Born: Circa 471-455 B.C., in or near Athens, Greece
Died: Circa 400 B.C., perhaps in Thrace
Thucydides is known for his significant text History of the Peloponnesian War, which unlike the storytelling style of other early historians, was straightforward, strictly chronological and direct. As the son of Olorus, an aristocratic Athenian, Thucydides most likely grew up near Thrace where his family owned a gold mine. When the war between Athens and Sparta broke out, he recognized its significance and planned to record its progress and final outcome. He was appointed one of the commanders of the Athenian fleet, but failed to prevent the capture of Amphipolis. For this defeat he was exiled for twenty years.
The time, however, was put to good use; during his exile Thucydides did the research for and wrote what is considered one of the greatest histories of ancient times. His text covers the discord between Athens and Sparta from 431 to 421 B.C., the Athenians' Sicilian expedition (and ultimate failure) from 415 to 413 B.C., and the renewed war between Sparta and Athens from 413 to 404 B.C. The account breaks off in 411 B.C., however, leaving the last years undocumented.
One of the characteristics of Thucydides' style is his attention to accuracy. Apparently when his research data (obtained from personal observation or eyewitness accounts) was conflicting or unsure, he took great care to weigh the facts and represent the 'truth.' Interestingly, though, for greater interest he also embellished his history with so- called speeches by the war's key participants, deducing what would have been the "most opportune" things to say, and writing them in himself.
His text was largely ignored until the nineteenth century, although it was translated much earlier, probably due to its complexity. It is believed that Thucydides died at the hands of an assassin.