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Melian Dialogue Essay About Environment

Definitions of Justice in the Melian Dialogue Essays

1144 WordsNov 15th, 20125 Pages

Amidst an interlude in the fierce struggle for power between the two dominant Greek poleis, Athens and Sparta, the Peloponnesian war, there was unrest. Despite the Peace of Nicias, belligerence between the two states did not cease, but rather took on a new face. While careful to remain within the parameters set several years before in the peace treaty, Athens moved cautiously, but aggressively in establishing alliances, albeit coerced, and strengthening its empire. It was at this juncture that it made its move toward securing the small, weak island-state of Melos, which in its neutral independence suggested danger to the Athenian empire. In a move not of fairness, but of survival, Athens offered the Melians an ultimatum: to be subjugated…show more content…

Without being either the ones who made this law or the first to apply it after it was laid down, we applied it as one in existence...and one that will endure for all time,” (Thuc., V, 105). The Athenians see no injustice in doing simply as their nature impels them to do. In fact, the Athenians see their offer of subjugation to the Melian people as more than reasonable, “What we will demonstrate is that we are here to help our empire and that there is salvation for your city in what we are now about to say, since we hope to rule over you without trouble and let both parties benefit as you are saved,” (Thuc., V, 91). Following their belief in doing what is necessary to strengthen themselves, even at the expense of others, is what brings Athens to Melos.
The Melians, contrarilly, see justice as grounded in fairness. They contend that action based in reason is the true definition of justice. “There is every advantage in your not destroying a universal benefit, but that at all times there be fairness and justice for those in danger,” (Thuc.,V, 90). This belief in abstinence from aggression without cause is what defines the fundamental differences in the Athenian’s and the Melian’s philosophies. As a neutral state, Melos remained impartial up until it was confronted by Athens, and it is this confrontation which violates the Melian definition of justice. Having not been harmed by

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Essay on An Analysis of Thucydides' Views on the Melian Dialogue

1576 Words7 Pages

An Analysis of Thucydides' Views on the Melian Dialogue

The Melian Dialogue is a debate between Melian and Athenian representatives concerning the sovereignty of Melos. The debate did not really occur-the arguments given by each side were of Thucydides own creation. Thus it is reasonable to assume that we can tease out Thucydides' own beliefs. In this paper, I will first extract Thucydides views from the Melian Dialogue and then analyze whether or not these views are well founded.

Thucydides believed that the Athenians had the stronger argument. Proof of this lies in the way Thucydides picked the arguments for each side. For the moment, we will disregard the actual content of the arguments, and look at argumentation forms and…show more content…

They say for example, "...By a law of nature...if you were as strong as we are, you would do as we do." Athens arguments are of a higher form than the Melians, because they can be proved or disproved.

Thucydides wrote the Dialogue in this way, and thus we can infer that his own beliefs were that Athenians were aware of such higher argumentation forms, and the Melians were not. Thucydides believed that Athenian arguments could be tested.

The Athenians always had the last word; had this been an actual debate the Athenians would have won by showmanship and persuasion alone. The Melians managed to question their rivals, but once the Athenians responded, there was no Melian rebuttal. To the question of how other neutral Greek city-states might have reacted to Athenian aggression, Athens responded that any neutral sites that might have become hostile did not concern them. They argued that neutral city-states either posed little threat, or were already under pressure to join the alliance. To this the Melians had nothing to say. They instead moved on to say that they would be thought of as "base and cowardly" should they have submitted. Athens answered that there is only disgrace in submission to an equal power, not a greater one like Athens. No Melian concern was left unanswered by the Athenians, yet the Melians were often at a loss for words. The only explanation for this phenomenon

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