Assess the Contribution of Speeches in Thucdides

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Assess the contribution of speeches in Thucydides’ work. Thucydides’ introduces his work by presenting it as a “history of the war fought against each other by the Peloponnesians and the Athenians”. However his work was not a simple narrative of the events that unfolded, Thucydides wanted his work to be judged as useful because he believed that history repeats itself. He wrote his work largely to explain the fall of the Athenian empire. Thucydides’ work, however, was not simply a book written about Athens as the protagonist which was defeated by its foolish over-ambition, he wrote about the Athenians and Spartans with similar objectivity, acknowledging both their weaknesses and virtues. Thucydides regularly demonstrated a “determination to establish what happened and why”. He believed one of the primary reasons for the decline of Athens was because of the political problems with democracy and selfish imperialism. Whilst he used facts to support this belief, he expressed it most directly when quoting speeches. I will examine the purpose of Thucydides’ work by assessing his omissions, the events he chooses to focus on more closely, and his own analysis of his work. His speeches were clearly an integral part to his work, Burrow says that without them then it would have been “enormously impoverished and much more opaque”. By studying the speeches and understanding the work as a whole, I can then assess their contribution. One of the striking aspects of the speeches is that they are often strongly emphasizing a particular feel and considerably long in contrast to his succinct narratives. The notable example of this is Pericles’ funeral oration (2.34 -46). Thucydides tried to justify the inclusion of the speech because the deceased were “the first to die in the war”, however this does not stand as a good enough reason; Funeral orations were not uncommon, and
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