Amidst an interlude in the fierce struggle for power between the two dominant Greek poleis, Athens and Sparta, the Peloponnesian war, there was unrest. Despite the Peace of Nicias, belligerence between the two states did not cease, but rather took on a new face. While careful to remain within the parameters set several years before in the peace treaty, Athens moved cautiously, but aggressively in establishing alliances, albeit coerced, and strengthening its empire. It was at this juncture that it made its move toward securing the small, weak island-state of Melos, which in its neutral independence suggested danger to the Athenian empire. In a move not of fairness, but of survival, Athens offered the Melians an ultimatum: to be subjugated
If Sparta really was willing to attack Athens, an 'apparent' ally, then their relationship must have been weak and forced. Was Sparta jealous of Athens' wealth and power? Did they feel threatened by the Athenians sudden harshness against their own 'allies'? Or it could have been a combination of reasons. Thucydides didn't help either when his pro-Athenian feelings got the better of him, 'this was a time when Sparta was particularly friendly to Athens because of the courage displayed by Athens against the Persians.'
Athens and Sparta were both dominant powers in ancient Greece. However, a legendary rivalry existed between the two. When Athens ended its alliance with Corcyra in 433 B.C. and began to surround Potidaea, it threatened Corinth’s position. Sparta feared that Athens was becoming too powerful and tried to avert war. The Spartans believed that peace was possible if the Athenians would revoke measures against Sparta's ally, Megara. The Athenian leader, Pericles, refused to concur with this because Sparta and Athens had earlier agreed that conflicts would be solved by negotiation. If the Athenians would yield to Sparta's request, they would in fact be accepting Sparta’s orders. This was unacceptable, and as a result, war broke out. Athens and its Delian League were attacked by Sparta and its Peloponnesian League. Diodorus mentions that the Spartans did not just declare war, but sought additional support from Persia.
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
Since the speech that clearly persuaded the Spartans took the form of the Athenian Thesis, one could reasonably conclude that the Spartans were moved by the motives of fear, honor, or benifit. Thus, this case as a whole lends credence to the thesis itself. Interestingly, if the Spartans truly acted according to the Athenian Thesis, this would imply that Sparta has the same tendency for domination as the Athenians. This could suggest that, after assembling alliances out of fear of a growing Athens, Sparta would progress to maintain its hold on states out of honor and, finally, out of interest, thereby mirroring Athens’ past. Whether Thucydides believed in the Athenian Thesis and intended the persuasiveness of this speech to be a historical case that supported the Athenian Thesis’ soundness is uncertain. However, no one can deny that the reasons which persuaded the Spartans to act followed the form of the thesis and that Sparta seems to have acted from
In the fourth year of the Peloponnesian War, the city of Mytilene, revolts against Athens and conspires with Sparta and asks for their assistance. However, these plans for revolt are reported to Athens, who send an army against Mytilene. While under siege, Mytilene’s democratic faction gives up and decides to surrender to Athens. When the Athenian leaders first meet to decide about the fate of the Mytilene people, they decree that all the Mytilene men be put to death, while the women and children be enslaved. The following day, the Athenians decide to put all Mytilene’s to death not just the guilty. However, this time an assembly is called to persuade Athenian officials to reconsider their death penalty. During this assembly, there are two speeches given; one by Cleon and the other by Diodotus; these will be explored in detail in the following paragraphs. As I read Thucydides’ summary, the two speeches serve as contrasts, illustrating the difference between bad and good arguments. Through the following themes/conclusions that will be explored/applied in the paper, this paper argues that Diodotus, not Cleon, makes the better argument: i) Cleon uses the language of un-justice, punishment, irrationality and extreme emotions, which makes his disposition unreasonable; ii) Diodotus uses the language of rationality, justice and intellect which form the basis of a strong argument.
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
The two dominating Greek city states, Sparta and Athens, have there own strengths that make them the strongest throughout Greece. Sparta is "located in the southeastern Peloponnesus, in an area known as Laconia" (Spielvogel 53). Athens is on the peninsula of Attica (Geography). Sparta is know for their immense military might (Spartan Military). Athens is known better for their "leading naval force in Greece" (Women of the Ancient World). Their government systems were very different but very effective. Each Greek state was able to conquer a lot of land using different tactics. This brings up the thought that every country or state could be effective if all the people supported the cause. Political correctness however tends to breed idiots. With this being said, unenforced laws leads people to start thinking that they can get away with whatever they want or better yet, defy the lawful order of an officer. This can than become deadly and spread, until it cripples the system and a new one takes over. What does this new system believe in? Are they idea 's that are realistic? Or are they the idea 's of tree-hugging hippies who thinks everyone is going to "play ball." Well little does the tree-hugging hippie know, is that "The Man" who was "keeping him down" actually did know what he was talking about. Maybe the thirty plus years of military experience wasn 't complete garbage. Maybe it was keeping him and his family safe from the psychopaths and terrorists that
Archidamus was a Spartan king who presided over a nation that prized military success and courage, specifically andreas, or manly courage, above all else. In the beginning of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian war we find him trying to convince the Spartan war council not to wage war against Athens. Spartans were concerned for their reputation as Corcyrans had been mocking them and their apparent cowardice because of their inability to make quick decisions. King Archidamus argued that succumbing to the idea that war would be a good idea, and that Spartan victory was undoubtable was ignorant and would end up harming
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
Athens and Sparta are two rivals of ancient Greece. Athenians and Spartans lived their lives different, and they valued different things. Athenians and Spartans had an Assembly, whose members were elected by the people. Sparta were ruled by two kings, those two kings either ruled until they were died or forced out of office. Athens were ruled by archons, they were elected annually. Athens in the birthplace of democracy. Spartans focused on war and obedience. Young boys were trained to be warriors. Young women were trained to be mothers and warriors. Athenians could get good education and could pursue several kinds of arts or sciences. For many years Spartan armies provided much defense of the Greek lands. The Spartans bravery and courage at the “Battle of Thermopylae” during the Persians Wars, inspired all of Greece to fight back with all their might against the invading Persians. Athenians and Spartans fought side by side in the “Battle of Platea”, which ended the Persians invasions of Greece. Spartans provided assistance for Greece when necessary. Athenians wanted to control land around them. That led to war between all the Greeks, this was the “Peloponnesian War”. After many years of fighting the Spartans won. In Greek spirit Sparta refused to burn the city of Athens. The culture and spirit of Athens was allowed to live on, as long as Athenians no longer desired to rule Greek. Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Sparta is known as Sparti in Greek. Sparta is
When Sparta gave its ultimatum to Athens, Pericles was more than happy to oblige and go to war. He embodies Athenian arrogance and overzealousness. Pericles speaks to the Athenian assembly convincing them to go to war because according to him, they cannot lose. Pericles explains how Sparta doesn’t have the same financial advantages that Athens does and how Athens has a far superior navy. According to Pericles, the best strategy is to use that to Athens’ advantage, leaving Attica exposed by only attacking and defending the sea were they have an advantage. Pericles finishes of by saying that Athens possesses all of Sparta’s strengths and none of its weaknesses, and Athens must fight so that future generations will have an Athens that is as good as ever.
For the realization of the strategy in the first part of the war, Athens used all the available elements of national power. The Athens’s strategy, viewed from today 's standpoint, was based on a comprehensive approach to the defense of vital national interests. In other words, military assets were not the only instrument, because the economy played an important role. The economy, in the context of the Athens strategy, should be viewed in a dual role: as a source of power sufficient to bear the cost of long-term warfare and as a means of influencing other actors in the environment, especially Sparta. Sufficient wealth and money enabled Athenians not to defend Aticca and avoid a direct confrontation with superior Spartan forces. The Athens strategy partly rested on the calculation that the costs of the war would provoke the rebellion of Spartan 's allies and also make Sparta give up his intentions. The primary role of their strong Navy was to secure the free trade of the Athens Empire in order to obtain the necessary wealth for the functioning of the state and the payment of the costs of war. In an offensive role, the Navy successfully attacked the coastal areas under the control of Sparta and its
“But we trust that the gods may grant us fortune as good as yours, since we are just men fighting against unjust, and that what we want in power will be made up by the alliance of the Lacedaemonians” (Thucydides 270). The Melians should have acted sensibly instead of being naïve and submit to the imperial power seeing that the odds were against them. The Athenians give them a choice, but they decided to act irrational and respond emotively. “They underestimated Athens’ military power, judging the issue by the clouded eye of volition rather than calculations based on security and followed the human tendency to back their desires with uncritical hope and use of sovereign reason only to reject what they find unpalatable” (Bosworth 36).