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Thucydides on human behavior in society

“The field of Thucydides’ investigations was not the nature of the physical universe nor the physical nature of man, but the society of man living in the polis. Politics in the largest sense, the search for an understanding of the behavior of man in society, was his surpassing interest. In this he differed from physical theorists, Sophists and Hippocratics, but their ideas influenced and helped shape his mind. Like all of them, he began with the observation of phenomena and proceeded to discern and describe the rational pattern that emerged. His data were the historical actions of men in the past, remote or very recent. When sufficiently multiplied and properly grasped, these gave rise to general rules of human behavior that might prove useful to men in the future. The student of social behavior—that is, the historian—has a dual responsibility: first to seek out with diligence and accuracy the truth of what has taken place and, then, to interpret the events with wisdom and understanding, in this way making a permanent contribution. To establish the facts (ta erga) was of vital importance but was subordinate to the formulation of interpretations (logoi) that emerged from them.”

“The student of political behavior: On the enduring legacy of Thucydides”
by Donald Kagan