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  • Das Meer als Versprechen: Bedeutung und Funktion von Seeherrschaft bei Thukydidesby Hans Kopp
  • Stephan Renker
Das Meer als Versprechen: Bedeutung und Funktion von Seeherrschaft bei Thukydides. By hans kopp. Volume 1 of Thoukydideia Series. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017. 303 pp. €90.00 (hardcover).

Thucydides (ca. 450–390 b.c.), in his History of the Peloponnesian War, written as a "possession for ever," brought forth the famous argument that the rise of Athens and the resulting fear of the Spartans made a conflict between the two city states inevitable. This idea has recently attracted the attention of a wider audience due to Graham Allison's successful book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides' Trap?(2017). Since then, interest in Thucydides has spread across the globe, beyond scholars of classics. It is thus timely that the German publishing house Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht has decided to devote an entire monograph series with the title THOUKYDIDEIA, Studies in Thucydidesto the most influential of ancient Greek historians. Hans Kopp's book, the revised and updated version of a 2015 Berlin dissertation, is the first volume of this new series. In this monograph, the author tries to investigate how far the concept of thalassocracy ( Seeherrschaft) emerges as a literary phenomenon in Thucydides' Peloponnesian Warand what its concrete historical function is (pp. 11–12). [End Page 423]

The structure of Kopp's work is very clear and straightforward. In chapter 1 ("Einleitung"; pp. 9–49) he formulates the goals and methods of his investigation and provides the reader with an extensive and very helpful literature review. With the underlying argument that the concept of Seeherrschaftmanifests itself on various layers of the text, Kopp investigates this idea in the following chapters through several lenses. Thus, in chapter 2 ("Die Archäologie"; pp. 51–73), he directs the focus to one of the most prominent and programmatic parts of Thucydides' work, the so-called "Archaeology" (Th. 1.2–19). Here, Thucydides supplies the reader with an overview of Greece's early history from Minos to his own times. Kopp argues reasonably that naval power is not only a source of economic and political stability but conversely also of domination and suppression (pp. 67–68). In chapter 3 ("Leitworte"; pp. 75–110) he analyzes the usage of various characteristic lexemes and phrasings denoting the concept of thalassocracy. In this section Kopp puts a strong emphasis on the formula τò τῆς ταλάσσης κράτος, which in his opinion defies a static meaning but is rather dependent on context and thus characterized by a dramatic "Schicksal" (p. 47). Chapter 4 (" Logoiund Erga"; pp. 111–207) focuses on the dialectics between speeches ( λó γοι) and deeds ( ἔργα), with a strong emphasis on Pericles' speeches. Here, Kopp contrasts Pericles' claim that the Athenians have reached an uncontested position of power over the sea with various incidents where this power was challenged or weakened (most prominently during the Sicilian expedition). In chapter 5 ("Die Funktion von Seeherrschaft bei Thukydides"; pp. 209–236) Kopp pays attention to the function of the argument of thalassocracy in the valedictory passage on Pericles (Th. 2.65), in which Thucydides—according to Kopp—praises his capacities in managing the Athenian naval forces during the Peloponnesian War. The last chapter ("Fazit: Thukydides im Kontext"; pp. 237–272) sums up the results of the study and puts them into the contemporary discourse of Könnens-Bewusstsein(a term coined by Christian Meier) of the fifth century. A bibliography (pp. 273–290) and two indices ("Namen, Orte, Sachen" and "Quellen" pp. 291–303) conclude the book.

This is a timely book and Kopp shows that he is capable of managing an eclectic wealth of secondary literature with great composure. His arguments are clear and concise. In addition, the author displays complete command of the original Greek, which allows him to work with great philological accuracy instead of relying on translations. This book should be recommended to anyone who is interested in the history of ancient naval power in general and the thought world of Thucydides in particular. The reviewer hopes that [End Page 424]the book will reach a wide audience, not only among German readers, but also internationally.

Stephan Renker...


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