Lessons Learned from Thucydides


I keep coming across a lot of classical references recently with relation to the domain of politics, grand strategy and strategic thinking in general.

Here is a most engaging chapter


from a book Theory of War and Strategy, published by the U.S. Army War College. The author, R. Craig Nation, has served as Professor of Strategy and Director of Russian and Eurasian Studies with the Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College, since 1996.

In his analysis of the relevance of Thucydides‘ History of the Peloponnesian War to contemporary strategic thinking and planning, he identifies several aspects anyone involved in strategy development, whether military or civilian, would greatly benfit from reading. The gist of the argument is that while Thucydides’ work may not be of much use on the tactical/operational level since the tools and methods of waging wars have changed considerably, nevertheless, on a strategic level all has remained more or less static.

Further, he examines a topic not often covered when talking about Thucydides, namely the cultural dimension of war. While much of the History deals with detailed descriptions of major fleet actions, pitched battles, sieges, unconventional operations, plague, revolution, atrocity, massacre, and political confrontations, a sizable portion of the work is dedicated to examining the causes and nature of the Peloponnesean War and war in general, including the cultural opposition between Sparta – an agrarian oligarchy and Athens – a culturally innovative democracy.

Here is a (more) modern translation (1881) of Thucydides’ work by Benjamin Jowett and the very first English translation (1628) by the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Read here the full publication Theory of War and Strategy. It is open source, non-subscription based publication of the Strategic Studies Institute, which produces excellent analytical work on various security topics.


One Response

  1. Excellent Post! The Theory of War and Strategy link is a superb resource. Anyboy interested in strategic thinking must visit.

    I know it’s not on the net yet, but in my opinion, the best English translation of Thucydides is Rex Warner’s. You can get it at Amazon.com.

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