Jowett’s Thucydides: A corpus-based analysis of translation as political intervention

Author: Henry Jones

in Translation Studies



Abstract: Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War is a key text in the classical Greek canon and an important source of insights into the structures and tensions at the heart of ancient Athenian democracy. Consequently, modern interpretations of his analysis have repeatedly played a major role in shaping debates on the viability and desirability of democratic rule. This paper aims to build on previous discussion of Benjamin Jowett’s 1881 translation of Thucydides by applying a comparative corpus-based methodology to explore how this translator’s own personal politics shaped his re-presentation of this text. The analysis reveals a striking emphasis on the position and activity of democratic leaders throughout Jowett’s version, strongly consistent with the ideology of leadership that he developed during his career as Master of Balliol College, Oxford.