Born into a family of Athens's old nobility claiming descent from the Homeric hero Ajax of Salamis, Thucydides pursued a political career under Pericles and served as a general in the Great Peloponnesian War of 431--404 b.c. His subsequent exile for failure to prevent a Spartan takeover of an Athenian colony in Thrace enabled him to observe the war from both sides. In his history of the war, he examines the policies and motives of the people involved with a calculated rationality that nevertheless conveys great passion. Although his narrative style is lucid and astringent, the language of the speeches that he gives his protagonists is some of the most difficult, yet rhetorically powerful, Greek from any period of antiquity. The work is deeply serious in tone. As Thucydides tells his readers at the beginning of the work, it contains nothing of entertainment value. He meant it, as he says, to be not simply a set-piece written for the delectation of an audience, but a "possession for ever." As Herodotus was the inventor of universal history, Thucydides was the inventor of the analytical historical monograph. He wrote in conscious contrast to Herodotus, whose work is full of entertaining fable and romance. While Herodotus wrote about the past by using all manner of traditions gleaned in his travels, Thucydides considered only contemporary history to be reliable and writes as an interrogator and witness of contemporary men and events. The gods, too, are absent from Thucydides's work, which scrutinizes human motivations as the exclusive business of history. The most powerful intellectual influences visible are the fully rational method of description and prognosis developed by the Hippocratic physicians and the tools of logical analysis and verbal argument then being forged by the Sophists. Behind these, however, lay a sense of tragedy. The history of Thucydides possesses the rhythm of a Sophoclean drama of reversal of fortune in which Athens falls from the pinnacle of imperial success and brilliance into political corruption, ruthless and amoral imperial aggression, and finally utter defeat and disaster. Athens's imperial hubris leads to its nemesis at the hands of Sparta, a conservative and landlocked state that had been powerless at the beginning of the war to inflict significant harm on the Athenians. Thucydides's work is unfinished. It ends abruptly in midsentence during a discussion of the events of the year 411 b.c. It was continued to the end of the war by Xenophon. Although very much the intellectual inferior of Thucydides, Xenophon managed by imitation to infuse this part of his Hellenica (his continuation to 362 b.c. of the history of Thucydides) with an elevation absent in the rest of his work. Until relatively recently, scholars took Thucydides at his word as an objective writer. More recently it has been recognized that his work skillfully promotes a patriotic and political argument, written in the climate of postwar recriminations. He presents Athens's empire as a natural consequence of the position of that city-state in the Greek world and the Athenian leader Pericles as Athens's greatest statesman, a leader who had governed Athens and preserved the empire with a firm and intelligent hand. Thucydides wanted to persuade his readers that Pericles was not the villain who destroyed Athens, that the blame fell to the politicians who came after him and pandered to the most extreme ambitious of the common citizens, the politicians who were the ultimate arbiters of policy in Athens's democracy. Some modern historians remain persuaded by Thucydides's portrait of Pericles and the Athenian democracy, but others argue from Thucydides's own testimony that Pericles led Athens into an unnecessary war in the belief that the opportunity had arrived to advance Athenian domination over the whole of the Greek world.
Author's (Mark Ahavel) Biography The author was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1963 in a Roman Catholic hospital during the middle of Vatican II (1962-'64). And his exact birthday coincides with the day that the prophet Muhammad completed is Hijrah (migration) to Medina, according to Muslim tradition, a significant event in the life of the Prophet for Muslims. In 1963, the Baha'i Faith celebrated their 100th anniversary and they established their International House of Justice on Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel. From the year and the date of the author's birth, one can certainly find ecumenical and interfaith significance, perhaps a portent of his destiny. The author was baptized as an infant in a Roman Catholic parish, and was raised in a Protestant congregation and its parochial school from kindergarten to the 5th grade. These were faith-formative years for the author, raised in a Christian tradition. He felt the Call to the Ministry during his first two years of college but it was unclear what kind of ministry God was wooing him to. He completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education at a private Christian liberal arts college of his denomination by the end of 1985. He was in the seminary from 1990 to 1994, earning his Masters of Divinity degree in May 1994. He served five years in the pastoral ministry in a conservative Christian body. He was sensing God was leading him to a more ecumenical ministry. His ecumenical ministry began through creating and managing a global online prayer site In 2009, the same year, he began teaching the World Religions course at the community college as an Adjunct Instructor. The teaching of this broad course stretched his own understanding tremendously and he intensified his research in the world's religions, beyond the Judeo-Christian foundation of which he was most acquainted. He is a member in the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature.