Thucydides uses the first extended episode in the History, the Corcyrean conflict (1.24-55), to present the world of political discourse, deliberation, and battle. This episode is programmatic for a number of reasons: it is the first episode with a pair of speeches; Thucydides ties this episode directly to the outbreak of the war; certain questions, such as morality's relevance to foreign policy, are introduced here for the first time; and, most importantly, it is here that Thucydides establishes what the reader's role is to be throughout the work. This paper argues that, for all the significance of Thucydides' Archaeology and Statement of Method (1.2-23), the "participatory" dimension of the History begins with the Corcyrean conflict. It is only with the introduction of speeches that the reader must address the ways in which speech and narrative confirm and undermine each other, as the historian's voice now alternates and competes with that of his characters in speech. From an authorial perspective we find that various techniques Thucydides employs-multiple perspective, authorial reticence, and episodic presentation-are used to recreate the political arena of fifth-century Greece. The various facets of the reader's extensive labor may be clustered under the heading of extrapolation and conjecture (best captured by the Greek term eikazein), as the reader must endeavor to see events from the perspective of the participants, evaluate claims made in speeches, experience battle vicariously, and consider events-which are past from the reader's perspective-as future in terms of the subsequent narrative. Analogous to what Plato did for philosophy, Thucydides has produced an interactive, open-ended, and participatory type of literature by appealing to the reader's involvement and by bringing written literature as close as possible to the live, extemporaneous, face-to-face debate of oral Greek culture.
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James V. Morrison; Preface to Thucydides: Rereading the Corcyrean Conflict (1.24-55). Classical Antiquity 1 April 1999; 18 (1): 94–131. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/25011094
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