Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War

A Great Books Discussion Course

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Hubris and Empire: Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War

In his justly celebrated History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides presents a detailed, contemporary account of the fall of the Athenian Empire. Since ancient times, generations of readers have used Thucydides’ analysis of Athens — a city that valued equality, freedom, individualism, innovation, and success through merit — as a lens to think about the strengths and weaknesses of democracy more generally. This course will continue this venerable tradition by using Thucydides’ masterpiece as a means of delving into the social and political dynamics of class conflict and international power politics while examining the role of public opinion, religious convictions, and values in the success or failure of a democratic society.






David Shiner

David Shiner is an retired professor at Shimer College (now the Shimer Great Brooks School at North Central College), where he taught for 40 years and served several terms as Dean of the College. Throughout his teaching career, Mr. Shiner has helped intellectually curious individuals master classic works from all areas of liberal studies — including philosophy, literature, music, sociology and biology — and he regularly receives outstanding course evaluations that emphasize both his understanding of the texts and his ability to bring out the best in students. Mr. Shiner brings to his classes a love of ideas and a penchant for helping adults from all walks of life develop their ability to subject every text to careful critical scrutiny.

Course #: 



  • 7 Weeks


  • 1 hr 45 min


  • Online


US$ 235


“Early Bird” reduced tuition (US$ 195) available through May 21, 2018.

Section A(Course #: 180601A)

Monday, 6:00 PM CT
Jun 04, 2018 to Jul 30, 2018

Section B(Course #: 180601B)

Wednesday, 6:00 PM CT
Jun 06, 2018 to Aug 01, 2018

Course Documents

Please Note

General Information

Like all Great Discourses discussion courses, this live, interactive online discussion course is designed to facilitate the collaborative close readings of classics in ways that help participants transform the challenging into the exhilarating and elevating through “Aha!” moments of profound discovery. Participation requires an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device. The course is open to adults from all walks of life (and to mature teens with parental consent) and does not require any specialized prior knowledge or experience. Students do a modest amount of reading homework in preparation for each live online class session, but there are no papers, no tests and no grades. The readings and discussion are in English.


Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War (c. 404 BCE).
Recommended Edition: The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, Free Press, 1998. ISBN: 978-0684827902.
View/Buy at: Amazon (US), Amazon (CA), Amazon (UK), Amazon (IN), Amazon (AU)

Please Note

You are responsible for obtaining your own copy of each book used in this discussion course. Most books are available in a number of editions, in both print and digital formats. All editions are acceptable unless otherwise noted, although print format texts are generally recommended. If you do choose to use a digital text, try to access it on a device other than the one you will using to connect to the online classroom.

Additional Readings

This course may have additional short readings that will be used during the first class session as well as during other class sessions. These will be available to you on the dedicated course page at the Great Discourses Collaboratory Online Course Center once you have completed your registration for this course.


To get the most out of this discussion course, you will have to do a modest amount of reading homework in between class sessions — usually about two hours of reading for each hour of class time. No homework is required before the first class session (although some technical and general preparation is required).

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What students are saying

I absolutely enjoy having David Shiner as my instructor. He asks poignant questions that help keep class discussions flowing. [...] He is very good at helping us find the heart of the matter and helping us unfold our ideas.

David Shiner is a master at the Socratic method.

David Shiner is clear, concise, and helpful. He allows us to explore the material at our own pace, and aids our understanding when we are confused. I greatly appreciated his style in this class.

David Shiner’s method of facilitating class is very effective. His way of eliciting thoughts about concepts allows for a greater understanding of the text and the implications of the text. I feel he holds students to his expectations very well, and I appreciate these high expectations. They are always, fair, and conducive to a better class experience.