Thucydides was a fifth-century Greek and eyewitness to the long struggle (431-404 B.C.) for dominance between the warring city-states of Athens and Sparta. De bello Peloponnesiaco
, or The History of the Peloponnesian War
, his contemporary account of events, is one of the earliest works of historical writing. The Italian humanist, Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457), was commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to make this translation from Greek. It was the first Latin edition of Thucydides and the only one produced during the fifteenth century.
In 430 B.C., just at the beginning of the war, Athens suffered an outbreak of plague which severely demoralized its citizens and killed the city's leader, Pericles. Thucydides himself was afflicted but survived and left a vivid description of the effects of the plague.