Morality In Thucydides's On The Revolution In Corcyra

1515 Words 7 Pages
The Peloponnesian War featured social and political deterioration. Through power struggles, revolutions, land and sea battles, diplomacy, and rapid cultural change, Thucydides demonstrated his belief that human nature is inherently ambitious and ruthless. In his writing on the revolution in Corcyra, he illustrated the conflict between human law and man’s insatiable desires. He saw the revolution of Corcyra as an example of the general decline of Greece during the Peloponnesian War, characterizing the period as full of political strife and chaos that had dire consequences. Many people died in combat and massacres, buildings and property were destroyed, and Greek society experienced moral decay. I agree with Thucydides’ assessment of the time …show more content…
Thus, human nature, as Thucydides described it, took people over. It became advantageous to preemptively attack enemies instead of plotting and using moderation, and the idealism of ancient Greece gave way to rapacity and fear (3.83). These changes in Greek society emerged out of necessity due to the circumstances of the war. People could not follow idealist standards because of the constant military threats to the poleis (3.82). The collapse of Greek values in the face of conflict demonstrated the conflict between law and primal nature that Thucydides implicitly established. In ancient Greece, human nature drove men to embrace passion, ignore justice, and act on envy at the expense of morality. It pushed men to engage in grotesque acts of violence for the sake of revenge, making the ubiquity of human nature in the period a central concern (3.84). The “laws of humanity”, those principles of justice and morality which had evolved over the previous centuries of Greek society, became irrelevant in the Peloponnesian War: what mattered was survival. Political strife became intertwined with death, loss of property, and moral decline as the example of Corcyra became the norm in the Hellenic …show more content…
The intellectual vibrancy of the age of Pericles declined as primitive, venal urges came to dominate Greek life. The revolution of Corcyra involved the foreign intervention that allowed the situation to deteriorate. With the Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues fighting for control of Greece, people seeking power and revenge had an outlet to obtain legitimacy. Consequently, politics became polarized, and people used the democratic and oligarchic parties to diffuse responsibility for their actions. Corcyra became an example of how the rise of parties harmed society. During the power struggle at Corcyra, there were violent land and naval battles, massacres, and a fire that burned part of the city. Such events occurred frequently throughout the Greek world during the Peloponnesian War. Beyond the actual physical losses of life and property, the period featured a decline in character as people prioritized power and possessions over culture and justice. In a sense the people of Greece behaved more primitively during the war than they had prior to it. Under the guise of supporting democracy or oligarchy to best govern society, people spited their enemies, stole from those who they envied, and fought for individual power with a brutality not seen in centuries in ancient Greece. The loss of standards was what Thucydides saw as the real problem of his day. I agree with his assessment, viewing the problems of

Related Documents