Are allies costly or beneficial to a great power? Do they enhance its security or drag it into peripheral and unnecessary wars? What are the advantages and risks of a maritime power? Does a sea power need allies more than a land power? How should it compete with a continental rival? What is the impact of a prolonged conflict on an already fragile social order of a polity? These questions characterize our current debates on U.S. strategy, but they are not new. More than two thousand years ago, Thucydides described with great lucidity the strategic challenges facing a maritime great power, Athens – and they are remarkably relevant to today’s U.S. security dilemmas and strategic choices.

This online course, led by Professor Jakub Grygiel, will focus on Thucydides’ masterpiece, The Peloponnesian War, and examine a series of strategic challenges, and responses to them. Fellows will read extended excerpts from Thucydides, focusing on key speeches and moments in the conflict. The course requires careful reading of the text but is not a history class. Rather, by placing themselves in the position of the Thucydidean characters, students will discuss recurrent principles of strategy and the dilemmas facing leaders.

Images: Thermopylae – Monument of Leonidas by Ava Babili, Flickr | Monument of the Unknown Soldier on Syntagma Square in Athens by Vassilis, Flickr

Jakub Grygiel on Rome’s first emperor, Caesar Augustus


Jakub J. Grygiel

Jakub Grygiel is an Associate Professor at the Catholic University of America. From 2017–18, he was a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State. His most recent book is Return of the Barbarians: Confronting Non-State Actors from Ancient Rome to the Present.

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