Does von Raumer have a twinkle in his eye?
It’s amazing how Thucydides keeps grOwing.
A few years ago Neville Morley wrote an essay (Arion 20.3) called “Thucydides Quote Unquote” on the use of a fake passage from Thucydides. Politicians and “statesmen” seemed to love it. Nobody ever checked to see where he actually said it, or what the context might be.
Now a new first page of his text has emerged, as reported in the Boston College Magazine for Spring 2015, ”On the first page of his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides … says that so long as human beings are as they are, as human nature is what it is, there will be war” (p.21).
The Thucydidean growth industry goes back quite a ways. Scarlett Kingsley called my attention to a story in Koselleck’s Futures Past, where the 19th century historian Friedrich von Raumer, made up a passage from Thucydides to stop a bad idea:
During counsel in Charlottenburg, Oelssen [section head in the Ministry of Finance] animatedly defended the preparation of a quantity of paper money so that debts could be paid. All argument to the contrary failing, I said with immense audacity (knowing my man): “But Privy Councillor, do you not remember that Thucydides tells of the evils that followed from the circulation of too much paper money in Athens?” This experience,” he concurred, “is certainly of great importance”— and in this way he allowed himself to be persuaded in order that he might retain the appearance of learning.
I don’t suppose the name of Thucydides has such influence in the corridors of power today, but pendulums do swing, for better or for worse, as Thucydides himself pointed out in book nine.