How to Think About War: An Ancient Guide to Foreign Policy

Why do nations go to war? What are citizens willing to die for? What justifies foreign invasion? And does might always make right? For nearly 2,500 years, students, politicians, political thinkers, and military leaders have read the eloquent and shrewd speeches in Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War for profound insights into military conflict, diplomacy, and the behavior of people and countries in times of crisis. How to Think about War presents the most influential and compelling of these speeches in an elegant new translation by classicist Johanna Hanink, accompanied by an enlightening introduction, informative headnotes, and the original Greek on facing pages. The result is an ideally accessible introduction to Thucydides’s long and challenging History.

“This slim, elegant book punches well above its weight, with striking, lucid translations of key speeches from Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War. The artfully curated ancient texts within these pages speak with prescience and complexity to the precarious moment in which we now live. Johanna Hanink’s How to Think about War is essential reading for anyone who wishes to know how great military powers fall, democracies implode, and empires end.”—Bryan Doerries, author of The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today

“Hanink’s accessible translation and commentary cut an easy path through the dense Greek of the famous speeches in Thucydides’s History, avoiding the snare of reading them at face value. The result is a compelling illustration of the danger of using Thucydides to defend contemporary political decisions.”—Donna Zuckerberg, author of Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age

“This invaluable collection presents the most vivid, thought-provoking, and important speeches from Thucydides’s work, which have inspired the analysis of politics, war, and international relations ever since. Johanna Hanink’s new translation makes them fully accessible to a modern audience, and her excellent notes both set them in their ancient context and draw out their significance for modern debates.”—Neville Morley, author of Classics: Why It Matters


The Classical Debt: Greek Antiquity in an Era of Austerity

Democracy, philosophy, individualism, mathematics, fine art—all of these foundations of ‘Western civilization’ were supposedly laid by the ancient Greeks. Today the country of Greece continues (yes, still continues) to face grim crises born of modernity, yet antiquity plays an enormous role in shaping how we understand them. The Classical Debt traces the deep history of the tendency to view contemporary Greece through the lens of its ancient past. It also argues that controversy about ancient Greece masks deeper anxieties about the essence of Western civilization. What values lay at its core, and who deserves a seat at the table? Does Greece belong in Europe, or does it simply belong to the European West? Antiquity has had a remarkably strong hand in framing these questions. Should ancient history really still matter so much today?

“Hanink helps us see modern Greece through the eyes of a classicist, and ancient Greece through the eyes of a keen observer of modern Greece—a wonderful and winning combination. The Classical Debt is a clever meditation on if, and why, antiquity still matters.” —Mary Beard, author of the New York Times bestseller SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

“An immensely well-written and provocative book, Johanna Hanink’s The Classical Debt: Greek Antiquity in an Era of Austerity tightly weaves together the threads of past and present like an ancient Greek warp-weighted loom.” —Louie Dean Valencia-García, EuropeNow

The Classical Debt is a valuable book that traces the history of the concept of ancient Greece as the cradle of western civilization, ranging from its origins of this notion to the impact that it has had on contemporary perceptions of Greece… It deserves to be read by anyone who may have once questioned or marveled at the alleged wonder that was Greece.”—Charlotte Van Regenmortel, Economic History Review

“Cleverly connects Western Europe’s investment in ancient Greek origins with the decade-old Greek debt crisis.” —A. E. Stallings, Wall Street Journal

“Hanink’s new book depicts the pernicious intertwining of Classics with Orientalism during the worst of the Greek economic crisis. Antigone’s determination to violate unjust laws suddenly acquires a fresh interpretation in our post-Brexit Europe.” —Yanis Varoufakis

“One of the most striking new books about the legacy of Greco-Roman antiquity.” —Emily Wilson, New Statesman


Creative Lives in Classical Antiquity: Poets, Artists and Biography

[Volume co-edited with Richard Fletcher] What happened when creative biographers took on especially creative subjects (poets, artists and others) in Greek and Roman antiquity? Creative Lives in Classical Antiquity examines how the biographical traditions of ancient poets and artists parallel the creative processes of biographers themselves, both within antiquity and beyond.  Work in the last decades has emphasized the likely fictionality of nearly all of the ancient evidence about the lives of poets, as well as of other artists and intellectuals; this book now sets out to show what we might nevertheless still do with the rich surviving testimony for ‘creative lives’—and the evidence that those traditions still shape how we narrate modern lives too.


Lycurgan Athens and the Making of Classical Tragedy

Through a series of interdisciplinary studies this book argues that the Athenians themselves invented the notion of ‘classical’ tragedy just a few generations after the city's defeat in the Peloponnesian War. In the third quarter of the fourth century BC, and specifically during the ‘Lycurgan Era’ (338–322 BC), a number of measures were taken in Athens to affirm to the Greek world that the achievement of tragedy was owed to the unique character of the city. By means of rhetoric, architecture, inscriptions, statues, archives and even legislation, the ‘classical’ tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) and their plays came to be presented as both the products and vital embodiments of an idealized Athenian past.

“Hanink writes in a lucid and engaging style, bringing together the disparate evidential strands, archaeological, epigraphical and literary, into a persuasive synthesis, and handling deftly the balance and interplay between the political and literary aspects of her topic ... the book makes a very valuable, well-rounded, contribution to our understanding of the literary, political and monumental aspects of post-fifth-century tragedy in general and its role in the Lycurgan policy agenda in particular; and the lively, well-crafted and accessible style in which it is written will make it attractive to teachers and students as well as useful to researchers.” —Stephen Lambert, Bryn Mawr Classical Review