Greece in the 4th century is less well known and was, in many ways, less glamorous than the age of Perikles, opening as it did with the death of Socrates, colored by the fall of Athenian hegemony in the Aegean, and marred by political strife and violence in Athens in the wake of defeat in the Peloponnesian War of the previous century. Moreover, historical sources on the 4th Century Hellenes do not rise to the same level of excellence as that achieved by Thucydides, and the period is noted for a decline in both quantity and quality of literary output, though that same sort of qualitative judgement in antiquity may have in itself lead to the paucity of surviving texts.
For all of that, however, the 4th century features numerous characters and historical turns of great interest: the renewal of Athenian democracy under Thrasybulus; the crushing defeat of the Spartans by the Theban Epaminondas at Leuctra; and of course the legendary campaigns of Alexander the Great in Persia and beyond. Despite its general obscurity, the 4th century offers much of interest to the student or reader in history.
To the curious, some of the following secondary sources may be worth checking out:
- Buck, Robert J., Boiotia and the Boiotian League: 423-371 B. C. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. 1994.
- Buckler, John. The Theban Hegemony, 371-362 B.C. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1980.
- Hanson, Victor Davis. The Soul of Battle. New York: the Free Press. 1999.
- Tritle, Lawrence A. ed. The Greek World in the Fourth Century. New York: Routledge. 1997.
For those wanting primary sources, the foremost for following up and completing Thucydides is Xenophon. For Alexander and his campaigns see Arrian as well as Plutarch. While for the bird’s eye view Diodorus Siculus may prove useful and informative, though beware of dating issues.
- Arrian, The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander,
New York: Anchor Books. 2012.
- Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica. English & Greek. Vol. 7. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1933.
- Plutarch. “Alexander.” The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Vols. 1 & 2. New York: The Modern Library. 1992.
- Plutarch. ” Pelopidas .” The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Vols. 1 & 2. New York: The Modern Library. 1992.
- Xenophon. The Landmark Xenophon’s Hellenika. New York: Anchor Books. 2010.