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The Dawn of Political History - Thucydides and the Peloponnesian Wars

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In this fascinating course of lectures, Professor Fred Baumann leads us on an engaging exploration of this penetrating work. Taking in each of the eight books, we examine the complex juxtaposition of events Thucydides demonstrates without much comment of his own. We see how democrats and oligarchs, Athenians and Spartans, understand the world and misunderstand each other. We explore how Thucydides contrasts Sparta - so deliberately narrow, provincial, overtly moral, and covertly cynical - with Athens - cosmopolitan, sophisticated, overtly cynical and covertly moral. In doing so, we discover his admonishment to respect both and to get past our own instinctive, and sometimes destructive, human tendencies.
In the end, we come to understand how Thucydide's work shows human nature in the most extreme circumstances and thus provides deep insight into both political practice and philosophy. That may indeed be the reason for its lasting relevance: its unique ability to still shed light upon our own predicament some two-thousand years later.
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