Thucydides, Peloponnesian War

at the San Antonio Museum of Art

Join a “slow learning culture” at the Museum: read, see, talk and explore great ideas and great artworks together at a leisurely pace      

Click Here To Register Now! 

Meeting Place:  San Antonio Museum of Art “Stables” and the Ancient Mediterranean Gallery

Begins: January 9th

Ends: February 13th

Meeting Days: Tuesdays

Meeting Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Time Commitment: 2 hours per week No reading homework required! 

Description of Session: The session opens promptly with a ten to fifteen minute reading, out loud, of the pre-assigned selection of Thucydides’ “Peloponnesian War”, followed by an hour long discussion based on that selection. We will be sitting at a table for this discussion, away from the gallery, in the Stables or a classroom at the Museum. After our purposive conversation, we will pause for a short break, and walk over to the gallery in order to examine closely one or two select objects from the Ancient Mediterranean collections. The conversation continues in the gallery. The following week, we will pick up where we left off, and continue the reading, taking another step forward in the same direction. At the end of six weeks, you will have, session by session, read Book I, Pericles’ Funeral Oration and the Melian Dialogue in their entirety, as well as examined closely at least six important artifacts that pertain to the general themes that arise in the Peloponnesian War.  Read more about what a Symposium seminar is like HERE.

Meeting Duration: 2 hours.

Seminar: 1 hour 15 minutes – 6:30-7:45

Museum: 45 minutes – 8-8:45

Recommended Texts:  The Thomas Hobbes translation OR The Landmark Thucydides

Maximum Group Size: 18

Seminar Leader: David Hunter Saussy

Cost: Free  and open to the public. Registration required. Interested? Click Here To Register Now! 

Suggested Minimum Donation: $5 per session. Refreshments will be served.

Course Description: 

What was the real cause of the Peloponessian War, the “war like no other”, which tore apart the Hellenic Greek world and led to the eventual defeat of Athens? In this course, we will engage in a close reading and discussion of the central arguments of  Thucydides’ great work, “The Peloponnesian War” – Book I, “Pericles Funeral Oration” and the “Melian Dialogue”.  You will find that the richness of this work warrants slow reading and the sort of care that we will give it in our discussions.  The aim of this course is to give participants a solid beginning in a process of self-study that can be completed by folks in their own leisure.

Thucydides was convinced that learning an answer to this question about the real cause would serve as a lesson for all time. It is as though the conflict might reveal something about the limits and nature of our political reality, something that would be important for people in all times and places to understand as well as possible. This book has been hailed as a completed education in itself, and while Thucydides is not a political philosopher, his reconstruction of speeches by Spartans and Athenians – some of them very moving – helps us decide for ourselves what the real causes of this devastating civil war might have been, and what the implications of this understanding might be. Perhaps there is much to learn for ourselves as we try to make sense of our own world. We will complement our work here with an exploration of one or two select artifacts in the San Antonio Museum of Art pertaining to our theme. 

A “slow” learning culture – in reading, seeing and discussing – rules the spirit of this unique learning opportunity.



Please Note:

Symposium Great Books Institute seeks to discover a pathway of serious adult learning not modeled on the standard of school or academic program. We offer neither traditional classes nor a program, but true “courses” in the root sense of the road, path or way.

The design of this pathway through a great book in relationship with the Museum is dictated by careful attention to the needs of lifelong learning. There are no prerequisites for joining this course besides a love of learning and a desire to take the time for careful reading and discussion. 

Because each meeting begins with a live reading of the text, participants are free to prepare as much or as little as desired prior to meeting. For many adult participants, minimizing or eliminating prep time is an advantage, considering the length of the series. Reading out loud the pre-assigned selection at the beginning of the session places our attention at the same point, and brings the text into fresh attention. The session duration (of one hour fifteen minutes) is just long enough to work hard, but short enough to not feel burdened by a return the following weeks.

The seminar leaders or facilitators at Symposium are experienced and skilled guides – who have clocked in hundreds of hours of purposive discussion on the great books, who are serious about learning and being a caretaker of the quality of the dialectic that ensues in each session. He or she balances inquiry with advocacy, but is not the ‘chief explainer’ of a great book as a traditional teacher or educator might be.  The seminar leader practices silent and attentive listening, and intervenes only when needed. The activity and ownership of the participants in the process of dialectic and learning is essential to the quality of the experience we are offering.

Interested? Register Here! 


January to May 2017 (Past Event)

Ancient Mediterranean History and Culture 

at the San Antonio Museum of Art and Tobin Branch Library

Reading: Herodotus, Histories  Tr. Robert Strassler

Three Seminars on Herodotus @ Tobin Library and  Three Gallery Talks  @ San Antonio Museum of Art [on Greek, Persian and Egyptian artifacts related to Herodotus]

Who were the ancient Greeks? What made them so special ? Herodotus of Helicarnassus can help you answer these questions. In this book is the account of the “300″ Spartans who died (in fact, 299 died) in the pass at Thermopylae in order to forestall the invasion of Persians.  But history for Herodotus is ethnography and anthropology, wonder-working storytelling, geography and geneaology, and not merely the chronicling of facts and events.  By contrasting the Greeks with Egyptians, Persians, and many other cultural groups, the reader is given rich opportunities for reflection on human nature and the nature of human customs and laws, as well the context and character of the growing conflicts between Greeks and Persians, the defeat of the Persians and the rise of Athenian city-state.


*References are to Strassler, Robert B. [Ed.] The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.  A Complete list of readings and artifacts distributed to registrants of this course.

Session 1:

Seminar @ Tobin Library.  Thursday, January 19th,  6-8pm.  Book I; III, 37-38.  Seminar Focus:  What is the relationship between the Hellenes or Greeks and the ‘Barbarian periphery’, East, South and North – Lydian, Egyptian and Scythian?  

Session 2:

Gallery talk @ SAMA. Tuesday, February 7th,  7-9pm
Gallery Talk Focus:    1.1 – 1.5  Origins of the Conflict between the Hellenes and barbarians, 1.26 – 1.94  Croesus; Book 2.1 – 2.98  Egypt, Appendix C: The Account of Egypt: Herodotus Right and Wrong, Appendix J:  Greek Units of Currency, Weight, and Distance

Session 3:

Seminar @ Tobin.  Thursday, March 16th, Tobin 6-8pm:  Reading Focus: Book V, 62-78; VI, 94-140; VII, 1-60, 99-end 

Session 4:

Gallery talk @ SAMA. Tuesday, April 18th,  7-9pm.
Gallery Talk Focus: 5.30 – 6.33  The Ionian Revolt,  Appendix H: The Ionian Revolt, Appendix M: Herodotus on Persia and the Persian Empire, Appendix N:  Hoplite Warfare in Herodotus, Appendix O: The Persian Army in Herodotus

Session 5:

Seminar @ Tobin. Thursday, May 18th, Tobin 6-8pm: Books VIII, IX   Seminar Focus: Contrasting figures: Themistocles vs Xerxes, (VIII), Pausanius vs. Mardonius (IX)–8.40 – 8. 120  Battle of Salamis, 9.25 – 9.89  Battle of Plataea

Session 6:

Gallery talk @ SAMA  Tuesday, May 30th SAMA 7-9pm Gallery Talk Focus:  6.94 – 6.120  The Marathon Campaign, 7.178 – 7.238  Battle of Thermopylae, 8.40 – 8. 120  Battle of Salamis, 9.25 – 9.89  Battle of Plataea, Appendix R: The Size of Xerxes’ Expeditionary Force,Appendix S: Trireme Warfare in Herodotus

 Photo Courtesy of The SAN ANTONIO MUSEUM OF ART

Black-figure cup
Greek (Attic), ca. 500 BC
Attributed to the Leafless Group
Terracotta, h. 4 5/8 in. (11.7 cm); diam. 14 5/8 in. (37.2 cm)
Gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr., 86.134.50)


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iSymposium: A Serious Reader's Pathway Through Four Western Classics - Plato's Republic, Dante's Divine Comedy, Rousseau's Emile and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Starting Winter 2018.
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