Thucydides Book 3 Questions

Hi folks, I really enjoyed getting the chance to meet some of you (in person) at the MET last week.  I am still coming down from our discussions and the exhibits, especially the Roman sculptures (the Caligula bust is in such good condition) and Roman murals (very vivid colors, more than I expected). Here are our next set of discussion questions for Book 3.  I hope that the minimal notes will also help us keep the larger perspective of Thucydides’ direction in mind.  Reading Book 3 may seem like more of Book 2 at first, but I have found that Thucydides tries different ways of narrating his history in each book.  See if you can detect any subtle differences in presentation as you read through Book 3.  The differences will become much more clear from Book 4 on.   Sincerely, Andre

Summary of events so far: Book 1 – events concerning primarily Athens & Sparta that lead up   to the war

Book 2 – first three years progress of the war; at the beginning of   Book 2, the Plataean occupation by Thebes starts the Peloponnesian   war.  By the third year, instead of the usual invasion and   devastation of Attica, Sparta and the Peloponnesian League besieges   Plataea and pressures it to renounce its association with Athens.

Book 3 – years four, five and six of the war; the opening of this   book (fourth year of the war) concentrates first on the revolt of   the island of Lesbos (except Methymna) from Athens.

1. What conditions lead to this revolt?  Why do the Mytilenians   especially feel that this is the proper moment to challenge   Athens?  What are the strategic ramifications for a successful   revolt versus an unsuccessful one?

In the summer of the fifth year, the Athenians debate the fate of   Mytilene. 2.  Cleon’s speech (3.37-3.40) imposes a hard line toward the   Mytilenians in the name of Imperial rule.  How are his words an   indictment of the rule of Athenian democracy in determining foreign   policy?  Cleon is reported to have said:  “I therefore now as   before persist against your reversing your first decision, or   giving way to the three failings most fatal to empire – pity,   sentiment, and indulgence” (3.40, p. 178).  Are “pity, sentiment,   and indulgence” truly out of place in foreign policy decisions?    domestic policy decisions?  (Diodotus responds to “pity” and   “indulgence” as well in 3.48)

3.  How does Diodotus’ point of view present democracy in terms of   foreign policy?  Is he simply advocating a “dove” approach in   response to Cleon’s “hawkish” approach?  What part does social   class play in Diodotus’ proposal?  How ethical is it?  How   political?  How does the result of the Mytilenian debate reflect   the democratic process in Athens?  How does the result speak to the   rest of the Athenian allies?

By winter of the fourth year, the ensuing Plataean siege still   leaves some important questions: 4. Why are the Spartans so intent on subjugating Plataea?  Is the   goal a military one?  political?  psychological?  Why are the   Athenians not sending more significant relief to the besieged   Plataeans?  Why are the Plataeans still remaining loyal to Athens?    Why does Thucydides spend effort on describing the events of this   particular siege (specifically 3.20-24, 3.52)?

In the fifth year of the war, the Plataeans (3.53-59) and Thebans   (3.60-67) debate their own respective merits in the Greek world at   this time:         5. Which argument is more persuasive to you?  Is either   argument much more forceful than the other?  What reasons do the   Plataeans have for standing with Athens?  How are these reasons   either stated or implied?  How do the Thebans respond to the   Plataean argument with any conviction?  How does Sparta’s   punishment of Plataea compare with Athens’ punishment of Lesbos?

The effect of the Peloponnesian war upon Corcyra in the summer of   the fifth year.         6. How does the Corcyrean revolution (3.69-85) complement   what Thucydides initially brought up concerning the Mytilenean   revolt?  Is Thucydides maintaining “historical objectivity” or is   he allowing too much subjective comment here?  What is the   significance of Corcyra with respect to any of the other many city- states that Athens has an interest in? to all of Greece?  What is   Thucydides implying with respect to the relationship between war   and revolution?  Does this bear out in later history?

        7. Is the weather phenomena described in 3.89 a “tsunami”?!

        8. As for military operations in Northern Greece, what is   Thucydides trying to say by focusing on Demosthenes’ defeat and   victory?  How do the Athenian allies participate?  Is Sparta’s   military strategy here effective?  Why or why not?

Mentions of Sicilian operations are scattered throughout the book   and will become more important in Book 4 as a reason the Athenians   land at Pylos.  In books 6 & 7, the ill-fated Athenian Expedition   to Sicily will eventually affect the outcome of the whole   Peloponnesian war.

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