teaching Walcott Virgil [re]sightings poem books garden/world cv
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this history &  this war: not Homer &  Troy
two cultures: Athens vs Sparta
Athens ideal: no Homer
plague at Athens
how empire rules
city sick  with civil war 
honor vs power
"History, what makes it worth telling? How to tell it & to whom?"
    The above questions on the syllabus, provoked one member of the Group appointed to lead discussion to attack the question posed & deliver an impassioned plea for the value of history:
    Tomasz argued that we need history in order to remember & to avoid repeating mistakes.
     I [JVS] replied in surprise that I hadn't meant to cast doubt on the value of history but only to direct attention to how Thucydides himself answers the question. It obviously was important for him.
   [In class we spent a bit of time chanting together outloud the name, "thoo SIH de dees," to help make it more familiar.]

    1)Why write history?
    2) What makes a particuluar history worth reading?

1) Why write history [p 48, sec 22, paragraph 1]:

"It will be enough for me, however, if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past  and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeatged in the future. My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last for ever."
DISCUSSED: "human nature being what it is": what do we think it is? do we agree with Th's view that it is always everywhere the same?
His claim, that it is "the same" provokes us to compare what we see today with what he describes from his time: Same? Different? If different, in what ways?
Ann said that some people always try to gain advantage over others & do it, too. That hasn't changed.
    [p. 35] "great war...very height of powers...greatest disturbance...affecting...whole of mankind" as opposed to "distant past...not great periods either in warfare or in anything else"; cf. (compare) what Thucydides says about the poverty of the Greek expedition against Troy (pp. 39-42): note especially "a small place...shortage of money. Lack of supplies...lack of money was the reason why previous expeditions were not really considerable."
QUERY: Who names wars? Why "Peloponnesian War?" Cf. (compare) "Persian War" & "Trojan War."
    In class we explained that "Peloponnesian" refers (by metonymy) to the principal city of the part of Greece known as the Peloponnese, of which the princpal city was Sparta.  So So clearly it was not a Spartan who called this the "war with the Peloponnesians (i.e. Sparta her allies). In fact Thucydides identifies himself as an Athenian, so the title "Peloponnesian War" implies "War fought by the Athenians & their Allies with Sparta & her allies."
        Corinth was an ally of Sparta: where was it located?
        "Persian Wars" (490, 480): named by whom? fought with whom?
        "Trojan War" (ca 1200): named by whom? fought with whom?
        "Vietnam War": so called by whom? what do they call it in Viet Nam?
2) What makes a particuluar history worth reading?
    a) Important subject: Thucydides on greatness of this war (pp. 35, 40-42, cited above).
    b) Method of research & telling: superior to previous writers & to mythology (pp. 46, 47). Homer in particular played down (inferior subject, pp. 40-42) & inferior regard for facts (p. 47, cf. p. 148).

Designed in Century  fonts by JBVS, coached by LB; started 96/01/03, revised 02/02/22.