As it turns out, it might have been fate that Thrasybulus’s trial ended so quickly, for Athens had much bigger things to worry about. Over the past few weeks, the Persian Empire had attacked a few surrounding city-states, notably Sparta. It was of utmost importance that we discussed what we were going to do about these most unfortunate events. After discussing the problem at hand, it was apparent the members of the Assembly had different ideas of what was the best approach. The Socratics decided Athens needed to worry about itself first and gather its strength before entering yet another war. The Oligarchs agreed that we were not equipped with the proper resources needed to go to war. Many of the citizens also voiced their opinions and did not want to go to war. However, the same citizens voiced concern on lack of defenses if attacked. The Democrats both agreed that it would be wise to try and rebuild some sort of military in case it was needed. However, the Socratics and Oligarchs continued to argue that Athens did not have the means to do so at this time and that building an army would only alarm Sparta and cause them to attack us. Eventually, the Sailor approached the stand with a possible solution to the problem at hand. He suggested that we send out tribute missions to collect money from surrounding city-states as we did before. This money could then be used to fund our military or wall reconstruction. When concern about the safety of such missions was voiced, it
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Without being either the ones who made this law or the first to apply it after it was laid down, we applied it as one in existence...and one that will endure for all time,” (Thuc., V, 105). The Athenians see no injustice in doing simply as their nature impels them to do. In fact, the Athenians see their offer of subjugation to the Melian people as more than reasonable, “What we will demonstrate is that we are here to help our empire and that there is salvation for your city in what we are now about to say, since we hope to rule over you without trouble and let both parties benefit as you are saved,” (Thuc., V, 91). Following their belief in doing what is necessary to strengthen themselves, even at the expense of others, is what brings Athens to Melos.
In his ambitions to conquer Sicily and then move on to Italy and the Peloponnesus, he also shows this thirst.12 The Athenians recognized Alcibiades's brilliance and ruthlessness so they elected Nicias as a general to "[temper] his rashness."13 Alcibiades resorted to violence to gain glory, Pericles, on the other hand, attempted to prolong peace and settle matters with diplomacy. He once tried to persuade the cities to send delegates to meet in Athens to discuss restorations of temples destroyed during the war with Persia, but nothing came of his plan because of Spartan opposition.14 He even went so far as to bribe the chief magistrates of Sparta to buy time to prepare for war, which he knew was inevitable.15
“Life at Sparta in several ways resembled that of a military camp,” (Powell 2001, 219). Many laws that Lycurgus proposed revolved around the benefit of the Spartan military. These implementations set by Lycurgus do not give any benefit to the democratic changes occurring in society at the time.
Action from necessity is a constantly recurring theme in Thucydides’ The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War. A sentiment used to explain the growth of the Athenian Empire which some Athenians espoused to an assembly at Sparta best quantifies necessity, “. . . we were necessarily compelled at first to advance the hegemony to where it is—especially by fear, and then by honor, and later by benefit.” (Selected Passages 1.75.3). This claim, referred to as the Athenian Thesis, is used to advance the two following implications: all states act with the motivations of fear, honor and interest and no one can condemn a state for doing so. The Athenian Thesis influences the way many of the Athenian elite structure their patterns of reasoning in both noticeable and subtle ways.
“The Restoration of the Athenian Empire” Our walls are crumbling and our fleet is minute. We here in Athens are unable to collect tribute from other city-states and are often in threat of being attacked. Our fleet is defenseless and weak. The Democratic fraction, propose that we spend our time and hard earned money on the rebuilding of our walls and fleet. That way Athens can dangerously collect tributes from other Greek city-states. The Democrats also would like to commence in hazardous military voyages with our insubstantial navy. Hoping the result brings forth great rewards.
A reading of Thucydides’, Pericles’ Funeral Oration and The Melian Dialogue uncovers both contrasting and comparable viewpoints on Athenian politics, power, aims of war, and empire. Thucydides presents two differing characteristics of Athens, one as the civilizer in Pericles’ funeral oration and the other as an tyrant in the Melian dialogue. In the funeral oration delivered by Pericles during the first year of the war, the Athenian leader emphasizes the idealized personal image of the Athenians in regard to their constitution and good character. Pericles goes on to praise the Athenian democratic institution of Athens that contributes to their cities greatness; in Pericles’s own words, “The Athenian administration favors the many instead of few… they afford equal justice to all of their differences” (112, 2.37). This quote emphasizes the good character of the Athens’ to coax and encourage the Athenians to preserve and better their great empire into the future. On the other hand, in the Melian dialogue, this notion of justice and equality is irrelevant; one, because Athens compared to Melos, is the stronger of the two and thus, is more powerful. Further, Athens, will continue to acquire absolute power and build its empire by conquering Melos and whomever else stands in its way. Through Pericles’ funeral oration and the Melian dialogue, the following conclusions/themes will demonstrate both the changing and somewhat stable nature of Athenian policy with regards to empire,
It is remarkable how timeless the Speech of Archidamus is. One could easily imagine the Spartan King were speaking to a modern occupied territory, itching for a revolt. King Archidamus urges the Spartans to head caution when entering war with Athens. He has “seen too many wars” [pg 25, 80] The battles he has witnessed in his lifetime have swayed him of any naive fascination with war. He has learned that violence begets violence, so one should only enter a battle they are prepared to win. Archidamus explains that Athens is stronger in terms of wealth, military might and political power. If the Spartans take the offensive route under these circumstances, they will surely loose both in combat and in terms of public relations. [pg 26, 81] Furthermore, Archidamus explains later that Athens had agreed to mediation, making any fight that Sparta were to start an unlawful preemptive attack. [pg 28, 85] The King assures his people he is not blind to their suffering, he just envisions better ways of ending it. [pg 26, 82] One of these methods would be to create partnerships with other nations who would lend armed forces and capital to the cause. To be done in tandem with confederation would be the accumulation of Sparta’s assets. Archidamus predicts that under these circumstances, Athens could be motivated to surrender. Under the very different circumstances from which he is speaking, the King pushes to avoid war at all costs citing that “complaints can be resolved, whether they are
In 431 B.C., even before the Peloponnesian War, Athens’ strength compared to other Greek polises was evident. Athens had islands, a powerful, a well-trained navy, and one, if not the best, general at the time: Pericles. Pericles says in his speech that, “war is inevitable,” but in fact the war was preventable (72). Even with all of the military strengths and assets that Athenians had afforded to them, they chose to be merciful to the Peloponnesians who were in no shape to go to war. They did not have the experience, money, manpower, or means to participate in a lengthy war and Pericles makes the citizens aware of this (70). Pericles is both modest and humble for choosing to point out these facts which in turn helps the Athenians see the potential
Argos received an excuse from the Delphic oracle to keep it from battle (Hdt. VII.148-152), and Messene was “so corrupted that [it] even tried to prevent Sparta’s attempts to come to Greece’s aid” (Plato, 692d). Other city-states avoided participation in the wars as well. The oracle also excused Crete from fighting (Hdt. VII.169), and the tyrant Gelon of Syracuse refused to let his state help Greece’s cause (Brunt 158-162). If these poleis had chosen to fight, the Persians may have been intimidated by the large Greek forces and avoided war. The Greeks instead presented an image of a nation torn by cowardice, thereby making the Persians more confident in attacking Greece. This lack of unity among the city-states created some
In order to question and reassess Thrasymachus’ view of justice, in this essay, I will first bring up cases for Thrasymachus being accused of being contradictory and inconsistent in his view for justice. For the second part of the essay, I will provide a counterargument in order to prove Thrasymachus’ consistency followed by a discussion on Socrates’ own contradiction in regards to his account of the city.
The book written by Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, contains two controversial debates between distinguished speakers of Athens. The two corresponding sides produce convincing arguments which can be taken as if produced as an honest opinion or out of self-interest. The two debates must be analyzed separately in order to conclude which one and which side was speaking out of honest opinion or self-interest, as well as which speakers are similar to each other in their approach to the situation.
Thucydides himself was an Athenian, a first-hand witness and participant in many of the key political events during the earlier years of the Delian League. In combination with his ‘inquiries’ into the true events leading to the Peloponnesian war Thucydides is perhaps a more reliable source than some. However he admits himself to recording speeches in the ‘general sense’ of what was said, and more dubiously as what in his opinion was ‘demanded of them’ by
Firstly, despite the victory over the Persian wars, Athens arrogantly continued on with naval wars towards the Mediterranean Sea. The victorious naval war city-state formed a new pact of allies on the Island of Delos called the Delian League. The league was led by Athens and it’s members were obligated to pay their dues by contributing a ship or silver money, thus, a league treasury was created. Subsequently, a conflict was apparent between one of the alliance member, the Naxos military, and the Delian League. The Naxos military wanted to annul itself from the league commencing a war between them.
The book, The Bad Citizen in Classical Athens, by Matthew R. Christ, considers the manifestations of bad citizenship in Athens that had previously not been as closely considered by other scholars. Scholars often have a romantic view that the citizens of classical Athens aligned their interests with those of the state. Christ argues against the notion and he argues that some citizens diverged from this view in pursuit of their own individual interests. The primary examples brought forth by Christ are evasion of draft, cowardice on the battlefield, and evasion of war tax and liturgy.