A Comparison of Herodotus and Thucydides
A Comparison of Herodotus and Thucydides The Persian and Peloponnesian wars were both significant conflicts that tested independence. Documenting these wars was obviously hard at this point of civilization, but two men did, and are now known as the great writers of their time. When analyzing the writings of Herodotus and Thucydides, the authors must be compared and contrasted. Though it is almost impossible to know the complete accuracy of their accounts, analyzing the writing style will give us a good sense of their validity.
Herodotus documented the Peloponnesian war. In his account he described the great story of Pheidippides, the leading up to and full Battle of Marathon and Thermopylae. When reading this account the first thing that is noticed is that he is writing a narrative. The occasion is very detailed, with specific names and places, as well as the emotions that were felt. Questioning the accuracy, while reading along he does explain where he heard his accounts.
For example, when telling the story of Epizelus, son of Cuphagoras, being struck with blindness during war he makes sure to say, “The following is the account which he himself, as I have heard, gave of the matter. ” This is great example of accuracy, although we don’t know if the story is completely true, we do know who he heard it from. Explaining to the reader what he gathered from his own knowledge and what he had heard from someone else is a great example of his accuracy, almost as if he knew that the story may present doubts.
Another thing greatly noticed in the writings of Herodotus is the stating of his opinions on the matter. Throughout the document he explained his feelings on a situation, comparing it almost to a diary. This could easily question his credibility seeing as maybe he saw this more as a story than a historical depiction. Though he gave his own opinion he also gave credible evidence to back up his assessment. When the question arose if Leonidas made the order to send the troops away, Herodotus stated his opinion of agreement because he believed “Leonidas perceived his allies to be out of heart. When comparing this to other historical depictions, it seems plausible. Before comparing Herodotus we must know about the writings of Thucydides. Simply put Herodotus and Thucydides documented a war during a similar time, but Thucydides’ style of writing is completely different from Herodotus. Thucydides documented the Persian War, and compared to Herodotus, he didn’t write in narrative. He didn’t use his own opinions or specific stories heard from people during the time and there were no specifics about the war.
When stating the account of what lead to the war, he mostly stated the negotiation between the Athenians and the Melians. The accuracy seemed plausible because it wasn’t in his own words. In his documentation, he used a conversational style of writing between the two which helps the fact of plausibility. When describing the war he uses basic military occurrences. Unlike Herodotus, he does not use specific names or events during the battles.
Thucydides explains simply what happened when the Melians performed surprise attacks on the wall of the Athenians, and gives the idea of how many people were killed during these attacks. When comparing, Thucydides is more of a credible source to rely historically on. Although, Herodotus gave more information on his topic, his opinions and amount of information for one person to know hurts his credibility. The fact that Thucydides keeps it straight to point and uses actual conversations of the people of that time makes his writing a more plausible historical depiction.