Thursday, September 23, 2010

Junior Reading: Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War

Does the historian Thucydides has the view that "might makes right"? or that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

The Melian Dialogue opened up many arguments about the morality of the Athenians destroying Melos. Athenians thought that they were being fair by trying to convince the Melian leaders of the need to surrender and save themselves. The Melians were put into a predicament: to save themselves and surrender or have their nation completely destroyed for the sake of independence.

Does Thucydides regard the the Melians’ heroics as foolish and unrealistic? Does Thucydides feel sympathetic to the Melians with their no win situation?

Ultimately, Melos refused to surrender to Athens. The Athenians immediately attacked Melos as threatened. The Athenians killed the men and enslaved the women and children, and further, repopulated it as an Athenian state.  Melos was one of the few Peloponnesian Islands that stood up for itself despite the negative repercussions.

see also: The Melian Debate 

Are the Athenians completely wrong? Are they noble/just with their power because they are trying to be fair prior to attacking?
Is there justice in the actions of the powerful Athenians?

Class Activity:
To what degree does power influence our feeling of what is just? Students work together in pairs to figure out how those with power (God, social groups, police, parents, politicians, the wealthy, teachers) wield influence. Are their actions just OR not? Why?

Ultimately, we are examining "What is the relationship between Power and Justice?"

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