CLS 150-01

(discussion of Melian Dialogue, printout)


  • wealthy aristocratic family
  • elected one of 10 generals 424; exiles, lived at Corinth
  • first scientific historian? Work a “possession for all time.”
  • tells purpose, methods
  • work is unfinished
  • contrast with Herodotus, Homer
  • political, military history; focus on Athens, Greek world
  • Causes, both surface & underlying
  • New Learning; rational; rhetoric; moral relativism
  • human behavior — occurs in predictable patterns?
  • speeches; paradigms; evocative detail; NOT comprehensive
  • Phase I: Archidamian War, 431-421

  • Spartan King Archidamus leads annual invasions of Attica
  • Pericles’ island on land strategy: stay within walls, don’t expand empire, a tie is the same as a win for Athens
  • Plague in Athens for several years, Pericles dies of plague in 429
  • Each side gains unexpected win:

  • 425: under Cleon, Athens captures 120 Spartiates @ Pylos
  • 424 Spartan general Brasidas captures key Athenian coliny in North, Aphipolis
  • Cleon & Brasidas both killed in fighting @ Amphipolis
  • Athenian Nicias negotiates peace treaty in 421, Peace of Nicias
  • Phase II: Peace of Nicias 421-413 (Sicilian expedition 415-413)

  • Peace a dead letter almost from start: hard to implement
  • Sparta gets 120 Spartiates back but Amphipolis refuses to go back to Athenian control
  • Emergence of Alcibiades
  • Athenian disaster in Syracuse; Sparten alliance w/Persia
  • Alcibiades 451-404

  • Ward of Pericles; brilliant, handsome, ambitious; friend of Socrates
  • 418: anti-Spartan alliance in Peloponnese; but Sparta defeats it at Mantineia
  • 416: Athenians destroy neitral island of Melos; Melian dialogue (Thucydides)
  • 415: Athenians vote to invade Syracuse on Sicily; Alcibiades influential
  • 415: Herms in Athens mutilated; Alcibiades implicated
  • Alcibiades flees to Sparta rather than return from Syracuse to face trial
  • Alcibiades goes Spartan, gives sage advice — fortify Decelea in Attica year-round; seduces wife of one of Spartan kings; flees to Persian protection in Ionia
  • Back with Athenians 411, wins naval battles; exiled again 407
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