Essay on Thucydides ' Description Of The Peloponnesian War

1557 Words Oct 6th, 2016 7 Pages
Thucydides’ description of the Peloponnesian War, besides being an account of an enormous conflict, also serves as an account of the many views of justice. The Athenians, the imperial force in ancient Greece, often assert that justice plays no role in foreign affairs. This belief, specifically explained at Sparta and Melos, is the Athenian Thesis. Although not all Athenians agree with the Athenian Thesis as proposed at Sparta and Melos, it is still an important theme in the Peloponnesian War. The Melian Dialogue specifically displays how little regard the Athenian Thesis shows for justice. The Melian Dialogue and the subsequent actions of the Melians also discredit two claims within the Athenian Thesis, the notion that justice is irrelevant or nonexistent between those with unequal power, and that actors only respect justice as far as their situation compels them to do; these particular flaws are also exemplified by certain events in the Athenian political life, including Pericles’ Plague Speech and Cleon’s speech during the Mytilenian debate. The Athenian Thesis stated at Melos first arose at Sparta, when an Athenian envoy defended its city-state against charges of injustice. These men claimed that justice is only in question between equals, the weak are naturally subject to the strong, and importantly, that rational actors do not “respect justice more than their position compels them to do.” Thus, they claim that justice is essentially irrelevant, or even nonexistent, in…

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