Saturday, October 07, 2006

Selection 7 - Thucydides "The History of the Peloponnesian War" Continued

Well apparently the previous post got to long.  Blogger isn't letting me go any further.

Books 6, 7, and 8 deal mainly with the invasion of Sicily and it's after effects.  It's is here I think that most people will try and draw the major parallels between current day US policies and this history. 

Specifically a "democratic" people talked into a war which doesn't go the way in which they intended.  Betrayal of the government by various oligarchs and the destruction of the democracy and replacement by a oligarchy.  Finally the downfall of the state. 

In my opinion these are false comparisons.

First, the Athenians invaded Sicily for the purpose of establishing dominion over the Sicilians and eventually all of Greece.  Iraq was invaded because rightly or wrongly a threat was perceived.

Second, while people may not like the results of recent elections the facts are we are still having them, and candidates are abiding by the results.  Arguably we may have an oligarchy but it is  elected not imposed.

Finally, there is no concerted plan (ala Alcibiades) to bring down the government and replace it with a new one. 

The main thing that I took from this section of Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War" was how much Alcibiades vanity contributed to the downfall of the state. 

It was his desire for glory that was a driving force behind the Sicilian expedition and the maneuvering of his enemies which led in part to that failure.  His counter maneuvering led to the involvement of the Persians and civil war(or at least severe strife) in Athens.   Finally the state fell.

Which leads me to wonder, if one of the main sources of praise for Socrates was Alcibiades, and he was such a scumbag.  Was Socrates really that great?

 

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