Thucydides Questions & Notes
I look forward to our discussion tonight. Here are the questions once again for our discussion and some other notes about main events in Book 2 and speeches contained therein.
1. According to Thucydides, how were Athens and Sparta each regarded by other Greek city-states at the beginning of the war? How does Thucydides himself regard each of the two major powers? Does his point of view bend towards Athens (perhaps because of his citizenship) or against Athens (perhaps because of his exile)?
2. Thucydides presents the Spartan king Archidamus in the first speech early in Book II (2.11, pp. 96-97). This is the same Archidamus who gave a long and compelling speech in Book I that we discussed on the last call. Likewise, Thucydides also presents Pericles, the influential Athenian statesman somewhat in response (2.35-46 pp. 111-118). How do these two leaders compare? What do their words reveal about them, their individual strategies and their respective city-states at the opening of what will eventually turn into a very long, protracted war?
3. As an unforeseen circumstance, the plague is one of the most devastating blows to Athens in the first two years of the war (2.47-2.55, pp. 118-122). The effects of the plague are difficult for a reader to imagine, let alone the Athenians themselves endure. Thucydides is said to have experienced it firsthand himself. What is your immediate experience of reading about the plague? Beyond this, how does Thucydides’ description of the plague transcend the moment and forecast the conditions for such a protracted war as he intends to chronicle?
4. In Pericles’ second speech (2.60-2.64, pp. 123-127), opposition to his strategy is growing. How does he react? How does Thucydides’ assessment (2.65, pp. 127-128) comment on the balance between maintaining a democratic government at home while waging very costly war?
5. What does the situation at Plataea (2.71-2.78 pp. 131-136) reveal with respect to Athens’ alliance system? Is this alliance system the cause of the war? How beneficial is their allegiance to Athens to Athenian allies?
6. As for the theaters of war in Chalcidice and Acarnania (descriptions of which are scattered throughout Book II), why are these regions so important politically? militarily? economically? ethnically/culturally?
First Year – Main Events
Plataea – Thebes instigates insurrection, invasion of Plataea, an Athenian ally
official start of war (2.7) with pro-Spartan allies (Thebans) looking like the aggressors although feeling against Athenian imperialism runs high as well (2.8)
Attica – invasion of Attica by Peloponnesian ground forces, Athenians move inside city walls
Archidamus, Spartan king and military commander, estimates wrongly that the ravaging of the Athenian countryside will eventually force the Athenians to engage the Spartans et al in ground combat.
Athens responds to the Attic ground invasion with naval raids against the Peloponnesian coast. Athens concludes alliances with Sitalces, king of Thrace, and Perdiccas, king of Macedonia. Their conflict later in this book is not significantly supported by Athens on either side.
Second Year – Main Events
besides a second invasion of Attica by Peloponnesian ground forces, Athens is hit by a terrible plague.
Thrace – Spartan envoys on their way to the Persian king are captured & executed at Athens
Amphilocian Argos – Ambraciots (pro-Spartan) attack Amphilocian Argos but fail to take the city
Naupactus – Phormio’s ships at harbor
Caria, Lycia – Athens’ squadron to collect tribute and put down privateers in Caria and Lycia suffers a defeat
Potidaea – Potidaea surrenders on terms. Athens criticizes its generals for granting terms and sends settlers to colonize the site
Third Year – Main Events
invasion of Attica proper is neglected in exchange for besiegement of Plataea, question of “neutrality”
Chalcidice – Athenians win an initial success at Spartolus but then suffer heavy losses when defeated by peltasts and cavalry.
Acarnania – at Ambraciot invitation, a Peloponnesian expedition sails to the Ambracian Gulf and launches an attack on Acarnania. Acarnanian victory at Stratus forces the Peloponnesian forces to withdraw through Oeniadae.
Crisaean Gulf – Phormio and Athenian fleet win against larger (mostly troop transport) Peloponnesian fleet
second engagement has in mixed results, but Peloponnesians are able to pin Phormio against the coast before being cowed. Result is that Peloponnesians are learning by their mistakes
Salamis – Peloponnesians attempt a surprise attack on Piraeus, but only get as far as Salamis, Athenians are able to learn from this and strengthen their security of Piraeus.
Thrace – Sitalces king of Thrace invades Macedonia and environs in league with Athens. Athens, however, does not respond with much promised aid to Sitalces, thus a chance is lost to capitalize in this theater with Sitalces simply withdrawing back to Thrace? Athens has made alliance treaties with both kingdoms and very diplomatically avoids angering either side significantly, perhaps playing them off each other?
Acarnania – Phormio advances by land into Acarnania, briefly occupies then withdraws
2.11 Archidamus, Sparta’s king, speaks to the army, calling for caution, vigilance, and discipline
2.35 – 2.46 Pericles’ Funeral Oration
2.60- 2.64 Pericles’ Apology (Defense) of war strategy and fidelity to Athens
2.87 Cnemus, Brasidas & Peloponnesian commanders call on their men to be brave despite their inexperience (in naval engagements)
2.89 Phormio encourages the Athenians even though they remain outnumbered