What Concerns Antiquity

The names of the two writers whose pieces make up today’s reading, “What Concerns Antiquity” (CUA Primer, pages 15–16) are Plutarch and Thucydides. They are both historians who lived in ancient times but who discuss their slightly different approaches to history in the reading. Thucydides investigates a war between the Greek cities of Athens and Sparta, while Plutarch wants to examine the characters of leaders, even if it means looking at small, revealing details instead of big battles. Plutarch says that the attention he pays to the historical details that reveal character is like the attention that someone painting a portrait pays to the details of the face of the painting’s subject. How do you think that historians should decide which details to pay attention to? Can you think of more than one possible good approach?

Photo: “Portrait of Pharaoh Akhenaten” by Wasfi Akab is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jaesen Evangelista says:

    I definitely agree with Thucydides’ way of recording history. It’s one thing to state facts and it’s a completely different thing to experience those facts, or rather interpret facts in your own way. History should be treated like facts. It’s something that happened for certain and people should not be biased when sharing those stories. If World War II happened a certain way, I would want to know how it really happened, not how it should have happened or what would make a particular country look good. Because, if that’s the case with all historians, then history is just a lie. I would want to read these stories and then come up with my own conclusions afterward.

    However, with this approach, we may tend to lose touch with how the writers felt about what they were witnessing. If they’re just writing down what happened, what makes them different from a video camera or a tape recorder? Well, it doesn’t entirely have to be viewed this way. They can tell us their interpretations after they tell us the facts. They can write history and at the same, they can write about history. But, the two should be separated. History should be facts.

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