If I ever have any spare time ever again (at the moment it doesn’t feel like that’s especially likely), I have something new to add to the list of things I shall do, besides experimenting with some exciting new beer flavours (I’m strongly inclined to see what I can do with rosemary) and having another go at making pastrami: it is high time that someone tried approaching Thucydides and his history from the perspective of his daughter. It’s probably not widely known that he even had a daughter, and I can’t find any evidence that we know her name; it is suggested by several sources that he married a woman of high birth from Thrace (also nameless, as far as I know), hence his connections with the area and financial interests in gold mines, and presumably this marriage produced at least one child. The reason we know anything about this at all is because Marcellinus, the main ancient biographer of Thucydides, mentions that some people thought the daughter was responsible for writing the final book of the History, which was generally felt to be inferior to the rest and hence not by Thucydides at all. Marcellinus dismisses this suggestion without any hesitation:
That it is not his daughter’s is clear. For it is not of the womanly nature or art to imitate such virtue. Furthermore, if such a one should exist, she would be anxious not to be unknown, nor would she have written only that eighth book, but would have left behind many others, bringing to light her nature.
That’s her told: a woman couldn’t possibly have written such a history, and if she had she couldn’t possibly have stayed quiet about it and let her father take the credit.
This seems to open up so many different possibilities, depending on how much anachronism is to be admitted, for countering the pervasive image of Thucydides as the lonely martyr to the truth: the loyal daughter who not only got dragged into exile with him (so one assumes) but continued to support her father’s obsessions to the end; the daughter as interlocutor, putting the case for a different approach to historiography to the extremely masculine, war’n’politics, harsh reality of the nasty world approach of her father. Should we read anything more into the dismissive attitude of Pericles in the Funeral Oration towards the grieving women, told that their duty is to be as little talked of as possible? Was this a deliberate rebuke to his daughter – or a blow for feminist consciousness, subtly revealing the destructive masculine arrogance of Athenian imperialism?
I feel that I like this woman already, and I’ve only just started to imagine her. The crucial question: a short story (I’m torn between Borges and Lorrie Moore as models), or a full-blown novel..?