The ancient historian I would like to meet and discuss history with is Thucydides. I believe he could be considered the Western world’s first true military historian and strategic thinker. Thucydides expanded some of the techniques of Herodotus to write the first real narrative of war not as the act of gods, but the messy and chaotic result of men and politics. His notion that cities/countries go to war over “fear, honor and interest” has certainly stood the test of time.
I find his History of the Peloponnesian Wars to be a timeless work on the interaction of politics and war, sort of the ancient world’s On War and I find it remarkable that a book written over 2500 years ago is still studied by the U.S. military today.
A couple of questions I would ask him are:
* Why did the book stop before the war was over? Did you see the handwriting on the wall and not want to chronicle the fall of your native Athens?
* Die you think Athens might have prevailed if Pericles had not died so early in the war?
* How did you decide that wars are primarily fought for “fear, honor, and interest”?
I would tell him that history is still trying to teach the same lessons he was-warfare is the chief experience of the state, never to be undertaken lightly. I would also tell him that military historiography owes a great deal to his work and even though warfare has changed remarkably from his time, the nature of war in really no different for a Marine in Afghanistan than it was for a hoplite from Sparta.