Thucydides, Pericles, and the Idea of Athens in the Peloponnesian War
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Thucydides, Pericles, and the Idea of Athens in the Peloponnesian War is the first comprehensive study of Thucydides' presentation of Pericles' radical redefinition of the city of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Martha Taylor argues that Thucydides subtly critiques Pericles' vision of Athens as a city divorced from the territory of Attica and focused, instead, on the sea and the empire. Thucydides shows that Pericles' reconceputalization of the city led the Athenians both to Melos and to Sicily. Toward the end of his work, Thucydides demonstrates that flexible thinking about the city exacerbated the Athenians' civil war. Providing a thorough critique and analysis of Thucydides' neglected book 8, Taylor shows that Thucydides praises political compromise centered around the traditional city in Attica. In doing so, he implicitly censures both Pericles and the Athenian imperial project itself.
apparently commonplaces in the contemporary discussion of democracy and that, as such, Pericles must have known.” Pericles’ City 47 land.” Pericles, in marked contrast, ties his island image directly to the abandonment of the Athenians’ land: “We must think as nearly like this as possible and abandon our land and our houses. . . . ” Furthermore, when the Old Oligarch admits that Athens’ policy does leave it in danger of suffering, he claims that “the farmers and the wealthy curry favor with
commentators see them as heroic patriots, Thucydides charges that they would destroy the city, not save it. In doing so, Thucydides criticizes all Athenian redefinitions that encourage men in crisis to follow their own idea of their city rather than compromise with their fellow citizens. Indeed, throughout his account of the return to democracy, Thucydides emphasizes reconciliation, not partisanship. He stresses the unity of the two groups, democrats and oligarchs, and favors political
Furthermore, Palmer (1992, 23) discusses the implications for Athenian imperial expansion in Pericles’ deprecation of his ancestors. Because each generation after the ancestors is praised “in ascending order” for their imperial conquests, Palmer asks, “what does this imply must be the task of the next generation if it does not want to fall short of the generation of its own fathers, the Periclean generation?” Sicking (1995, 411, n. 34) remarks that Pericles’ refusal to discuss the exploits of the
Epidamnians” (1.25.1, 2). The upper classes, having been pushed out by the democrats, were no longer “in the city,” and Thucydides’ language suggests that they were, consequently, no longer of the city, that is, no longer “Epidamnians.” Having lost their place in the city, they have lost their claim to it, and their claim to the name “Epidamnian.” But to the exiles, surely, they were the “real” Epidamnians; they constituted the real city of Epidamnus, not the usurping demos who happened to find
absent” in relation to Pindar’s Third Pythian ode.15 In that poem, Pindar tells the story of Coronis, the mother of Asclepius, who, “like many another . . . hungered for things remote.” Pindar describes such foolish folk thus: “There are some, utterly shiftless, who always look ahead, scorning the present, hunting the wind of doomed hopes.”16 Coronis’s particular version of this failing was to lie “in the arms of a stranger,” although she had already lain with Apollo.17 As Young describes it, the