The Father of Political History
THE SOURCE: “The Student of Political Behavior” by Donald Kagan, in The New Criterion, Sept. 2009.
Who deserves to be called the “Father of History”? Herodotus, who chronicled the defense of Greece by Athens and Sparta against the invading Persians in 480 and 479 bc, is traditionally accorded the title, but Thucydides, thefifth-century bc author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, likely deserves it more. Although Herodotus may have been the first to useon-site investigations to uncover new facts about the past, Donald Kagan writes, he employs “a meandering style full of discursive side trips” and readily accepts “the causal role of the gods in human affairs.” Thucydides, says Kagan, a historian at Yale and author of afour-volume history of the Peloponnesian War and the forthcoming Thucydides: The Reinvention of History, “substituted rational, even scientific, thought for myth as a means of understanding and explaining the world and the universe.”
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