One of my current work projects is this collection of selected passages from Thucydides, summarized and translated by Woodruff. It is not a scholarly work in the traditional sense, featuring a stated thesis, supported by analysis of evidence. The scholarship lies in the curation and translations, which present an argument about what Thucydides’ preoccupations and concerns are. Namely, what it means to pursue justice, how power is deployed, and the influence of human nature on actions and outcomes.
I’m finding it thought provoking in the extreme. The way Woodruff puts passages side-by-side has made me not only see things in Thucydides that I had not been consciously aware of before but also think about ancient Greek festivals, and culture at large, from a new perspective. It has made me even more convinced of the need for cross-disciplinary studies.
Here is one of the more famous (at least in the anglophone scholarship I’ve read) passages, rendered three ways:
Thucydides: «κτημα τε σε αιει μάλλον η αγώνισμα ες το παραχρημα ακουειν ξυγκειται.» *
Benjamin Jowett: “My history is an everlasting possession, not a prize composition which is heard and forgotten.”
Rex Warner: “My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last for ever.”
Woodruff: “this was composed to be a lasting possession and not to be heard for a prize at the moment of a contest.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on Thucydides and translations of him (and challenges therein) in the comments, as always.
* friendly reminder that my modern Greek keyboard does not allow me to reproduce the breathings and accents, so spellings are approximate.