Thanks for all of your input on our last call. I regret not being able to stay with you past the first hour of our discussion, but I literally witnessed an explosion (or maybe a lightning bolt?) less than a block away from my livingroom window less than an hour before ‘showtime.’ We resorted to candles and other colonial American solutions which our three boys found interesting. At any rate, here are some questions for us to ponder as we read through Book 2 and the first crucial years of the war. Happy reading and I look forward to discussing Thucydides with you on our next call (Aug 6).
1. According to Thucydides, how were Athens and Sparta each regarded by other Greek city-states at the beginning of the war? How does Thucydides himself regard each of the two major powers? Does his point of view bend towards Athens (perhaps because of his citizenship) or against Athens (perhaps because of his exile)?
2. Thucydides presents the Spartan king Archidamus in the first speech early in Book II (2.11, pp. 96-97). This is the same Archidamus who gave a long and compelling speech in Book I that we discussed on the last call. Likewise, Thucydides also presents Pericles, the influential Athenian statesman somewhat in response (2.35-46 pp. 111-118). How do these two leaders compare? What do their words reveal about them, their individual strategies and their respective city-states at the opening of what will eventually turn into a very long, protracted war?
3. As an unforeseen circumstance, the plague is one of the most devastating blows to Athens in the first two years of the war (2.47-2.55, pp. 118-122). The effects of the plague are difficult for a reader to imagine, let alone the Athenians themselves endure. Thucydides is said to have experienced it firsthand himself. What is your immediate experience of reading about the plague? Beyond this, how does Thucydides’ description of the plague transcend the moment and forecast the conditions for such a protracted war as he intends to chronicle?
4. In Pericles’ second speech (2.60-2.64, pp. 123-127), opposition to his strategy is growing. How does he react? How does Thucydides’ assessment (2.65, pp. 127-128) comment on the balance between maintaining a democratic government at home while waging very costly war?
5. What does the situation at Plataea (2.71-2.78 pp. 131-136) reveal with respect to Athens’ alliance system? Is this alliance system the cause of the war? How beneficial is their allegiance to Athens to Athenian allies?
6. As for the theaters of war in Chalcidice and Acarnania (descriptions of which are scattered throughout Book II), why are these regions so important politically? militarily? economically? ethnically/culturally?