There is a problem with writing a history of a seminal moment in the ancient world when the major source for it, Thucydides, is (with his near contemporary Herodotus) credited with inventing the discipline of history as the West understands it. His extraordinarily penetrating and persuasive understanding of why humans speak and react as they do in times of high stress has tempted many to use him as a model for analysing similar situations, especially military ones, in the modern world. As soon as one does that, it becomes all too easy for the ancient world to fall out of focus.
Take, for example, the moment in 416 BC when Athens sent ambassadors to the small island of Melos, demanding that its inhabitants either come over to Athens’s side in its long struggle against Sparta (known to Athenians as the Peloponnesian War) or be destroyed. Thucydides famously turned the discussion into