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10. Athenian Theses

Realism as the Modern Simplicity

We have examined the differences between Thucydides’ Athenians at Melos and Herodotus’s Athenians after Salamis and before Plataia. The Athenian attack upon the Melians has long been recognized as a climax of Athenian ruthlessness, and the History clearly invites us (e.g., Thuc. 2.65) to understand that Athens has undergone a steady moral decline throughout the war. Nevertheless, it is also important to recognize that this qualitative change reflects a quantitative intensification of trends among the Athenians. Before the war even begins, the Corinthians paint a striking picture of the insatiable energy and acquisitiveness of the Athenians (1.68–71), and as I argued in chapter 4, the debate between Corcyra and Corinth (1.31–45) serves, in part, to dramatize the degree to which Athens had drifted away from the old values inherent in aristocratic exchange and alliances.

Let us consider further the way in which the Athenians theorize their own position. We might note at the outset that the most famous remarks of the Athenians have acquired a conventional name, “the Athenian thesis.” At Thucydides 1.76, in their first speech in the History, they argue that fear, honor, and advantage drive all people and that those who act in accordance with these values simply pursue their innate “human nature.” This triad of motivations in particular deeply impressed Hobbes (who published a translation of Thucydides’ History), and they reappear in the much-studied thirteenth chapter of Leviathan as “competition,” “diffidence,” and “glory.” The Athenian thesis has attracted the attention of political theorists ever since.[1] But if the Athenian thesis has attracted support from Hobbes onward, the “realism” of Thucydides’ Athenians proves deeply problematic. Thucydides offers us a real world that can be as elusive as that sketched by such recent critics of realism as Richard Ashley and James Der Derian.[2]

Harsh and disturbing as the Athenians may be at times, they nevertheless do have a positive, if rather bleak, project. The Athenians at Sparta, Perikles, Kleon, Diodotos, the Athenian commissioners at Melos, Nikias, Alkibiades, and Euphemos all, in differing ways, struggle to articulate a new framework that not only explains but in its own manner justifies domination and empire. Different as they may be, these speakers share an arresting candor that, as Herman Strasburger demonstrated,[3] stands in sharp contrast to the way in which the Athenians normally seem to have represented themselves. But if Thucydides’ Athenians give up the more extravagant claims that other Athenians regularly make, they formulate a new, ostensibly more defensible, but, in some ways, far bolder position. “It is above all by the amazing frankness with which they defend the Athenian acquisition of empire that they reveal Athenian power, for only the most powerful can afford to utter the principles which they utter.” [4] These Athenians seek to place themselves beyond reproach for hypocrisy—no one can charge them with actions that they do not themselves acknowledge. They ostentatiously claim to eschew any “false consciousness” by which the powerful mystify their privileges. They attempt to transcend ideology and confront what we might term “the real world.”

Thucydides’ Athenians shrewdly exploit this candor to balance old values with contemporary rationalism. If the brutality of the times “annihilated and laughed to scorn that ancient simplicity of which nobility so largely consists” (Thuc. 3.83.1), and if Thucydides’ Athenians may abandon that ostentatious generosity that prose authors called megalophrosunê or megalopsuchia, they nevertheless lay claim to an honesty—a modern simplicity—with which no member of the Greek elite could find logical fault. Kallikles in the Gorgias and Thrasymachos in the Republic assert that “might is right,” [5] but their values were not, as I argued in chapter 3, as innovative as some have thought. In the archaic Greek world, where the good were expected to “harm their enemies and help their friends,” a clear line needed to be drawn between friends and enemies, and against such a background Athenian candor emerges as a sterling quality. Thucydides’ Athenians, in an act of moral triage, salvage what they can from the old, giving up claims to generosity but retaining a strong claim to that honesty that the archaic system demanded.

Thucydides’ speakers are acutely sensitive to the pitfalls of manifest hypocrisy. The Athenians at Sparta briefly state that “openly lawless pursuit of greed” excites relatively less resentment than domination mixed with the appearance of fairness (Thuc. 1.77.3). Later in the History, Brasidas—the one Spartan whose intelligence and far-sighted self-interest Thucydides singles out for praise—expresses the dangers that the Athenians, from their opening speech in book 1 to Euphemos in book 6, so skillfully avoid. The Spartans would not, he insists, come as liberators and then enslave the Greeks:

This would be heavier than the rule (archê) of a foreign people; and we Spartans instead of receiving charis for our toils (ponoi) should, instead of honor (timê) or reputation (doxa), receive blame (aitia). We would show the charges with which we make war against the Athenians to be more hateful if we incurred them than if we had never made any pretensions to aretê. [6] It is more shameful (aischion) for persons of character (axiôma) to take what they covet by specious deceit (apatê euprepês) than by open violence (bia emphanês). The latter attacks according to its judgment of the strength that fortune has given it, and the former through plotting (epiboulê) an unjust (adikos) intelligence.

Here Brasidas alludes to a criticism commonly leveled against the Athenians: they had come as liberators from Persia and had then exploited their position to become masters as harsh and unjust as the Persians. The Athenians at Sparta, however, make no such heroic claims to virtue. They not only acknowledge their imperial status; they even accept, at least for the sake of argument, the allied criticism that they take advantage of their position so that the law—supposedly common to all—from time to time serves their interests more than it should (Thuc. 1.77.1–3). They claim not that they are perfect, but that they could be a great deal worse and that they deserve credit for the privileges of power that they forgo.

Thucydides’ Athenians have had a grim appeal for political realists and classicists alike. They successfully defend themselves without the traditional euphemisms and self-serving fictions with which dominant groups—and not only in archaic Greece—so often strive to transform their selfish interests into high-minded ideals. The Athenians’ position has historically seemed natural to many readers of Thucydides. As Eduard Schwartz put it, for example, “The Athenians defend themselves not before Sparta but before the court of rational political thought.” [6] De Romilly, however, has been perhaps the most eloquent expositor of the scientific Thucydides. In her eyes, Thucydides transcends the particular conditions of his age and begins to work with the unchanging truths of the human condition. For de Romilly, Thucydides is a kind of heroic realist and pioneering antecedent to the modern, scientific mind:

Thucydides is here dealing with a whole line of political development which no longer belongs to the present and which no longer involves any choice; it is shown as made up of good and bad elements which are indissolubly linked together by the very necessity of this development. Thucydides takes note of this development and explains it; and, in his impartial, theoretician’s mind, the particular case brings out the general law. This scientific detachment, on which Thucydides’ impartiality is based, enables him to understand, and consequently to justify, without prejudice and without illusions. The defense of Athenian imperialism thus rests upon a profoundly realistic attitude. And, at the same time, as the analysis rises to consider the very nature of Athenian imperialism as a particular experience given to the scientist to study, so the philosophical ideas begin to appear. Realism becomes a moral attitude, and, as the facts stand out in their eternal essence, we begin to see, beyond the individual whose acts are described, the naked principles of justice and force.[7]

This is an excellent representation of Thucydides and a brilliant exposition of the traditional humanist, who shares with a kindred intellect of the past a common view. As Thucydides’ “analysis rises to consider the very nature of Athenian imperialism,” de Romilly rises to appreciate Thucydides.

Much of the best Thucydidean scholarship in the past century has constituted a reaction against the idea of a detached Thucydides. Almost all readers now acknowledge that the dispassionate language of Thucydides constitutes a self-conscious, minimalist style designed to bring out the pathos of events. Connor has perhaps been the most prominent exponent of this view, but he has hardly been alone.[8] But if Connor has argued that “objectivity was for Thucydides not a principle or a goal but an authorial stance, a device, a mode by which the author presented himself to the reader,” [9] he has also taken for granted a crucial Athenian assumption. Thus he contrasts the “old-fashioned and rather naive ideas” of the Melians with the Athenian dialogue as “the culmination of the hard-headed realism so often encountered in Athenian argumentation.” [10] Whatever the morality of the Athenian position, they have a more sophisticated view of events.

Certainly, in this, Connor aptly describes a motivation that drives Thucydides’ Athenians. They attempt to rise above the ideology, and to see the world “as it really is.” The Athenians brush mere verbal constructs aside and base their worldview not on some ludicrous self-serving morality tale, but on the objective reality to which all humans are equally subject. For them, power is neither good nor bad, but an end that they feel compelled to pursue.[11] They do not abandon so much as transcend the morality of the archaic world. In their cool appraisal of the situation, they lay claim to the higher moral position of the nineteenth-century scientist, the neoclassical economist, or the old-fashioned Marxist revolutionary. They are, in a sense, Plato’s parents, already groping for some position from which an absolute truth is visible.

But, of course, objectivity as a goal has proven a good deal less compelling than it was even a generation ago. The reaction against the objective Thucydides has tended to focus upon the compassion and emotion that Thucydides’ text, with its disingenuous appearance of neutrality, evokes in so many of its readers.[12] The issue before us is not, however, whether Thucydides is objective, but whether his Athenians have somehow attained a higher level of understanding that frees them from the self-serving rhetoric and the half-truths to which their adversaries are prone.

Ideology is not, however, a fog that prevents us from gaining unmediated access to the “real world.” Events simply cannot “speak for themselves,” because the reporters inevitably select—and thus give shape to—their material.[13] Many have commented on the irony that Athens, the progressive sea power, should have lost and that the obsolescent Sparta should emerge as victor, but the Athenian intellectual adventure is perhaps even more bitter. Thucydides’ Athenians give up all of their claims to virtue and traditional morality in return for a purer, unassailable position. The single greatest Athenian virtue is that they reject cheap, self-serving rhetoric. The irony is that they do not, of course, escape ideology. They simply replace one ideology with another. As Althusser has argued, ideologies may come and go, but ideology itself has no history. Ideology has no outside. If we argue that they have escaped ideology and that we have finally and fully perceived the world as it really is, then we have, in effect, constructed a new ideological position.

We will begin by articulating the model that the Athenians sketch in their problematic speech at Sparta in book 1. Harsh and disturbing as their remarks may be, they nevertheless represent a serious intellectual attempt to understand the position of domination in human affairs. For Thucydides’ Athenians, as for Thucydides himself, domination is an inevitable part of a universal condition. Suggestions to the contrary are, for the Athenians, idle propaganda and merit contempt. Nevertheless, Thucydides’ Athenians do not simply give in to the unrestrained hunger for power. They seek to establish a space within which limited but tangible moral behavior is possible. Turning archaic Greek morality on its head, they argue that they, as masters, are models of moderation and that those who seek freedom from human domination are deluded, carried away by their excessive good fortune.

There are further problems with the Athenian position to explore here. Both Euphemos’s speech at Kamarina and the Athenian argument with the Melians demonstrate the limits of rational self-interest: they indicate in each case, but from opposite positions, that although human behavior may always be in some sense rational, there is often more than one rational response to a given situation. In this, the rationalizing Athenians, the first fully developed political realists in surviving European tradition, dramatize the ambiguities of that faith in fundamental human rationality with which their successors wrestle to this day. Thucydides’ Athenians argue, first, that each party pursues its best interest and, second, that the strong dominate the weak, but neither assumption in practice proves to be valid. Self-interest is—as the Herodotean Kroisos had already observed—ambiguous. The powerful take risks that even they should recognize as foolhardy, and the weak do not always give way to the strong.

The Melian Dialogue is a complex document with many intertwined themes, but at least one major point, I believe, deserves more attention than it has received. The Athenians must kill the Melians because the Melians are living proof that the rule of the strong is not universal law. Force can kill, but it cannot dominate over the long term. Domination requires complicity between ruler and ruled, for the ruled can almost always, in the final analysis, evade domination through suicidal resistance. Thucydides never makes it quite clear whether we are to view the Melians as fools or tragic heroes,[14] but his Melians are important for a very different reason. The Melians prove that all human beings do not accept the calculus of power, and the Athenians, I argue, annihilate the Melians as a corrupt scientist might destroy a troubling experiment. But if the Melians are liquidated, their resistance and refusal to accept Athens’s logic remain inscribed in Thucydides’ “possession for all time.”

The Athenians at Sparta: Old Victories, New Lessons

Consider the first speech that Thucydides attributes to his Athenians. The scene is a congress of the Peloponnesian League at Sparta. A furious Corinthian delegation has just demanded immediate action against Athens from Sparta and its allies. The Corinthians show themselves to be deeply enraged, and they demand war in the most stinging possible terms. Thucydides makes it clear that the Athenians do not want war with Sparta—they choose to speak, “thinking that the Spartans would as a result of their arguments be more inclined toward inaction than toward war” (Thuc. 1.72.1). The anonymous delegates are in an ideal position to make an Athenian case for peace and to capitalize on the aggressive, scornful remarks of the Corinthians. A discreetly flattering speech (such as that which the Spartans at 4.17–20 in fact make to the Athenians) might have been ideal.

But the Athenians are not flattering. They are not even discreet. Almost all of those who have commented upon the Athenian speech have remarked on its harsh tone. The Athenian speakers exhibit “aggressiveness” and are “tactless.” [15] “The effect is a devastating portrayal of the Athenians as self-confident to the point of arrogance, immune to pressure, certain that they were in control of everything.” [16] “Provocative” is a favorite term in analyses of this speech. “The difficulty of their speech (besides the lack of any reference to it by Archidamos) lies in its tenor. Taken by itself it would seem to have been purposely provocative.… One would have expected the Spartans to have been sooner stirred to anger by the provocative irony of the Athenians than to shame by the psogos [blame] of the Corinthians.” [17] “The most difficult problem of all has been to decide on the purpose of the speech, for it has seemed to many to be deliberately provocative and calculated to bring on the war, yet Thucydides clearly believed the contrary to be true.” [18] “The speech was provocative to the Spartans, but it was not meant by the Athenians to be provocative.” [19]

Complex and problematic as their speech may be, the Athenians at Sparta have also attracted their share of admiration. A. E. Raubitschek saw in this Athenian speech “a moral justification of Athenian Democracy. A comparison of the Athenian speech at Sparta with the speeches of the Athenian generals at Melos and of Euphemus at Kamarina shows clearly the difference between the cynicism of an Alkibiades and the idealism of a Pericles. This means that we possess in the speech of the Athenians at Sparta an authentic statement on the glory and virtue of the Athenian Empire in the days of Pericles.” [20] Recently, Hartmut Erbse has argued that this speech lays the moral groundwork for the Funeral Oration: “The clever linking of power and justice gave to the Athenians of the Periklean age the right in their own eyes to feel that they were the “school of Hellas” (cf. 2.41.1: tês Hellados paideusis) and to point to their own laws as exemplary (2.37.1).” [21] But although such judgments capture much of the spirit of this speech, they blunt the sharp edge of its reasoning. These Athenians appropriate to themselves certain traditional positions even as they subvert the basic assumptions out of which these positions evolved. In a few brief paragraphs, the Athenians present an analysis of human behavior that renders impossible the kind of limited, euphemized hegemony that the majority of Greek states were traditionally willing to accept.[22]

Two complementary strategies shape the Athenian argument. First, the style the Athenians adopt subtly reinforces their overt message: the Athenians are bluff, even tactless, but they thus affect an ingenuous pose. Because they obviously do not aim to please, they invite an added measure of credence. Second, the Athenians argue that their city is indeed powerful and that its strength is no self-serving illusion or fragile cloud of mystifications. Their emphasis upon strength and Athens’s ability to assert control over the external world inverts the normative analysis of Spartan power that Herodotus offered in the opening of his Histories. Herodotus pointedly structures his account to show that Lykourgos’s reforms were not, in themselves, sufficient to make Sparta the preeminent power in Greece. The sanction of Delphi, the limitations on Spartan ambitions, and the associated complicity of the rest of the Greek world were all essential to Sparta’s position, because this position rested as much upon the tacit consent of other Greek states as it did upon Spartan power. Thucydides’ Athenians, by contrast, may depend upon their allies for strength, but they have allies and empire because of their unique character—their empire is an effect rather than a cause. The Athenians thus differ from Herodotus’s Spartans even as they anticipate the Spartans of Xenophon, whose power and prestige radiate outward from their dynamic way of life. Herodotus’s Sparta required the guidance of Delphi to establish itself.[23] Athens defied the Persians, both alone at Marathon and in partnership with the other Greeks during Xerxes’ invasion. Thucydides’ Athenians thus methodically ignore the assumptions that Herodotus so carefully worked into his introduction of Sparta.[24]

The Athenians open their speech with a curt statement that the Peloponnesians have no jurisdiction over them (Thuc. 1.73.1). The Athenians assert that they are not speaking in their own defence, but seek only to prevent the Spartans from acting too hastily. This argument reappears at the conclusion of the speech (1.78) and plays to the caution that the Corinthians have just vilified (1.68–71, esp. 70) and that Archidamos would in the following speech defend (1.80–86, esp. 84). The Athenians proceed to introduce the praise of their city in particularly confrontational language:

The story shall be told less as a paraitêsis than as a testimony and demonstration about the kind of polis with which this contest of yours shall take place if you do not plan well.

This is a harsh statement, because it frames the situation in extreme terms, leaves no doubt that the Athenians resent the discussion, and brusquely suggests that Sparta should back off. The term paraitêsis means “request,” but it is quite a strong word: people seek a paraitêsis only from someone who has them at their mercy.[25] If the Athenians were offering a paraitêsis, such a role would imply a position of powerlessness—as if they had been called on the carpet by their Peloponnesian masters. More diplomatic speakers might have stressed the at least titular friendship between Athenians and Peloponnesians and sought to maintain the fiction of amicable relations. These Athenians instead shift directly from confrontational remarks about their supposed weakness to threats. The Persian Wars are proof that Athens is a formidable city. A struggle between Athens and Sparta could take place only if the Spartans do not properly analyze this evidence and thus “do not plan well.”

Even when the Athenians locate in the Persian Wars the ultimate paradigm of Athenian worth (Thuc. 1.73.2), they affect a no-nonsense tone. Conventional as references to Marathon and Salamis may have been, Thucydides’ Athenians elsewhere pass quickly over, or even mock, such boasts (5.89, 6.83.2). Even at Sparta, when they expand upon this theme at greater length than anywhere else in the History, they cannot help apologizing for what they admit to be a hackneyed claim: “As for the Persian Wars and all the things that you yourselves already know, even though we ourselves are sick of dragging it out, nevertheless it is necessary to discuss them again” (1.73). After almost fifty years, everyone in Greece must have been tired of hearing the Athenians praise their own valor at Marathon and Salamis. Bluntness is one of the features that defines Athenian rhetoric in Thucydides, and the Athenians open this section by admitting the groans, spoken or silent, that this well-worn argument would provoke.

But such bluntness is, of course, a studied pose, for in wielding it the speaker implicitly claims a certain honesty and invites trust. If we are so tactless and confrontational, the Athenians thus suggest, then surely you can take our arguments at face value. In fact, Athenian candor can, as I will argue in discussing the speech of Euphemos, be profoundly deceptive. The Athenians are most subtly manipulative when they acknowledge moral complaints against them and claim that they have nothing to hide. In book 1, the Athenians imply that they are straightforward even as they give the old argument a nontraditional slant.

The Athenians quickly move on to their second and main thesis: their city is “worthy of consideration” (axia logou). But although many scholars have expressed surprise at the tone of the speech, virtually none have remarked upon its perhaps even more unconventional argument. Athenian self-praise may have been common enough, and the Athenians clearly loved to dilate upon their successes against the Persians, but Thucydides’ Athenians trample upon conventions as heavily as Aeschylus’ Agamemnon does upon propriety when he steps out onto his purple robe. They affect to direct against themselves a mixture of “realism” and the same gruffness that they directed against Sparta. From the very start of this speech, the Athenians have as little interest in “fine words” as their counterparts who bar such arguments from the Melian Dialogue (Thuc. 5.89). These Athenians attribute their valor in the Persian Wars to advantage rather than to any more glorious ideal. “When we took action,” they continue at 1.73.2, “risks were run for advantage (ôphelia).” Since the Athenians took part with the Spartans in “the actual work” (to ergon) and since their actions “were of some advantage” (ei ti ôphelei), they deserve part of the “verbal reputation” (logos). Thucydides’ speakers subordinate language to the “real world” of erga and tangible advantage.

The Athenians continue pointing to past ôphelia with one hand while they shake their rhetorical fist with the other. They defeated the Persians at Marathon (Thuc. 1.73.4), but, more important, they played the pivotal central role at Salamis, which, they argue, was the decisive battle of the war (1.73.4–5). In elaborating on their contributions (1.74.1), they expand upon the theme of ôphelia, “concrete advantage,” and boast that they provided “the three most advantageous things” (ôphelimôtata) for the victory: the greatest number of ships, the most intelligent (sunetôtatos) leader, and the most unhesitating enthusiasm (prothumia aoknotatê). They adduce these factors to support their general argument: “We declare that you have not provided greater advantage (ôphelêsai) to us than you have yourselves encountered.” The material power, cleverness, and aggressive courage of the Athenians are important because they are profitable.

But this sleight of hand between debts of the past and threats for the immediate future distracts our attention from a fundamental omission. De Romilly, for example, found the measured self-praise of the Athenians so compelling and so close to her own taste that she did not realize that Thucydides’ Athenians fundamentally transform their self-eulogy. In Thucydides, the Persian Wars are not relevant because the Athenians showed themselves to be, like the Spartans, masters of complex aristocratic values, which combine both symbolism with martial prowess. The Persian Wars are important because they are past proof of permanent Athenian valor. Sparta should avoid war because previous experience shows that Athens would be a formidable opponent. But by insisting that the war was fought for ôphelia, material advantage, they lay an at best limited claim to “moral superiority.” They do not represent their formidable performance as a heroic or grand gesture.[26]

The Athenian rejection of fair words conforms so closely to the conventions of political realism that it is hard to appreciate how daring their approach is.[27] Thucydides’ Athenians are bold in their restraint. The conventional claims that they do not make speak loudly by their absence. I have already discussed the extreme and perhaps pointed contrast between the Athenian response to Persian overtures for peace (Hdt. 8.143–144)—with its devotion to an idealized Hellas—and the Athenian arguments in the Melian Dialogue, but the contrast with Herodotus’s Athenians is already strong in this, the first Athenian speech in Thucydides. In answering Xerxes, the Athenians speak boldly and without reserve, asserting that they will never make peace with Xerxes and that they will trust in the aid of their gods and heroes (Hdt. 8.143.2). The reply that Herodotus’s Athenians direct to the Spartans contrasts sharply with the words of their grandchildren in Thucydides:

It was most human (anthrôpeion) that the Spartans should fear our making an agreement with the barbarian. We think that it is an ignoble thing to be afraid, especially since we know the Athenian temper to be such that there is nowhere on earth such store of gold or such territory of surpassing fairness and excellence that the gift of it should prevail upon us to take the Persian part and enslave Hellas.

The appeal to what is human anticipates a major theme in the Athenian speech at Sparta, but the Athenian defence at Sparta reverses the main thrust of the Herodotean passage. In Thucydides, the Athenians declare that all actors in the Persian Wars simply pursued ôphelia. In Herodotus, they grandly reject material reward as a motivation. In Thucydides, money—the accumulated silver of the empire—is the Athenian trump card, and even the Spartan king Archidamos stresses its importance. The “Athenian temper” is restlessly acquisitive. In Herodotus, that very Athenian spirit—Athenian phronêma—makes the Athenians dismiss the value of any material reward, be it precious metals or land, when compared with the freedom of Hellas. Herodotus’s Athenians are willing to lay down their lives to the last person in order to defend the shared customs, sanctuaries, and language that define the Greeks as a people (Hdt. 8.144.2–3). Greek culture is treated as a thing—“reified” in the jargon of academia—and this invention is so real that it becomes more important than gold, land, or even human life. For Thucydides’ Athenians, the balance has shifted entirely. The concepts embedded solely in logoi mean nothing when set beside tangible erga. Culture in Thucydides is almost an epiphenomenon: interesting, attractive, but wholly secondary to harsh material considerations.

Thucydides’ Athenians do indeed boast at 1.75.1 of their “energy (prothumia) and the intelligence of [their] planning (gnômês sunesis)” during the Persian Wars, but they carefully justify this value in utilitarian terms. The term prothumia regularly designates eagerness and energy in war,[28] but the combination of prothumia and intelligence does not constitute a bold claim to “moral superiority,” and these Athenians self-consciously abstain from more presumptuous terms. They tie their boasts to tangible phenomena, as if, paradoxically, their greatest fear were ridicule.

Even in Thucydides, of course, all speakers are not indifferent to moral virtue. The Corinthians and Corcyraeans argue about aretê (Thuc. 1.33.2, 37.2, 37.5), the Mytileneans fret about their own perceived lack of aretê (3.10), and the Spartans speak loftily of aretê when they offer peace (4.19.2, 3).[29] In one crucial section of Thucydides, aretê is a dominant motif: Perikles’ Funeral Oration, in its own peculiarly Thucydidean fashion, presents an idealized Athens. The term aretê defines the excellence of those who died for their city—thus those who fell at Marathon were buried on the spot because they exhibited such transcendent aretê (2.34.5). It is quite fair to say that the aretê of the dead is the explicit theme that dominates and shapes Perikles’ remarks. Twelve times in this one speech, Perikles points to aretê[30]—of the total of forty-three instances of this word in Thucydides’ text, more than one-fourth occur in this one brief passage.

The Athenian speech at Sparta belonged to a very different genre than the Funeral Oration at Athens—the first was part of an actual political debate, while the second belonged to a more literary genre of oratory in which abstractions and high-flown rhetoric were expected. Nevertheless, the two passages are, in fact, connected, for it is the Athenians at Sparta who deliver the praise of Athenian valor against the Persians that by convention belongs to the Funeral Oration. Each year, someone was chosen to eulogize Athens’s war dead, and the few surviving examples indicate that such speeches followed a conventional outline.[31] Many scholars have observed that Thucydides’ Funeral Oration leaves out the Persian Wars (a favorite topic of this ritualized speech), because the Athenians had, as it were, already given this part of the funeral oration when they discussed the Persian Wars at Thucydides 1.73–74. Thucydides thus distributes the usual topics into two places and, in a sense, maintains the integrity of the funeral oration by including the Persian Wars at an earlier stage of his text as a whole.

Nevertheless, the Athenians at Sparta are a far cry from the idealizing Perikles of the Funeral Oration, and in putting the Persian Wars in the mouth of the one rather than the other, Thucydides has done more than change speakers. The Persian Wars should be a clarion instance of Athenian aretê, and thus a demonstration that Athens adhered closely to that shifting combination of courage, generosity, and vainglory that we find in such works as Euripides’ suppliant plays. In Aristophanes’ Clouds, the “Just Argument” declares (Nub. 986) that his values had educated the Marathonomachai, “Marathon Fighters,” and these old-fashioned virtues, associated with the earlier Athens, oppose the “Unjust Argument,” whose harsh, amoral arguments come close to the tone of the Athenians at Sparta. In the Knights, the idealized Demos is restored to the genteel condition that he enjoyed in the days of Aristides and Miltiades (Eq. 1325).

In the surviving funeral orations, the rhetoric is consistent, and it is easy to see how even the speakers could find the praise tiresome. The funeral oration of Lysias, to take one example, laboriously used history to prove that Athenians were andres agathoi, “real men, and good ones too” (Lys. 2.8). At Marathon, the Athenians had shown their aretê as they struggled against tens of thousands of Persians “on behalf of all Greece” (2.20). Because they were andres agathoi, they preferred aretê to personal safety and fought at Marathon (2.25). Salamis had demonstrated the aretê of the Athenians when they defended Greek freedom (2.41, 43). Likewise, in Plato’s Menexenus, the Persian Wars are a paradigm of Athenian aretê (Menex. 239d, 240d). The Persians had already enslaved a great part of the Greek world and wished to conquer the rest, but the Athenians valued Greek freedom more than their own lives (240e). Demosthenes passes more quickly over the Persian Wars, but he is careful to praise the Athenians’ aretê, nobility (eugeneia), and defence of freedom (Dem. 60.12). Marathon, above all, is the paradigmatic proof of Athenian heroism.[32]

By contrast, Thucydides’ Athenians not only disdain to posture about Athenian aretê but base no moral claims on the Persian Wars—insofar as they lay claim to justice, they do so in the second half of the speech. In the first speech of the debate (Thuc. 1.69.1), the Corinthians accuse the Spartans of standing by after the Persian Wars while Athens enslaved the Greeks and stripped them of freedom (eleutheria). The Athenians do not rebut this—they do not even refer to their claim to have helped liberate Greece, and no form of the word “freedom” even appears in their speech. In the final segment of the debate, Sthenelaidas builds his case around what agathoi, “good men,” should and should not do (1.86.1, 2, 3). The Athenians have nothing to say about what is or is not agathos. Thucydides’ Athenians dutifully touch upon the basic facts of the case—Marathon and Salamis, the Persian threat and Athenian contribution—but the spirit with which they portray these events could not be farther from that which we find in Herodotus, the funeral orations, or Aristophanes.

Thucydides’ Athenians thus use history first and foremost to advertise their abiding power. The Persian Wars are important only because of what they reveal about Athenian character, but Athenian character is important only because it explains Athenian strength, and this Athenian strength should deter Spartan action:[33] the Athenians still have the largest navy, and even the Corinthians, their bitterest enemies, have marveled at Athenian energy (e.g., Thuc. 1.70). If Athens had Themistokles in the past, it had Perikles at the start of the war (and, in case this similarity was not obvious, Perikles’ first speech in Thucydides is preceded by the story of Themistokles). Athenian valor remains central but becomes a means rather than an end. Even as they turn to the old, ostensibly tired example of the Persian Wars, the Athenians put their past successes in a very different light than we might expect.

“More Just” Rather Than “Just”: Justice as a Zero-Sum Game

Once the Athenians have finished with the Persian Wars, they do move on to justify their current position, but it would overstate the case to say that “justice” plays in the second part the same central role as “power” does in the first.[34] These Athenians do not celebrate justice like a Theseus or Demophon in the Theater of Dionysos. They demystify and subvert it, defining its limits rather than trumpeting its importance. The Athenians thus, in a sense, complete their inversion of the Herodotean perspective. Where Herodotus, in his introduction of Spartan preeminence, subordinates power to religious sanctions and the restraint of aggression, Thucydides’ Athenians move from the praise of power to weak praise for an optional justice that is a luxury of the strong. Their arguments do not depend upon any transcendent, generalized pattern of behavior. The Athenian speech, in fact, ignores any notion of isonomia, “equality before the law.” The Athenians certainly do not turn to the gods and heroes or seek legitimacy from any supposed service to a greater Hellas (as they do at Hdt. 8.143–144).[35] Instead, they assume that the relative power of, and opportunities that present themselves to, an agent sets definite constraints on its behavior.

First, they did not seek archê but received it when the Spartans gave up the struggle and the allies personally sought Athenian help (Thuc. 1.75.2):[36] “From this very material condition (ergon) we were compelled (katênankasthêmen, i.e., suffered anankê) at the start to convert this [i.e., rule, archê] into the present situation, most of all under the influence of fear, then also of honor (timê), and later also of advantage (ôphelia)” (1.75.3). Fear, presumably of Persia, was the initial cause for the Delian League. Then Athens felt a thirst for public respect, timê, and, in the end, a desire for some concrete advantage took over. Thucydides’ Athenians thus clearly distinguish between symbolic and material rewards for leadership and see the two as distinct stages (at least in the case of Athenian rule).[37] Above all, they argue that their acquisitiveness is natural when human beings find themselves in a position such as that of Athens after the Persian Wars.

After having accounted for the historical development from the Persian Wars to the present, the Athenians move on to the second point. They claim now to be prisoners of history. They assert that no one can be reproached if “they maximize for themselves those things that are expedient concerning the most important risks” (Thuc. 1.75.4). Circumstances thus force the Athenians to maintain their empire. Some of the allies had already revolted and been brought under control by force. Virtually all of the allies hated the Athenians. The Spartans were no longer friendly but suspicious and quarrelsome, and those who revolted attempted to side with the Spartans. “It no longer,” the Athenians conclude, “seemed safe…to relax our grip and incur risk” (1.75.4).

The Athenians go on to set up two foils with which to put their own behavior into perspective. Ultimately, they develop a brilliantly unconventional case against their own allies’ thirst for freedom, but they first take aim at the Spartans themselves. The Athenians deny the Spartans a uniquely selfless position or superiority over the Athenians. They brush aside any fictions about Spartan hegemony and declare flatly: “You, at any rate, Lakedaimonians, exercise leadership, having organized the city-states in the Peloponnese in accordance with what is advantageous to you (to humin ôphelimon)” (Thuc. 1.76.1). The Spartans are no different than the Athenians and would, if they had retained their hêgemonia over the Greeks, have ultimately “been forced either to rule by means of superior force (archein enkratôs) or themselves to incur risk (kinduneuein)”—precisely the same dilemma that the Athenians now face.

The Athenians assert that behavior must be judged relative to the agent’s position and that no large, transcendent scheme of justice is immediately applicable: “We have done nothing shocking (thaumaston) or contrary to human character (ho anthrôpeios tropos)” (Thuc. 1.76.2). The Spartan foil serves to illustrate that Athenian behavior was natural and thus should not provoke outrage or shock—at least from the Spartans. Here, as later in this speech, the Athenians charge that no one can blame them, since they have not fallen below normal standards of human behavior. Unless their accusers can plausibly claim some distinct moral advantage, there are no grounds for complaint. Certainly, if the struggle is between Athens and Sparta, then the contest is pointless, because circumstances would ultimately force the Spartans to behave in the same way as the Athenians, and the Greeks would only replace one master with another.

The Athenians then move on to a third reason for their behavior, the standard Thucydidean principle that we have discussed so far and that the Athenians themselves cite:

We were not indeed the ones who were instigators of such behavior.[38] Rather, it has always been the case that the weaker was constrained by the more powerful (dunatôteros, i.e., person with more dunamis).

The Athenians are the first speakers to introduce this principle into a debate, and they develop it in their first speech to a unique degree. Because they have acted in accordance with this principle, they can claim that they had only “followed their human nature (hê anthrôpeia phusis)” (Thuc. 1.76.3).

Not content with describing what would have happened if Sparta had remained as leader of the Greeks, the Athenians shift their attention to a putative future when Sparta would replace Athens. “Others would, we think, best demonstrate by taking over our position whether we show restraint,” they sourly remark at Thucydides 1.76.4. A few sentences later, they move from barbed suggestion to direct attack:

If you were to succeed in overthrowing us and exercise rule (archê), you would speedily lose the goodwill (eunoia) that fear (deos) of us has given you, if your policy of today is at all to tally with the sample that you gave of it during the brief period of your leadership against the Persians. Not only is your life at home regulated by customs (nomima) incompatible (ameikta) with those of others, but your citizens abroad act neither on these customs nor on those that are recognized by the rest of Hellas.

This criticism attacks the Spartans on several points. As often, Thucydides only introduces a positive emotion so that he can draw an overall negative conclusion.[39] His Athenians grudgingly acknowledge the eunoia, that goodwill that the Spartans enjoy, and even then do so only because they wish to discredit it. The goodwill toward Sparta has no solid foundation but results from a negative quality, deos, the fear that the Greeks have of Athens. There is thus no positive basis for this eunoia or for Sparta’s leadership in Greece. The rest of the paragraph goes on to develop this notion: Sparta had already made itself unpopular even during its brief leadership during the Persian Wars, and it is likely that the Spartans would be as unsuccessful in the future. The Athenians base this observation on a double critique that strikes at two of Sparta’s most prized qualities.

First, the Spartans were renowned for their unique lifestyle and customs, but this lifestyle enjoyed its prestige because it refined and extended values that all Greeks shared. The “Spartan mirage,” as it has been called, exerted its hold on the Greek imagination because many wanted to believe in tough, fearless Greeks for whom physical pleasures and material considerations were unimportant. People admired the Spartans on the grounds that they were different—but different only in the degree to which they supposedly put common values into practice, not in kind. The Spartans were not foreign, but champions of Hellenic values.

The Athenians, however, simply describe the Spartan customs as ameikta tois allois, literally, “not susceptible to being mixed with others.” The Spartans are not the truest exponents of Hellas. They are simply incompatible with their fellows. They are not purified exemplars of the familiar. They are simply “other.” This seems to have been traditionally a sore point. According to Herodotus, the Spartans had, in fact, once been “poor at mixing with outsiders” (Hdt. 1.65.2: xeinoisi aprosmiktoi), a term that contains the same verbal root as ameikta. Herodotus, however, pointedly assigns this quality to Sparta’s benighted past. His praise of the current Sparta contains the prescriptive assumption that the Spartans are now different and able to interact with other Greeks. This praise is thus not just a statement of “fact,” but a condition for Spartan prestige.[40] The Athenians play to the same weakness and deny this prop to Spartan prestige.

Second, consistency of behavior is one of the primary elements that Archidamos stresses in his own praise of the Spartan character. The Spartans operate according to their own rules (Thuc. 1.84). Neither flattery nor scorn can affect the Spartans’ judgment (1.84.2). Their self-control (sôphrosunê) is responsible for their military prowess (1.84.3). Thus Thucydides’ Athenians charge that the Spartans lack consistency. Any Spartan who leaves his country begins to behave in a bizarre fashion that follows no established custom, whether of Sparta or anywhere else in Greece. Consistency is a central virtue in the History: Thucydides’ Perikles bases part of his moral authority on the fact that his resolve is unchanging (1.140.1)—a feature that Kleon attempts to emulate (3.38.1). When the Athenians sneeringly suggest that the Spartans change their behavior as soon as they leave their homeland, they deny them their absolute self-possession and refuse to accept a fundamental element of the Spartan mystique.

If the Athenians disdain to assert any grandiose moral standing, they have caustic things to say about the virtue of the allies, their supposed victims. The Athenians make no attempt to say that the existence of their empire is just, but they do take care to argue that the allies, by traditional standards, are deficient. They turn two principles against their allies: the love of honor and advantage, and the rule of the strong. The Athenians are not Herodotean imperialists, intoxicated by a thirst for expansion. Instead, it is the allies whom love of honor has carried away and who have formed too high an estimate of their position. They resented Athenian rule, even though the Athenians showed restraint and did not rule as harshly as their position would have allowed. They had grown accustomed to dealing with the Athenians on an equal basis (Thuc. 1.77.3: apo tou isou). They did not feel charis for the moderation that the Athenians conferred upon them as a kind of gift-by-restraint. If the Athenians had exercised their greed, then “in that case not even they [i.e., the allies] would have argued that it was not right for the weaker to give way to the strong.” The Athenians bracket this section by repeating their general charge: the allies are angry because they have accepted the illusion that they should deal with the Athenians apo tou isou, “on the basis of equality” (1.77.4).

The Athenians, although untraditional in some respects, nevertheless skillfully exploit traditional prejudices. They obliquely link the discontent of the allies to a typical human failing:

At the hands of the Persians, the allies had endured suffering much more terrible conditions than the present, but our rule (archê) seems to them too harsh. So one would expect (eikotôs): the present (to paron) is always hard on those who are subject (hupêkooi).

The allies are, in fact, better off now than they had been under the Persians, but they are unable to appreciate their true situation, because they have fallen into a moral trap. They “long for what they do not have”—a conventional moral weakness that is often cited in archaic Greek literature[41] and that will, in fact, drive the Athenians on to the disastrous invasion of Sicily. The allies do not appreciate the favor that the Athenians have shown them, and refuse to return Athenian consideration with the charis that it deserves (Thuc. 1.77.3). They have an unbalanced view of their situation, because, the Athenians remark, “they have become accustomed to associating with us on the basis of equality,” whereas the Athenians are in fact far superior to them. In the Mytilenean debate, Kleon picks up on this theme, asserting that favorable Athenian treatment had driven the Mytileneans into hubris (3.39.4, 5). The Athenians at Sparta disdain any such explicitly negative terminology (as they disdain references to their own aretê), but they implicitly attribute hubris to the allies all the same. The allies are morally deficient because they fall into the common trap of misrecognizing the present and longing for what they cannot have. The Athenian argument is a daring mixture of old and new, brilliantly twisting a traditional notion to attack the credibility of their accusers.

The broad material determinism, denial of special qualities to the Spartans, and dismissal of allied moral authority combine to make one central—if obliquely expressed—point. Interstate relations in the archaic world had, as I argued earlier, laid great stress upon the obfuscation of power relations, had emphasized hegemony rather than domination, and had provided a framework in which each state could make the strongest possible claim that it was free and independent. The weak and the strong cooperated to blur the hierarchical relationships that did exist. In this their first speech, the Athenians construct a vision of the world where such polite fictions are impossible.

When the Athenians argue that they have treated their subject allies too well, they impudently apologize for having acted deceptively. They apologize because they have not more fully exploited their disproportionate strength. The Athenians submit themselves to the same rule of law that they impose upon the allies (Thuc. 1.77.1), but this common submission to law confuses the allies and obscures the issue. On the contrary, so the Athenians claim (1.77.2), those who simply base their rule upon the application of violence (biazesthai) have no need of legal proceedings (dikazesthai) and incur less criticism. If the Athenians were to “put aside custom (nomos)” and “openly pursue their greed,” then even the allies would have to agree that the weak must give way to the strong (1.77.3). The outrage that the allies feel is an effect of good treatment by the Athenians, and this present discontent illustrates a general rule of human behavior:

Human beings, it seems, become more angry when they suffer legal wrong (adikoumenoi) than when they are the victims of superior force (biazomenoi). The first looks like the pursuit of greed (to pleonekteisthai) in a relationship of equality (apo tou isou), the second like the application of necessity (anankê) by one more powerful.

The Athenians are so committed to law and so disinclined to base their dealings on the application of force that their allies completely misinterpret their situation. The Athenian empire thus mistakenly allows its allies to think that they are Athens’s equals. If, on the other hand, the Athenians exerted their full force, then the allies would not object, because they would acknowledge the natural rule of the strong.

This is an extraordinary argument. It turns the fictions of the archaic world upside down. The hundreds of jealous, quarrelsome city-states had done everything that they could to maintain their at least putative freedom and autonomy—thus providing a standard according to which the great and the small could be equal. A greater portion of the Greek world had united against Xerxes than at any time since the Trojan War so that the Greeks might preserve this fragmented freedom.

The Athenians, however, blithely state that the appearance of equality causes, rather than solves, problems. The illusion of equality is a “false consciousness” that allows Athens’s subjects to level unjustified criticisms. Of course, Athens is a dominant force—the Athenians have the power to exert control, and, by an almost Newtonian law, their power achieves equilibrium by exerting control over the weak. The over-generous behavior of the Athenians obscures this truth. The best way to win the willing acquiescence of one’s subjects is to be ruthless and always to apply overwhelming force.

But, of course, the Athenians do not pursue this logical course, and, in the end, they establish their own peculiar claim to moral authority. They exploit an old topos about wealth and power. “We received this archê not by force,” they say at Thucydides 1.75.2, “but because you were not willing to remain through the end against the remaining forces of the foreigners and because the allies came to us and themselves asked us to be their hêgemones.” A few sentences later, they conclude this section of their argument by declaring that they had done nothing surprising or unnatural “if we accepted archê that was given to us (didomenê)” (Thuc. 1.76.2).[42] Already in Hesiod, we find the distinction between that which is acquired as a gift and the product of violence: “A gift (dôs) is a good thing, what is taken is evil—a giver (doteira) of death” (WD 356). Solon prays for wealth, but not if it is acquired unjustly (frag. 13.7–8). Only wealth freely given by the gods rests upon a sure foundation (9–10). That which mortals acquire through hubris follows unwillingly. Thucydides’ Athenians, in their secular and devious way, play upon this idea. Their rule was a gift, not the product of conquest or theft. They must hedge a bit about their subsequent behavior and explain why they would not return the gift, but gift it was at the start, and this lends a measure of traditional legitimacy to their possession.

The Athenians fashion for themselves a justification that can be paralleled in the epinician poets—whose mystifications for power these Athenians resolutely avoid. The concept of phthonos, “jealous ill will,” is central to epinician poetry.[43] The victor incurs the enmity and ill will of his small-minded neighbors because of his great good fortune, and the poet attempts to assuage such jealous feelings (thus by begging off resentment the poet simultaneously dramatizes the good fortune that incurs this resentment). Phthonos is not a particularly prominent concept in Thucydides as a whole, but the Athenians cite it twice. They open the justification of their present position by stating that they do not “warrant the phthonos ”that they have acquired (Thuc. 1.75.1: expressed rather torturously by making the adjective epiphthonos part of a rhetorical question). A few sentences later (1.75.5), they turn to the same concept again: minimizing the most important dangers is natural and “does not warrant phthonos ”(anepiphthonos). Phthonos is a small-minded, negative quality. In the ideology of the archaic and classical elite, the great suffer envy and slanders from their inferiors but are expected themselves to be immune to such pusillanimous feelings.[44] In attributing phthonos to their critics they simultaneously accuse them of pettiness. The idea that external circumstances determine human behavior was popular among the sophists (who could use it to justify almost anything—including Helen of Troy), but Thucydides’ Athenians frame this sophistic argument within the traditional rhetoric about phthonos.

Finally, the Athenians do make their own peculiar claim to moral authority. The Athenians portray a world in which certain principles (avoiding dangers, the rule of the powerful) dictate the general outlines of human behavior. But these general outlines still leave a limited space for individual action. Having established this space, the Athenians then make their own peculiar claim to moral authority:

Praise (epainos) is due to all who, following their human nature (anthropeia phusis) to exercise rule (archê) over others, yet are more just (dikaioteroi) than is in accordance with the power (dunamis) at their disposal. Others, we suppose, would, if they took over our position, best demonstrate whether we are showing any moderation (ti metriazomen). Instead, an evil reputation (adoxia) rather than praise (epainos) has accrued to us even from our sense of fairness (to epieikes)—and this is not reasonable (ouk eikotôs).

The Athenians have the dunamis to exert far greater control than they do. They can, so they claim, rule by means of violence, but their sense of fairness or equity (to epieikes) restrains them. They forgo a measure of their power, and this forbearance constitutes a net “gift,” but the Athenians also demand in return to receive corresponding epainos, “praise,” as a countergift. The Athenians do not discard the logic of reciprocity so much as the fictions of equality. Significantly, they do not claim to be “just,” for, in their view, absolute justice is unrealistic. The Athenians claim instead to be “more just” (dikaioteroi) than they need, because they have deviated from a natural course and not allowed their power to reach its natural equilibrium (which would reduce Athens’s allies to a much more abject state). Within this scheme, the Athenians can claim to “exercise moderation” (metriazomen) like the most austere Spartan. They are moderate toward their allies (Thuc. 1.77.2), and if the allies do not recognize this, it is because they fail to make the proper comparisons with other imperial powers.

At the beginning of their speech (Thuc. 1.73.1), the Athenians had declared that they would “show that what we have acquired we do not possess without good reason (apeikotôs),” and the importance of this appeal to reason now becomes clear in the latter portion of the speech. If material conditions dominate human decisions and if there is thus no universal standard of justice, then if justice can be said to exist at all, it constitutes at best a relative concept, a deviation from “natural” behavior (i.e., the tendency of force to dominate weakness). Each action must be evaluated according to the situation and the ordinary limitations of human behavior. Neither the allies nor the Spartans have any claim to special moral authority—their “subject positions,” to use a now popular term, simply differ from that of Athens. The Athenians already lay claim to a degree of “justice” greater than that which they attribute to their opponents. Since the Athenians are already moral equals if not superiors, neither the allies nor the Spartans have any right to criticize the Athenians or to demand more from them.

The Athenian speech thus sketches for justice and moderation an outline that takes into consideration the selfishness inherent in human behavior. There are no heroic standards such as “Greece,” “justice,” or “honor” that are so important that they are worth the highest sacrifice. All agents pursue their interests and avoid catastrophe. But within this framework, the Athenians become again a paradigm of moderation. The Athenians fail to euphemize their position or to make it possible for the allies to accept their situation. The fault, however, lies not with Athenian high-handedness, but with the small-mindedness of the allies. Ideological mystification does not work, but instead of stressing the bluntness of Athenian rule, this speech gives the Athenians credit for sustaining the fictions of equality with their allies even as the Athenians disdain the high rhetoric of other sources. Thucydides systematically takes to pieces the Athens of Theseus and of Demophon that we find in Euripides—there is no charis, no aretê, no grand, unselfish gesture on behalf of Hellas. But Thucydides’ Athenians nevertheless erect from the rubble an empire that is more just than it needs to be. In this world of limited moral expectations, the Athenian empire proves an ongoing theater of Athenian generosity lavished upon unworthy allies.

The Athenian speech at Sparta allows Thucydides to rewrite, in a comparably programmatic section of his own history, several of the major themes in the Kroisos logos that opens Herodotus’s work. First, I have already suggested that Thucydides’ Athenians invert the norms by which Herodotus shapes his account of Spartan power in book 1. Second, in subordinating human behavior to external forces, Thucydides’ Athenians approach a central idea of the Herodotean Solon: “A human being is entirely a product of outside forces” (Thuc. 1.32.4: pan esti anthrôpos sumphorê). Third, this subordination to larger forces in both cases demands that human beings show consideration and understanding for one another, basing their judgments not on some impersonal principle but on the fact that today’s judges may in the future find themselves in a similar position. Thucydides’ Athenians, as we noted above, make constant reference to such “humanist” logic. Likewise, when Kyros learned from Kroisos what Solon had said, he “changed his mind and recognized that he, being also himself a human being, was burning alive another human being who had been no inferior to him in good fortune. He ordered that the fire that was now beginning to burn be extinguished and Kroisos as well as those with Kroisos be brought down from the pyre” (Hdt. 1.86.6).

Herodotus’s Kroisos had, however, played counterpoint to the Kroisos of Bacchylides and to that poet’s positive representation of material wealth.[45] Thucydides’ Athenians, on the other hand, reverse this slant. Herodotus had explicitly condemned Kroisos as an imperialist who imposed tribute on the Greeks (Hdt. 1.6). The Herodotean Kroisos was a straw man, who naively equated “prosperity” and material wealth. Not only was Kroisos unable to answer Solon; he did not even appreciate the crushing rhetorical defeat that he had suffered—until the flames licking at the pyre recall Solon’s words to his mind. The Athenians extracted tribute from the same Greeks, but they are unabashed imperialists, who defend their position with vigor. They avoid the boorish shortsightedness of the Herodotean Kroisos, who naively equated wealth with good fortune, but they also do away with the elegant and skillful postures that the epinician poets fashioned for people such as the Syracusan tyrant Hieron. At the same time, Thucydides’ Athenians extend a process that began in Herodotus. Apollo whisks Bacchylides’ Kroisos off to his eternal paradise among the Hyperboreans. The gods still take an active role in Herodotus (Hdt. 1.87.2, 91.2), but Kroisos’s fate is secular: he lives on as a wise man at the Persian court. Thucydides’ Athenians, however, have no interest in divine intervention at all. Theirs is a world in which humans confront an impersonal and almost Newtonian system of behavior.

Problems in the Data: Euphemos at Kamarina and the Melian Dialogue

Thucydides defies convention—modern and ancient—in selecting materials for his History. Religion, women, and kinship are only some of the elements that Thucydides pushes to the margins of his account. Nevertheless, we can still often see in Thucydides’ own text indications of the things that he has excluded.[46] It is, however, even easier to see in Thucydides’ text the limitations on that realism that his speakers so often espouse and toward which the historian’s voice aspires. Two famous passages demonstrate the fundamental problems for Athenian realism: Euphemos’s speech at Kamarina and the Melian Dialogue. Each dramatizes a major obstacle to one of the realisms that I outlined in chapter 2. Euphemos’s speech reflects the weakness of “scientific realism”: in manipulating the facts, this crafty Athenian unwittingly speaks the truth and in so doing foreshadows, with almost Oedipodean heavy-handedness, the Athenian disaster to come. The Athenians at Melos reach the limits of that “ideological realism” that seeks to charm or cozen obedience through appeals to “sweet reason.” The calculus of self-interest varies depending upon one’s subject position and upon the values that agents bring with them, and the Melians reveal the hollowness of Athenian power.

Before moving on to these two specific debates, let us consider, however, the general problem of language in Thucydides. The Athenians, for example, assume a fundamental distinction between erga, “real things,” and logoi, “words,” with the erga constituting reality and logoi a kind of secondary epiphenomenon.[47] At Corcyra, the “accustomed valuations” of words were changed so that terms for virtues were applied to vices, but this represented a perversion of language: the “real” values remained unchanged, even if the vocabulary was perverted. Or, to put it more succinctly, signifiers may shift, but that which is signified remains untouched.[48]

But speech is an act, and logoi are, of course, themselves erga—that is why the perversion of language at Thucydides 3.82 is so terrible. A hierarchical model that places one above the other is untenable. Thucydides’ narrative itself is logos, and it brilliantly records the influence of spoken logoi upon human events. Much as Thucydides strives to efface himself during the narrative portions of the History, the meanings of erga are not transparent to those who make decisions in the History. Actors in this history perceive erga through the logoi of public debate and private discussion. If the meaning of erga were perfectly transparent, then best interests would be obvious, and Athenian policy, to take one instance, would not have changed after Perikles’ death. Hence, the “objective” historian of the narrative includes a set of speeches that all argue according to similarly idiosyncratic Thucydidean principles. As Cogan argues, the speeches are there because Thucydides saw in debate a true cause for historical events. If we wish to understand why things happen, we have to know what people thought.[49]

Thucydides is acutely aware of the tension between language and the world. The speech of Euphemos at Kamarina gives bitterly ironic expression to the ambiguous ties between the two. The consequences of this ambiguity are profound: the calculus of interest depends upon a clear recognition of what is or is not advantageous. What happens to Athenian ideology, with its emphasis on “realism,” if the real is itself ambiguous? Thucydides’ History is not a celebration of realism but an arena in which many realisms compete for dominance.

At the beginning of the Sicilian campaign, the Syracusan leader Hermokrates attacks Athenian motives in a debate at Kamarina (Thuc. 6.76–80). He excoriates the Athenians as cynical hypocrites, who exploit fine concepts such as affection for their kindred (6.76.1: to suggenes kêdesthai) as a pretext (6.76.2: prophasis) to embroil themselves in Sicilian affairs. The Athenians seek only a fair-seeming justification (6.76.3: aitia euprepês) to conquer Sicily. He uses manifest Athenian hypocrisy as a tool to discredit Athens’s supposedly limited goals in Sicily and to dramatize the danger of Athenian conquest.

Euphemos, the Athenian representative who answers Hermokrates, delivers a speech that parallels—and on a number of occasion echoes—that of the Athenians at Sparta. The two clearly balance one another, and Euphemos’s speech occurs at the outset of the Sicilian expedition, just as the Athenian speech at Sparta precedes the beginning of the first phase of the war.[50]

Hermokrates played directly into Athens’s rhetorical strengths. Whatever words they may actually have expressed, Thucydides’ Athenians have little use for conventional moralizing. With the partial exception of the Funeral Oration, every Athenian speech from the beginning of the History has undercut charges of such naive hypocrisy. Euphemos thus argues that Athens’s interests pit it against Syracuse but prevent it from extending its domination to Sicily:

Besides, for a man who is a turannos or a city-state that exercises rule (archê), nothing is unreasonable if expedient (sumpheron), nor is there anything of personal interest (oikeion) that is not worthy of trust (piston). In all cases one must be a friend or an enemy in accordance at the proper time (meta kairou). Here, in Sicily, it gives us advantage (ôphelei) not if we weaken our friends, but if our enemies become lacking in power (adunatoi, lacking in dunamis) because of the martial strength (rhômê) of our friends. Why doubt this? In Hellas we treat our allies as we find them useful (chrêsimoi).

Euphemos airily dismisses all higher principles. The Athenians are like a turannos, but he argues that this is, in its own way, an advantage to third parties. Athens’s status as turannos polis makes its motives transparent. The Athenians are thus as reliable (or at least predictable) as if they adhered to a traditional code of ethics. What is expedient (sumpheron), what gives advantage (ôphelei), and what is useful (chrêsmon) absolutely constrain Athenian behavior. If something is in their interest, then it is expedient. If something touches their personal interest (oikeion), then they may be relied upon to pursue it. Euphemos perfectly expresses the logic that statesmen of the major powers openly follow. The sentiments expressed above would excite little comment if they appeared in a New York Times news analysis—except that these principles would appear so obvious that the editor would probably excise or shorten them.

The general gap between erga and their proper logoi provides the rhetorical basis for Euphemos’s argument. Objective realities determine actions, and thus the Athenians can be trusted because restraint in Sicily is in their interests. The same argument, however, also renders Euphemos’s words problematic for two reasons. First, he is lying. His admission that Athens is a turannos and pursues its interests may be true, but not in the fashion that he claims. As Strasburger pointed out a generation ago, this kind of false candor is subtle and devious, for the speaker only pretends to “lay all his cards on the table.” [51] Thucydides has left us in no doubt that the Athenians did indeed intend to conquer all of Sicily. Hermokrates’ accusations are completely correct.[52]

Second, Euphemos’s speech is bitterly ironic, for in lying Euphemos really does, at least in Thucydides’ eyes, describe Athens’s best interests. The Athenians would have been much better off if they had in fact the limited goals that Euphemos ascribes to them. Thucydides did not think it impossible for the Athenians to conquer Syracuse (Thuc. 2.65.11), but the post-Periklean Athenians were unable to achieve even this goal, and Perikles’ emphatic advice not to expand in the face of Spartan power was clearly superior (1.144.1, 2.65.7). The Syracusan demagogue Athenagoras ironically has a much clearer vision of Athenian interests than do the Athenians themselves:

Now it is not likely that they would leave the Peloponnesians behind them, and before they have well ended the war in Hellas wantonly come in quest of a new war quite as arduous, in Sicily; indeed, in my judgment, they are only too glad that we do not go and attack them, being so many and such great cities as we are.

The violent and malevolent Athenagoras, who resembles no one so much as Kleon, nevertheless grasps a central principle of Periklean strategy. One of the great ironies that runs throughout Thucydides’ History is that reality is ambiguous and that actors cannot, in fact, determine their own best interest. Even the wisest and most clearheaded planners cannot eliminate risk and anticipate the operation of chance—this is practically the first thing that Perikles says in his opening speech (Thuc. 1.140), and the plague appears as if to bring home the limits of rational planning.[53]

The idealized dominance of erga over logoi is not simply an issue of academic concern to the actors in Thucydides’ History. The calculus of power is not, in fact, natural but proceeds only insofar as participants accept it as natural. The strong can kill, but they cannot dominate without developing a consensus with the weak. In dragging the calculus of power out of the shadows, the Athenians change the system. Euphemisms and fictions limit power and protect the weak. The calculus of power eliminates ambiguities and raises the stakes for strong and weak alike—one is either equal, master, or slave. But this stark system has its own ideological logic that serves the interests of the strong. Resistance is futile. Only fools struggle. True wisdom dictates submission. The strong thus seek the same advantage that they received under a more ambiguous scheme: they provide the weak with a moral (or perhaps transmoral?) argument by which to justify their own submission.

Hence the Melian Dialogue and its prominence. This debate is not simply important because it documents the ruthlessness with which Athenians exercise their power or the worthlessness of Sparta’s commitment to even its closest allies. The debate is important because the Melians simply refuse to make their actions conform to this calculus of power. They face the full wrath of Athenian power, discuss the matter at length with implacably logical Athenians, and simply do not agree. Objective realities may dominate the fictive constructs—the desperate hopes (elpides), the wish for what is noble (to kalon), the fear of shame (aischunê), may well be poor helps. Yet the Melians stubbornly cling to these ideas, fictive constructs though they may be.

And so the Melians must die. The Athenians explain themselves clearly. The hatred of the Melians harms them less than their friendship; for friendship would imply that Athens was unable to crush the Melians, while the hatred of the Melians would be a public demonstration (paradeigma) of Athens’s dunamis to all its subjects (Thuc. 5.95). No one, according to the Athenians, pays any serious attention to justice or issues of morality:

As far as justification (dikaiôma) goes, they think one has as much of it as the other, and that if any maintain their independence, it is because of power (dunamis), and that if we do not molest them, it is because of terror (phobos); so that besides extending our rule (archê) we should gain in security by your subjection; the fact that you are islanders and weaker than others rendering it all the more important that you should not succeed in baffling the masters of the sea.

The whole Greek world fixes its gaze upon Athens. The Athenians on Melos are, as I argued above, not so different from the earlier Athenians who refused the Persian offer of peace before Plataia. Both act on their own immediate behalf, but also, and more important, both seek with their actions to impress their worth upon the Hellenes. The Athenians before Plataia will do anything to serve their objectified vision of Hellas. The Athenians on Melos are equally ready to do anything to advance their archê. The Athenians before Plataia are willing to fight to the last person; their grandchildren at Melos, to the last Melian. The Athenians may have shifted the burden, but they remain equally ruthless.

Most important, the Athenians at Melos may claim to have set aside all moral considerations, but the vision of the world they seek to advance is as artificial and, at least in its extreme form, as much an invention as the idealized Hellas of Herodotus 8.144. The Athenians at Melos claim that they must demonstrate their own strength, but in fact they need to do more. They need to convince the world that the strong really do rule the weak, that the calculus of power is a universal phenomenon, and that in yielding the weak follow a higher natural law. The Athenians have not abandoned morality. They have replaced it with a new, supposedly more sophisticated system to justify their position.

The Melians must die, but not because their defiance implies Athenian weakness—any comparison between Athenian and Melian strength is ludicrous. In this famous section of the History, the Athenians show an unease about their empire and its stability[54]—surprisingly, given that the war has, at least temporarily, come to an end. But the Athenian position has less to do with particulars of empire than with the need to impose their vision on the world. The Melians must die because they are an embarrassment to the universal calculus of power. Their resistance challenges not only the particular strength of a particular imperial power, but, more important, the fiction that all human beings recognize the “rule of the strong” as “natural.” If the Athenians can convince all of their allies that this principle is a kind of natural law, then they can argue, as they do to the Melians, that there is no dishonor—indeed, there is a kind of cool rationality—in submitting to an overwhelming force (Thuc. 5.89, 111).

The Athenian arguments at Melos are thus just as ideological as the Spartan claims to virtue. The Spartan mirage allowed other Greeks to accept Spartan leadership, because they attributed to Sparta virtues that all admired and they did not need to fear Spartan expansionism. The Greeks did not, in a sense, even follow the Spartans per se, but the nomos, “general law,” that guided the Spartans (Hdt. 7.104.4–5). The Spartans were not absolute masters, but first among equals, because—and provided that—they subordinated themselves to this overarching concept. Athens demands far more of its subordinates than Sparta did of its allies, but, if it abandons the old rhetoric, it does not abandon ideology. When the Athenians assert that the “rule of the strong” is a natural law to which all (including the Athenians) are subject, they adopt the same strategy as the Spartans before them. The Spartans and Greeks together had created the Spartan mirage, the image of Sparta as military and most widely recognized moral leader in Greece, because the Spartan mirage helped all parties justify to themselves Sparta’s leadership. Greeks did not admire the Spartans per se, but the aretê that their idealized Spartans had, at great personal cost, cultivated. The Athenians attempt to place their own much more dominant position in a similarly impersonal framework. Submission to Athens is not so much a personal surrender as the recognition of a universal truth, that the powerful dominate the weak. For the time being at least, Athens is strong, Melos is weak, and each party should recognize as simple reality the inevitable subordination of the one to the other.

Melian resistance is thus the Athenian nightmare in small. The Athenians cannot—even if they had the resources to do so—kill all of their subjects, for they function as a superpower only because the subjects are alive and, however reluctantly, choose to lend their support. The allies could always choose the alternative and resolve to “live free or die.” In this sense, rule is always a negotiation between the weak and the strong. From a practical point of view, the reductio ad absurdum is improbable—the entire archê never did rise in rebellion, and Athenian domination was not so harsh as to provoke all its subjects to risk death. Of course, the Athenians must maintain a certain level of power to balance that of their adversaries. And Athenian power is more than an illusion—as many of allies learned to their cost, when they underestimated Athens’s remaining power after the Sicilian catastrophe (Thuc. 2.65.12). Once Sparta crushes the Athenian navy at Aigospotamoi, the rest of Athenian power collapses.

Nevertheless, the calculus of power is, in the pure form that the Athenians give it, an ideological fiction that enhances Athenian control and augments the net sum of Athenian dunamis by holding back, perhaps, a few allies who might otherwise revolt. It is thus a classic example of an Althusserian ideological state apparatus that augments the power of raw force and oppression.[55] The Athenians butcher the Melians so that they can support the fiction of realism and so that such brilliant readers as de Romilly would believe that “realism becomes a moral attitude”—if Athens’s view is not “real,” then this moral attitude becomes just another self-serving posture. The clarity of purpose must seem to melt away the haze of interpretation so that “as the facts stand out in their eternal essence, we begin to see, beyond the individual whose acts are described, the naked principles of justice and force.” [56]

The Melians are the statistical outlier, the experiment that does not match the theory. The Athenians are in the end not realists. They are not even objective scientists, because they doctor the evidence to fit their own theory. The Athenians destroy the Melians as a corrupt scientist might destroy inconvenient evidence.

Thucydides’ logoi, however, changed the Melian “incident” forever, for representation can transform an event. A savage beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 would have gone unnoticed and unpunished, but it was captured on videotape, and in that vivid medium it attained a reality and exerted an impact that would otherwise never have been possible. In the Peloponnesian War, the massacre at Skione (Thuc. 5.32.1) passes with little comment. It can slide past as a grim reality, but also as an abstraction without substance for most Greeks. Skione was the cleanest demonstration of power, in that it called little attention to its grim details. The events at Melos, however, are different, because the issues are inscribed in Thucydides’ text. The arguments remain fixed forever in the public display of a text that has in fact transcended barriers of time and space. Like Sisyphos rolling his stone forever in Hades, the Athenians must forever recite their failed ideology of power to each reader who passes his or her eyes across the text. For in killing the Melians, the Athenians prove that they are wrong. The weak do not always yield to the strong.


1. Orwin (1994) gives a central role to the Athenian thesis: see, for example, pp. 75–86, 90–96; Johnson (1993, 3) introduces the Athenian thesis in the opening paragraph of her book and spends much of her time analyzing it; see also Strauss 1964, 171–172. [BACK]

2. See Ashley 1986 and 1995; Derian 1995b. [BACK]

3. Strasburger 1958. [BACK]

4. Strauss 1964, 172. [BACK]

5. See Hornblower 1987, 185–186. [BACK]

6. Schwartz 1929, 106. [BACK]

7. De Romilly 1963, 272 (italics mine). [BACK]

8. The most famous statement of this position is Connor 1977a; cf. Hunter 1973; Hornblower (1987, 196) argues that Thucydides practices so effectively on our emotions because the mask of objectivity so rarely slips; see also Walker 1993; note as well Connor 1984, 4ff., for a useful discussion of how the old “scientific” historian affected scholarship in the 1950s. [BACK]

9. Connor 1984, 6. [BACK]

10. Connor 1984, 153. [BACK]

11. Erbse 1989, 106: “Power is not only a relative, but also a neutral quantity (Größe): it can accomplish good and deal out bad, depending upon the attitude with which one unleashes it.” [BACK]

12. E.g., Connor 1977a; Badian (1990, 47–48) emphasizes that this vision of Thucydides’ work as “highly personal and committed” was present in earlier twentieth-century criticism. [BACK]

13. Although this remains a goal for many ancient historians: see, for example, Badian 1990, 47; Fornara and Samons 1991, xvii; the boldest exploration of such selectivity and its possible operation in Thucydides remains Hunter 1973. [BACK]

14. For “rationality” as a common assumption among political realists, see chapter 2. [BACK]

15. Hornblower 1987, 55; Hornblower takes issue with interpretations based on this tactlessness, but not with the tactlessness itself. [BACK]

16. Cogan 1981a, 28. [BACK]

17. Gomme 1945, 1: 253–254. [BACK]

18. Kagan 1969, 294–295 [BACK]

19. Raubitschek 1973, 48. [BACK]

20. Raubitschek 1973, 48. [BACK]

21. Erbse 1989, 112. [BACK]

22. Connor (1984, 37) suggests that “up to this point the analysis has been based almost entirely on the quantifiable factors of—above all, ships and money.” For him, the four speeches at Sparta contrast with what follows, explicating the “less tangible considerations, the morale and the determination of the belligerents.” I would suggest that there is less contrast than synthesis: Thucydides allows us to see the complex symbiotic relationship between determination and the material attributes of power. For Thucydides’ speakers (including Sthenelaidas who recognizes the importance of Sparta’s allies), moral considerations are only important insofar as they affect the ability to project physical power. [BACK]

23. On the representations of Spartan power in Herodotus and Xenophon, see chapter 3 above. [BACK]

24. For the strain that Athenian power placed upon Sparta, see chapter 8. [BACK]

25. See, for example, the use of the verb at Thuc. 5.63.3, where Agis begs to avoid a harsh penalty from his enraged countrymen; see also Hdt. 1.24.2, 3 (Arion begs for concessions before his shipmates cast him overboard), 1.90.2, 3 (Kroisos begs a favor of Kyros), etc. [BACK]

26. De Romilly (1963, 244–250) cannot praise this speech too highly: e.g., “It represents everything which a sympathetic view can accord to Athens, but nothing that goes beyond this.…When the Athenians describe the service which they rendered to the whole of Greece, they are clearly doing nothing more than stating the truth” (p. 246). [BACK]

27. Virtually no one has considered how unconventional this argument based on advantage really is; those few who even cite it generally take it for granted: e.g., Pouncey 1980, 62–63; Cogan (1981a, 25), however, stresses another neglected oddity of the Athenian speech, the fact that the Athenians do not respond to particular grievances but produce instead a model of empire in general; likewise Ste. Croix 1972, 13. [BACK]

28. E.g., Thuc. 1.118.2, 2.71.3, 3.56.5 (where Crawley translates it “patriotism”), etc. [BACK]

29. See chapters 4, 7, and 8. [BACK]

30. Thuc. 2.35.1,. 2.36.1, 2.37.1, 2.40.4 (twice), 2.42.2 (twice), 2.43.1, 2.45.1, 2.45.2 (twice), 2.46.1. [BACK]

31. For this, Loraux 1986a has become the standard work, but Ziolkowski 1981 remains a more succinct and accessible introduction to the main points. [BACK]

32. On Marathon’s special place in the funeral orations, see Loraux 1986a, 155–171. [BACK]

33. Strauss (1964, 171) surprisingly argues that no part of the speech praises Athenian power. [BACK]

34. Erbse 1989, 109. [BACK]

35. Note, however, that the Athenians are not entirely immune to calling upon the gods to make a rhetorical point: at the conclusion of the speech they call upon the theoi hoi horkioi, “the gods of oaths,” as witnesses if the Spartans attack without seeking negotiations first (1.78.4). [BACK]

36. Note that the verb that the Athenians use at 1.75.2 (elabomen, aorist of lambanô: “we took” our archê) does not specify whether the archê was freely offered or seized by force. By using the term dechomai, the Athenians could have implied from the start that their rule was a gift freely offered. Only later do the Athenians resolve this ambiguity, using instead the verb dechomai, and describe their archê as a “gift freely given” (archê didomenê). On the drama and importance of “acceptance,” see chapter 4 above. [BACK]

37. A few sentences later, the Athenians restate these three motives, but not in quite the same order: at 1.76.2 they state that they were overcome by timê, deos, and ôphelia. If these three were to be chronological, then we might have to interpret the timê as the pleasure that the honor of leading the Delian League brought and the deos as the subsequent fear of breaking up the league. The fact that these two qualities are reversed in this second reference suggests that chronology, at least for the first two items, was not primary in the speaker’s mind. The fear probably was generally that of Persia, of sullen allies, and of simply losing control. Note, however, that ôphelia caps both lists. Thucydides does, I think, clearly imply that Athenian rule evolved and that ôphelia became more important as time progressed. [BACK]

38. Note that the verb huparchô appears only infrequently with the genitive in Thucydides and Herodotus and, when it does, indicates the actor has initiated an unjust act; Hdt. 1.5.3: Kroisos was the first who huparxanta adikôn ergôn es tous Hellênas, “instigated unjust acts against the Hellenes”; Hdt. 7.9 (another programmatic section): a Persian refers to Hellênas huparxantas adikiês, “the Hellenes who instigated injustice.” [BACK]

39. Compare the manner in which the Mytileneans acknowledge the good treatment and respect that they have received from their Athenian allies at 3.11–12. They also see in eunoia a weak emotional force, contingent on external circumstances (in this case, relative balance of power). [BACK]

40. Herodotus’s account of Sparta is, as a whole, normative. Even when it praises Sparta, it simultaneously sets conditions to which Sparta must, at least nominally, adhere if it is to retain that praise in the future. [BACK]

41. Cf. Thuc. 5.103.2 (discussed in the previous chapter), where the Athenians make similar charges against the Melian elite with whom they negotiate. [BACK]

42. On the traditional fiction of equality and hard limits on hegemony, see chapters 3 and 8 above; Raaflaub (1979, 251) accepts the Athenian argument here: the previous fiction of equality rendered Athens much more vulnerable to the charge of tyranny when the league evolved into an empire. [BACK]

43. A simple word search of Pindar or Bacchylides will turn up the dense references to phthonos and its linguistic derivatives; for one recent survey, see Bulman 1992; Kurke (1991) is especially good at revealing the ways in which these poets sought to resolve the tensions between victor and community. [BACK]

44. Thus one of the most damning charges that Otanes directs against tyrants is that although they possess the greatest power and wealth of any men, they are at the same time obsessed with phthonos and envy (Hdt. 3.80.4); cf. also Herodotus’s story of Thrasyboulos’s advice to Periander (5.92z). [BACK]

45. See Crane 1996c. [BACK]

46. See, for example, Hornblower (1992), who uses Thucydides’ own text to show that he underrepresents the importance of religion; on topics excluded by Thucydides generally, see Crane 1996a. [BACK]

47. On this, see Euben 1990b, 169–171; White 1984, 59–92; Parry 1981. [BACK]

48. See Wilson 1982. [BACK]

49. Cogan 1981a, esp. 234–254. [BACK]

50. For comparisons, see de Romilly 1963, 243–250; Rawlings 1981, 117–122. [BACK]

51. Strasburger 1958, 521. [BACK]

52. Book 6 opens with an explicit statement that the Athenians planned to conquer Sicily (see 6.1.1). [BACK]

53. The limits of rationality in Thucydides have, of course, been the subject of extensive debate; see Stahl 1966; Edmunds 1975a. [BACK]

54. On this change of attitude, see Cogan 1981a, 92; Macleod 1974, 392. [BACK]

55. Althusser 1971, 142: “In order to advance the theory of the State it is indispensable to take into account not only the distinction between State power and State apparatus, but also another reality which is clearly on the side of the (repressive) State apparatus, but must not be confused with it. I shall call this reality by its concept: the ideological state apparatuses.” [BACK]

56. De Romilly 1963, 272. [BACK]

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