Tag Archives: stateofnature

Hobbes and Thucydides

Hobbes on the state of nature:

In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short (Leviathan, chapter 13).

Thucydides on the early state of Greece, something that Hobbes translated:

It appears, for example, that the country now called Hellas had no settled population in ancient times; instead there was a series of migrations, as the various tribes, being under the constant pressure of invaders who were stronger than they were, were always prepared to abandon their own territory. There was no commerce, and no safe communication either by land or sea; the use they made of their land was limited to the production of necessities; they had no surplus left over for capital, and no regular system of agriculture, since they lacked the protection of fortifications and at any moment an invade might appear and take their land away from them (1.2, Warner’s translation).

For discussion, see James Jan Sullivan in A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides.