Eight Lessons on Human Nature from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War

We’ve got it all figured out, right? Humanity is smarter now than during any other time in history. It’s obvious.

Obviously garbage.

Nothing we do is any different than what has been done before, save for the technology. And even our gadgets are just modern spins on old ideas.

Not that there’s anything wrong with modernity. Far from it. In my opinion, by every metric, there has never been a better time to be alive. Things are great today, and I firmly believe that they will continue to get even better.

But we ignore the past at our own peril, as George Santayana warned 100 years ago.

George Santayana Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It

Recently, I wrote a guest post at one of my favorite sites, Neil White’s This Dad Does, about the classic works of literature and history that have helped me become a better man and a better father. Among the works was History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.

Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War

Here’s my brief overview of the History from Neil’s site and why I think it’s so important:

The Godfather of history, Thucydides, penned his chronicle of the twenty-year war between Athens and Sparta in a way that seems familiar to us now: Through interviews with those who fought and debated, the examination of primary sources, and from his own experience as a combatant on the Athenian side.

Where appropriate, Thucydides paraphrases important speeches, but his prose is so eloquent the original speakers likely wish they sounded so good!But historiographical methodology aside, what struck me about Thucydides’s account of the war were his observations into the motivations of the varying factions, the hubris and the miscalculations, and ultimately Athens’ fatal overreach and arrogance that lead them to undertake their ill-fated war against Sicily–in true Greek fashion, it is a fatal flaw that proves to be the Athenian undoing.

Action, adventure, political intrigue, and keen insights into human nature. You’ll never think the same way about war and politics.

Thucydides’ account of the war is filled with so many memorable vignettes and lessons about human nature that I’d like to delve deeper and share a few passages that resonated with me, and how this history book written millennia ago relates to the world today: Continue reading “Eight Lessons on Human Nature from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War