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Title: Thucydides : father of game theory
Author: Dal Borgo, Maria Manuela Wagner
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 9951
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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In this thesis, I interpret Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War utilizing models of game theory to distil the abstract strategic structures that Thucydides illuminates. It is possible by close analysis of the narrative to extract an implicit descriptive theory embedded in the narrative, never made explicit but a consistent presence wherever characters, groups and nations interact. Game theory in its informal structure (i.e. without deploying the full formal apparatus of mathematics) offers a valuable extension to narratology, a narrative theory already successfully introduced into Classical studies. The thesis studies Thucydides’ conception of the agon (contest/competition) in its basic framework from simple strategic and dynamic games to games with boundedly rational players. I argue that Thucydides describes a tropology of interaction by inferring motivations from observed actions. Chapter 1 and 2 discuss Thucydides’ method of reading the minds of historical agents to explore historical causation in simultaneous move and sequential move environments, respectively. Chapter 3 discusses agents with incomplete information and also agents who take irrational decisions. Thucydides allows room in his narrative for players to miscalculate or make conjectures when faced with an interactive environment. He writes history as a description of similar types of potentially recurrent events and sequences linked by a causal chain, whose outcomes are only probabilistically predictable. Whilst analysing different types of interactions, the study aims to explore different game theoretic models based on Thucydides’ tropology of interaction, in order to identify in the final chapter new research directions for rational actor models as well as stochastic environments for the benefit of political science.
Supervisor: Carey, Chris Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available