Thucydides Rhetorical Analysis

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In Thucydides’ On Justice, Power, and Human Nature, Alcibiades proves himself to be a persuasive orator. He capitalizes on his mastery of Athenian rhetoric by using his oration skills to sway the Athenian masses in favor of embarking on the Sicilian expedition. Additionally, he utilizes his skills to persuade the Spartans to accept and trust him even though he had just betrayed Athens. Alcibiades is able to manipulate both the Athenians and Spartans; two different cultures with opposing stances on the value of sophistry, into supporting him by using his grasp of Athenian rhetoric to transform his weak arguments into persuasive speeches. His ability to dupe both the Athenians and Spartans using appeals to logos suggests that the Spartans and …show more content…
Earlier in the text Archidamus, a Spartan, explains that the Spartan’s slowness in decision making is due to their “clear-headed self-control” (27.84). However, they do not exhibit this quality when Alcibiades easily manipulates them into trusting him. He begins his argument by asserting that others have done “worse things” in the past than deserting their country in a time of need. However, instead of actually citing what instances he is referring to, he compensates for his lack of evidence by telling his audience that he was a better “[leader] of the city as a whole” (127). Alcibiades is manipulating his “evidence” into seeming more substantial than it truly is by telling the audience that these “others… have incited the mob to worse things” (127). However, he is actually using persuasive rhetoric to shift the blame off of himself and onto a made up third party. This tactic is effective on the Spartans because Alcibiades creates a scapegoat that both lessens the impact of Alcibiades’ betrayal and makes him seem like a better leader than he was. Essentially Alcibiades is taking his illogical argument and reforming it as something that is not only perceived as logical, but also as a reason that his betrayal was necessary. Similarly Pericles praises the Athenians as being “[people] who think through what they will take in hand, and discuss it thoroughly” (42.40). However, after having heard Alcibiades speech “they were far more earnestly bent on the expedition than they had been before” (120.19). Contrary to Pericles’ belief, the Athenians’ were unable take a step back and truly analyze Alcibiades’ speech. This means that his speech was so persuasive to these lovers of sophistry that they didn't give a second thought to opposing it. Alcibiades begins his speech, once again, with an appeal to his audience’s logos.

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