Why Teach Thucydides?
9th Annual Platsis Symposium on the Greek Legacy
Given at the University of Michigan, on November 6, 2010
Thucydides and the Unexpected, by W. Robert Connor
Why Teach Thucydides Today?, by Clifford Orwin
This year, the symposium will address ways in which Thucydides matters in liberal arts education today. It featured two distinguished scholars of Thucydides who have also played significant public roles: W. Robert Connor, who besides his scholarly work on Thucydides and other Greek historians has been director of the National Humanities Center and president of the Teagle Foundation, and Clifford Orwin, Professor of Politicial Philosophy at the University of Toronto, who has written The Humanity of Thucydides and is a regular contributor to Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.
Why Teach Thucydides? Because he’s there, because students love him, and because he has so much to say to us today (as he has for 2,400 years now). There is so much in the work that there’s plenty of room for each generation to find whatever in it speaks most loudly to them. For us, it seems to me, Thucydides’ most timely lesson is that almost nothing is permanent but change, nor is there is any institution however solid that doesn’t contain the seeds of its own destruction.