Some random thoughts.

It is sometimes interesting to go outside after these calls and look to the sky (“The same sky they saw.” as Andre pointed out to us a while back) and try to imagine what Pericles actually did think about before he gave that 2nd speech in Book II.  Perhaps he was as Paul said, a predecessor of Freud.  None the less, I am constantly amazed to be reminded that the limitations the Greeks faced were physical or technological, not mental.

When they went to war they had to consider doing so in places where they could get food.  They could never carry enough for the expeditions, and in fact did not know how long each may take.  They at times camped out and tried to wait out the inhabitants (think years) if they could not conquer through siege.  Their planning always must have considered the physical limitations, such as making sure they would be able to get enough food for lots of soldiers where they were going.  This was probably part of what Thucydides means by “ravage”.

But mentally, they were very advanced, and Thucydides is presenting us with the cream of the crop.  These are men that understood not just how to wage war, but also how to manage large quantities of people, to rule nations, and especially how to influence other men’s minds.  But the men’s minds that they are trying to influence are unique, as well.  They relied on a more primitive science to understand the world around them, and had various versions of deity to worship, but they did have a very strong sense of ethics that they felt connected them to their gods.  I do not know how they regarded death or an afterlife, but they held much respect for their ancestors and felt obliged to live up to their ancestors commitments, as well as their own.  They also seemed to place a lot of value in honor rightfully earned.

On page 111 – “For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted…”

The people of Sparta and Athens were probably far more alike than the differences we are trying to see.  I wonder what someone will think 2000 years from know if they read about World War II and try to find the differences between Germany and America.  Will they look at the countries or specific people?  The psychology of Hitler’s speeches?  And who for America? The atrocities?  Both sides committed horrors?  Allies?  National pride?  Honor?

Would the world be different today had Athens won?  How so?

Sorry, my mind is kind of wandering here but I left the call with many thoughts swirling and each led to another.


06. January 2009 by Arrian
Categories: Commentary, Thucydides | Tags: , | 1 comment

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