Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Steinbock, Bernd K.


Thucydides’ detailed description of the Athenian plague, which is estimated to have killed from a quarter to a third of Athens’ population[1]and led to the breakdown of several social norms, has been approached from a variety of scholarly perspectives, yet its potential as a trauma narrative is still underexplored.

Drawing on comparative evidence from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, such as Katherine Anne Porter’s fictionalized account Pale Horse, Pale Rider, this thesis examines the emotive and commemorative functions of Thucydides’ plague episode through the lens of trauma theory. By combining elements of personal narrative, literature, and historiography, Thucydides rendered the story of the Athenian plague into an aesthetic representation and thus provides a collective memorialization of the forgotten victims. I suggest that his vivid description (ἐνάργεια) of the immense suffering enabled his readers to empathetically engage with the traumatic event and thus work through their own trauma.

[1]Mitchell-Boyask (2008) 1.

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.