How to Think About War

Thucydides (Translated by Johanna Hanink)

Chronicling the journey through Helena’s book recs.

As is probably apparent by now, I am quite hooked on this Princeton Press series of classics. This one was also a delight. The translator (Johanna Hanink) did an exceptional job of interpreting the topic that this volume aimed to achieve — to take and summarize Thucydides’ best writing across his canon and select and translate the elements most suited to a timeless discussion of the philosophy of conflict — into her own. Unlike many who fawn over Thucydides to the point of which nuance about the context in which he lives and the misfires of his ideology are not well represented, Hanink takes a unique approach here.

She is more active than other translators in this series, pointing out that Athens often had the same problem as many societies (and people) — they were not great at taking the advice of their own. Thucydides was in many ways quite ahead of his time in that many of his ideas were simply ignored or not implemented, even hundreds of years after his death (and many would argue even today). She also provides very helpful contextual information on how many layers of translation and exchange occurred before Thucydides summarized a speech (think the Melian Dialogues), and what political (or otherwise) agenda he may have layered onto his telling.