Hellas. Nevertheless, that war of David against Goliath, and its geopolitical consequences, p::~ked enough ~tical punch to constitute decisively the other major factor determining the Greeks' overwhelmingly negative construction of 'barbarian~. Thereafter, being Greek comported a political as well as cultural co'mponent, in the form of civic republicanism as opposed to oriental despot­ ism.(Steiner 1994; Thompson 1996; see also n. 13 below). That opposition, indeed, may have been the essential condition for the creation of Herodotus' history, ifnot of History itself (Momigliano 1979; Cartledge 1993a).

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10 Walbank, 'The Problem of Greek nationality' (1951), rcpr. in Walbank 1985: 1-19; Finley, 'The ancient Greeks and their nation' (1954) repro in Finley 1986: 120-33; cf. more broadly Said 1991.

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and non-Greek 'barbarians', but then the literally xenophobic Spartans put their money where their mouths were and practised periodic expulsions of strangers, both Greek and non-Greek. The Spartans were odd Greeks in other ways too, so odd indeed that Herodotus reported some of their customs in his 'ethnographic' manner, almost as if he were describing those of non-Greeks (Cartledge 1993a). What is no less striking, though, is the relative disinterestedness with which he treated the customs of both Greeks and non-Greeks. Compare and contrast Herodotus' practice in this respect with, say, the triumphalist and ethnocentric annals of the pharaohs and the Assyrian monarchs, or with the Hebrew Bible's books of Samuel and !(jngs (Cook 1988: ch. 8). Herodotus was no mere sanctifying mythologer of an official Greek self-image (Momigliano 1966: 127-42). In this impartiality he had Homer's example to inspire him, but that by itself is unlikely to have been proof against the virulent new anti-barbarian prejudice. His own family background, with its close connections with non-Greek Carian families, may also have helped. But the primary explanation of his exceptional objectivity is to be sought rather finiS acceptance onne revolutionary teachings of the itinerant Greek ififeIlectuals known as tneSophists. What was natural, what cultural or (merely) conventional in human social behaviour? To the ordinary Greek, as to most people in all societies, what was natural was right, and what their culture believed right or took for granted and habitually practised was natural. It required therefore an unusually powerful intellectual self-confidence to resist the everyday prejudice that Greek norms were natural and good, whereas those of barbarian culture were innately flawed. That antinomian confidence was possessed by the Sophist who blankly asserted that, since Greeks and non-Greeks had the same human bodies the differences b en themnad to e (merely) conventional. It Was fully shared by Herodotus, who made the same point dramatically through the device of an emblematic (and ben trovato) anecdote set at the court of Persian Great King Darius and involving opposing Greek and Indian national burial customs. Every people, Herodotus taught by endorsing the praise-poet Pindar's adage 'custom is king of aU' (3.38), regards its own customs as best, but whether they are in fact so is a different matter, one that has to be investigated empirically through a balanced cultural history of both Greeks and non-Greeks. 12 Two illustrations will have to suffice, his treatment of women, and his discourse on despotic power. R~~spectable Greek women of citizen staE!.s were not suppo~d to be talked about, or even--llamed, in public among unrelated. men; it was an i~rtant part of a male Greek citizen's honour and self-esteem that he should be in a position to shield his womenfolk from such damaging talk (Cartledge 1993b).

>

11 The Sophist cited is Antiphon, possibly to be identified with the Athenian exrreme oligarchic theoretician of 411: Gagarin and Woodruff 1995: 244-5 (fr. 7a 'On truth'). 12 Sophistic relativism: de Romilly 1992. Herodotus' attitude to non-Greek religious customs: Gould 1994; Thompson 1996. R. Thomas has in preparation a monograph along the lines of 'Herodotus the Sophist'.

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No such taboo constrained Herodotus (though it did the more conservative Thucydides), who indeed manipulated the usages of women in Greek and more especially barbarian societies as a means of indicatmg the proper, Greek wa ' to treat therrl(Roselhm and Said 1 78 . Copulation in public, in the manner of beasts, piaced a human society that tolerated such shameful (or shameless) behaviour at the furthest remove from the normative Greek end of the spectrum. Copulation in private but without benefit of legal matrimony ranked it only a little nearer. Those barbarian societies which, like Persia, practised polygamy were both naturally and culturally unGreek, but at least the Persians did recognize legal marriage and outlawed adultery. However, when a SOC"iety combined polygamy with despotic power, ~ersia, then it entered Herodotus' alternatiVe, political discourse of

Greek self-definition. .

The paradigm case for Herodotus' purposes was that of Great King Xerxes, son

of Darius, whose invasion of Greece he represented as a war for the extinction of

Greek liberty and imposition of slavery. It is no surprise to find Xerxes at the climax

of the history involved back home in Susa in a sordid and ultimately gory plot to

seduce a brother's wife, since one of orientaIaespousm's stigmata was precisely such

g~s mistreatment even (or especially) of close ema ere atlves. Anot~eans

employed by Herodotus to brIng out the Greek-Persian pOlafdichotomy was to set

against Xerxes ex-King Damaratus of Sparta, a political exile and formally a traitor

to the loyalist Greek cause but nevertheless in Herodotus' book an unwavering

spokesman for Greek civic values. Speaking of his fellow-countrymen with a

properly Greek freedom of spirit and expression, Herodotus' Damaratus tells hjs

incredulous Persian suzerain that, however greatly outnumbered, they will resist his

horde to the death, since unlike his non-Greek subjects the Sp-artan.s acknowledge

only one, non-human master - the law that they themselves have made and

assented to as free citizens of a Greek community (7.104). That, in nuce, is

Herodotus' deepest explanation of why the relatively few loyalist Greeks were able

as well as willing to resist Xerxes' invasion, and to do so successfully. 14

It was to Herodotus' great credit that he in no way disguised the Greeks'

irreconcilable political divisions. Indeed, there is a tragic undertone to his

despairing remark that 'in the three generations of Darius the son of Hystaspes,

Xerxes son of Darius and Artaxerxes son of Xerxes more woes befell Greece than in

the twenty generations preceding Darius' (6.98), since so many of those woes were

self-inflicted. Following the Persian Wars the cause in chief was the rise of ~n

Athenian Empire, many of whose more articulate Greek subjects felt - rightly or

wrongly-=--mat il1ey had been delivered from an oriental despotism only to fall prey

to a home-g~ Greek tyranny (l'upIlr1T985). Herodotus, however, who was

13 HdL 9.108-13, with Cartledge 1993a: 85-6. Add the mutilation of an anonymous sister-in-law of Xerxes, inflicted at the behest of Xerxes' wife Amesrris, ro the catalogue of despotic oriental mutilations in Steiner 1994: 154- 5. 14 For a view of the Histories as a quasi-allegorizing tract for Herodotus' own times, see Moles 1996; cf. Thompson 1996.

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himself for a time an imperial Athenian subject, did not scruple to state t.hat.i!l his :eece' in the view it was the Athenians who, on balance, had been the 'saviours Wars, although he was care u to preface that contentious judgement by acknow­ ledging that it would be 'resented by many' (7.139). Moreover, it was to 'the Athenians' in an official response to their less than wholly resolute Spartan allies that Herodotus attributed a ersuasive definitiqJjof Greekness which he clearly hoped woul be found compellingly impressive far beyond its putative historical cOi1teXtOfWlnte-r480779: .-... Many very powerful considerations prevent us [from going over to the Persians]: first and foremost, the burning and destruction of OUT temples and the images of our gods; ... then, the fact of our being Greek - our common language, the altars and sacrifices we all share, our common mores and customs. (8.144)

Doubtless this was ideology, a conscious piece of retrospective mythologizing, but it was both symbolically apt and not without all purchase on fifth-century actuality, as Thucydides' very different history allusively testified.

HELLENISM UNDERMINED

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Thucydides began his narrative where Herodotus had left off, in 478, but he normally avoided his predecessor's ethnographic manner and said remarkably little about non-Greeks, even though the war between Athens and Sparta had, he noted prefatorily, involved 'a part of the barbarian world' (1.1) and indeed had been eventually decided by the intervention of a barbarian, the Persian Cyrus the Younger, a great-grandson of Xerxes (2.65). The effect and no doubt the aim of this sil~ was to concentrate readers' attention o~reek world 'convulsed' (3.82) by what we in Thucydides's honour refer to as the Peloponnesian ~t is, the war against Sparta and her allies seen from the Athenian side of the barricades. Thucydides was no les~p~~occupledtfiai11Ierodotus with the image of Hellenism and Greek self-definition, but he opted for a negative approach and a portrayal imbued with sombrely tragic hues. IS In 43 I the Hellenic world was at the height of its material prosperity and material p'reparedness. All the greater therefore was the ensuing catastrophe. The Spartans' announced war aim of liberating the Athenians' Greek subjects apparently appealed to many (2.8), or so it was maintained by Thucydides, himself no admirer of Athenian imperialism as it was cond---"}vkish democrats. Ith rare exceptions, however, the Spartans proved no more g~~y altruistic in their liberationist pretensions than their opponents. In the

15 The Historical Commentary on Thucydides in 5 vols by A. W. Gomme, as completed by A. Andrewes and K. J. Dover (Oxford, 1945-81), is standard; note also S. Hornblower's commentary in progress, of which two volumes (of 3) have so far appeared (Oxford, 1991-1996). Thucydides on Hellenism: Cartledge 1993a: 50-5.

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course of an increasingly brutal and brutalizing war both sides cynically exploited liberation propaganda to intervene in the civil commotions that afflicted much of the Mediterranean Greek world. The destruction by mighty Athens of the little island-state of Melos in 416/15 was portrayed by Thucydides (5.84- Ilb) as paradigmatic of the moral decline ~f Hellenism -anathnaroarizlntODfhartiad come to infecTGreek seff-percepllons and mterrelatimoc-lhetactSThafMeIos w~s oligarchicaIlyrwed anil.