Professor Mastrangelo


It was a very interesting discussion in last thursday’s class on Thucydides’ notions of human nature. How would you frame the issues today? That is, how are we to think of the nature vs. nurture question today? Can Thuc. teach us something? Has science contributed to the debate about what factors go into the identity andd development of a human being in 2006? Please respond to any of these questions or just post your thoughts on the topic.

People who read Thucydides have said that the writing of history is related in several ways to the Homer’s epic poems. They point to the subject matter of war and, not just any war, but an all-consuming war that effects civilizations and people broadly and deeply.

Could there have been a Thucydides without Homer? Or is writing history a completely different intellectual activity from writing epic? Think about the kinds of observations and conclusions Thucydides is interested in: Anything in common with epic?

In the “Odyssey” there seems to be a different notion of heroism. For Achilles in the “Iliad” it amounted to the honor accrued through success in battle, and preserving that honor through a strong individualistic stance. For Odysseus, being a hero means something else. Instructive here is Odysseus’ trip to the underworld and his meeting with Achilles; and the words of Agamemnon from Hades in Bk. 24. Finally, given the differences, are there certain, necessary similarities? Here you may think about the nature of the epic poem and Homer’s goals for the poem and its characters.

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