in Herodotus’ Histories the reasons behind the Greco/Persian War could be summarized as local squabbles that later escalated into international conflicts, in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (and he announces it right away in the first few lines) we have serious geopolitical and social clashes that lead to hostilities.
Two giants were doomed to collide; it was just a matter of time. In one corner we had the Delian League (more the Athenian Empire!), commanded by a rich and prosperous Athens and in the other corner the Peloponnesian Allies led by an experienced and belligerent Sparta. In command of these Poleis were powerful leaders who would eventually dictate the course of the war. Some of them could be described as tyrants while others were more willing to listen to the will of the people. Thucydides gives us favorable and unfavorable portraits of leaders from both sides of the conflict, not sparing praise or blame.
One of the leaders who were approved by Thucydides was Pericles from Athens. There are three long speeches of Pericles in Thucydides’ Masterpiece: The Pericles’ reply to the Spartan ultimatum in book 1, the Athenian funeral oration in book 2 and the speech to the Athenian Ecclesia also in book 2. These speeches allow us to understand the way decisions were made in Athens, and what role different people played on choosing what would be the next step to take. For instance right before the Pericles’ response to the Spartan ultimatum Thucydides says:
“The Athenians held an assembly in order to debate the matter, and decided to look into the whole question once and for all and give Sparta her answer. Many speakers came forward and opinions were expressed on both sides.”
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War; Translation by Rex Warner (Page 118)
The author describes a discussion environment; people are actively sharing opinions and debating pros and cons. This could as well be the description of a modern assembly. However,... [continues]
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