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Source Exercise 1: The Athenian Empire: 2

The passage was written by Thucydides (c 460BC – c 395 BC), a wealthy Athenian who wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War, from which this extract is taken. Thucydides has been called the father of ‘scientific history’ because he gathered all available evidence, talked to participants and then subjected his evidence to rigorous analysis in terms of cause and effect, rather than ascribing events to the intervention of the gods or fate. He has also been called the father of the school of ‘political realism’ because he saw relations between nations as being based on ‘might’ rather than ‘right’.

Thucydides rightly realised that the conflict between Athens and Sparta that broke into open warfare in 431 BC was on a scale never before witnessed in the Greek world. He devoted the first book of his History to an explanation of how and why Athens came to war. Thucydides accepts that his History might not be so entertaining as others, but instead is trying to create a rational analysis that will help others understand the way things happen. He believes that events similar to those in the past will happen again in the future, because human nature is unchanging and he wants future generations to understand what causes war, and how it progresses. He does not, however, think that such understanding will necessarily prevent future wars.

Bearing these things in mind, what does the source tell us about the Athenian leadership of the Delian League and the development of the Athenian empire?

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