Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War/Meetings

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meetings[edit]

18. November 2007[edit]

The first meeting took place in the Wikiversity:Chat of #wikiversity-en. For this was read:

first book of Thucydides until aphorism 23: it descibes the history of Greece and the major causes for the war
Wikipedia article on Thucydides

feedback[edit]

the following is taken from user pages

Hi Erkan,

The first session of the book reading club was a success! Though, i think we need a certain task with the texts that we read. Yesterday i told you some of my ideas with the text, but you didn't know what was coming and we both had no idea on what to do with the text. Perhaps for the next session, we could help improve the Wikipedia articles related to the Peloponnesian War, or perhaps think of some questions related to the text. Another idea is that we could both write a small summary of the text and think of some points which could bring up a discussion. It would be much better if others would join. Than a real debate is possible with several conflicting views. We were both on the same side with the conflict that i made apparent, so there was no space for a juicy discussion on the topic.--Daanschr 09:49, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

Hello Daanschr, yes, that is a good idea. We could also for each session consider the written text from the eyes of different involved people (e.g. a Spartan or Athenian or another Greek city or barbarian. And then from each different groups like e.g. politician, warrior, mother, sister, ..., young children, old people, ...). About the views: well, I guess we are still at the surface. Arguments will come for sure :-)
About updating Wikipedia articles: sounds good, I mean small edits we can do any time while searching for info. While we gain more info on the subject we can improve over time more and more.
What we could do is: we could make a Reading group page, where we write down what we did over time. Others can then easily join after reading these ? ----Erkan Yilmaz (Wikiversity:Chat, wiki blog) 10:35, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

08. December 2007[edit]

Second "official" meeting (before was read I.24-50):

short feedback in German
todo: translation into English, until then a machine translation here

19. January 2008[edit]

skipped, current status of the reading group

02. February 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting

6 persons were in the chat
time: ca. 13-15:30 UTC
material read for meeting: Book 1, aphorisms 50-100

09. February 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting

8 persons were in the chat
time: ca. 13-15:30 UTC+1
material read for meeting: Book 1, aphorisms 50-100

16. February 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting

8 persons were in the chat
time: ca. 14-17:00 UTC+1
material read for meeting: Book 1, aphorisms 100-125

Themes for discussion on 16 February There are several major themes that can be discussed this time, because the text is very rich in contents. If the discussion is to be followed by all attendants, including those who didn't read the text and have limited knowledge of the Greek antiquity, than we could discuss only a few themes. Possible themes are:

  • Democracy and oligarchy. Athenian oligarchs supported Sparta versus Athens in the first war between Sparta and Athens. The Samian rebellion was led by oligarchs versus the Samian democrats, who were pro-Athenian.
  • The truce between the Peloponnese and Athens. Why did the Peloponnese stop the first invasion of Attica and than made a truce with Athens? Why was it suddenly mandatory to fight the Athenians because of Corcyra and Potidaea? The Corinthian speech is about fighting for liberty. Free men who can't be bought fighting against the Athenian mercenaries. Why did the ancestors of these Corinthians make peace with Athens?
  • Free men versus democracy. What is the liberty Corinth defends in the speech? It is the liberty of several small states gathered in a confederacy ruled by local oligarchs. While Athens advances the establishment of democracies, local populace ruling. But these democracies have to pay tribute and fight for the Athenian Empire, something Corinth regards as slavery.
  • Persia and Greece. In the first war between Sparta and Athens, Sparta cooperated with the Persians. The Persians were very keen on fighting the Athenians when the Athenians invaded Egypt. The Persians tried to persuade the Spartans to join their side, without success. But there were Corinthians and Epidaurians fighting in Egypt on the Persian side versus Athens.
  • Breaking the code of honor in combat. I have followed a course on military history and i learned about the ancient combat rules that the Greek obtained. War was over after one battle, after which the winners could build a trophy to celebrate victory. This is described in the war of Athens versus Corinth, in which Athens and Corinth quarrel about who won the battle, they both claim victory and build a trophy. A second battle is definitely won by the Athenians. Later on there is a major battle, which is won by the Spartans, but despite this victory, Athens wins the military campaign and a Spartan trophy would be pointless after the battle of Tanagra. Athens didn't accept defeat after the loss of the battle.
  • Thucydides names himself in the text. He was an Athenian fleet commander fighting versus Samos.
The German translation I have tells this was another Thucydides, ----Erkan Yilmaz (Wikiversity:Chat, wiki blog) 16:50, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
  • Greek nationality. Does Thucydides favor a Greek nation? It seems that Sparta regards the Athenians as a different race. Spartans and Corinthians are both proud of being of the Peloponnese and of their Dorian ancestry, which are two different things. Several places on the Peloponnese support Athens, for instance Argos and Achaea.
  • Corinthian speech. A contradiction is made between wise and brave, in which brave is seen as good and wise as bad. There is an appeal to temporarily give up freedom to defeat the enemy in order to avoid lasting slavery.


23. February 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting

4 persons were in the chat
time: ca. 14:15-16:30 UTC+1
material read for meeting: Book 1, aphorisms 125 until end of Book I

Themes for discussion on 23 February[edit]

The text for this meeting is a bit like a frame story.

  • The present is the year 432/431 at the start of the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens. Both sides know that war is inevitable but the fighting has not started yet. It is the silence before the storm. Both Sparta and Athens send messengers to each other to insult each other (using religious reasons: curses) and to convince each other to be just. Questions:
    • What is the role religion plays at the start of this war?
    • How sincere is the appeal to give freedom to the Greeks?
    • Both Pericles, the leader of Athens, and the king of Sparta (earlier in the text) describe the strengths of their country compared to the other. The speeches contradict eachother.
  • The background of the curses are explained in great length, especially the story behind the Spartan Pausanias and the Athenian Themistocles, leaders of the Greeks during the Greco-Persian Wars. Pausanias wanted to become the governor of a Greek province, as part of the Persian Empire and Themistocles was accused of being in league with Pausanias.
    • The text indicates that there was some Greek support for making Greece part of the Persian Empire.
    • The rule of law in Sparta.
    • The respect for the king of Persia. Both Macedon and Persia were kingdoms, yet Thucydides simply says 'the king' when referring to the king of Persia. Persia has a strong appeal to Pausanias.


1st March 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting

4 persons were in the chat
time: ca. 19:30-22:30 UTC+1
material read for meeting: Book II, aphorisms 1-25

Themes for discussion on 1st March[edit]

Thucydides describes the first months of the war.

  • The peace was broken by the Boeotians, who tried to regain a Boeotian city, Plataea, which was allied with Athens. Plataea was an enthusiastic ally of Athens and defeated Boeotian (Theban) forces. We can discuss the breach of the oath, after which Theban prisoners of war were killed.
  • Most people in Greece were enthusiastic about the war and they supported Sparta, because Sparta was fighting for the freedom of the Greeks.
  • During the Spartan invasion of Attica, there is a conflict between commanders and followers. Followers are angry with the lack of initiative of the Commanders, Archidamus for Sparta and Pericles for Athens. Archidamus halted the advance in Attica, hoping for an Athenian surrender to the dismay of his army. Later on he advances into Attica, pillaging the most populated region, of which the inhabitants were now in Athens. Now Pericles is suffering from complaints of his followers. the athenians want to stop the sack of their lands and blame Pericles for not marching out to meet the enemy in battle.
  • Athens is not being besieged, because the Spartan army runs out of supply.
  • Athenians sack the Peloponnesian coast and take some Messenians on board of their ships.
  • Speeches of Archidamus and Pericles. Archidamus wants his men to be afraid, so they are prepared for battle. A small army could defeat a large army if the large army is not prepared. Pericles makes the Athenians feel confident by stating that athens is well prepared with a lot of money and a large army and navy.


8th March 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting

6 persons were in the chat
time: ca. 14:15-16:00 UTC+1
material read for meeting: Book II, aphorisms 25-50

Themes for discussion on 1st March[edit]

  • Athenian campaign along the shores of Greece.
  • King Perdiccas of Macedon switches sides to Athens for the third time, this time with the Thracians as allies.
  • Funeral speech of Pericles, gives more insight on his ideas on Athenian imperialism.
  • The Great pestilence of Athens, where animals die when they eat flesh of disseased humans.


15th + 16th March 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting on:

material read for meeting: Book II, aphorisms 50-75

Themes for discussion on 15th + 16th March[edit]

  • Pestilence in Athens. Society breaks down.
  • Pericles saves his skin. Athenians are angry with him for the unpopular war. Pericles convinces them to struggle on and preserve their empire which is hated by other Greeks.
  • Thucydides gives a summary of the Peloponnesian War. He sees Pericles as a great leader. Athenian leaders after him blew it and missed out on an easy victory.
  • Local conflicts are becoming part of the major war: Thracians want to conquer a town, Ambraciots take revenge on the Amphilochians, Plataea doesn't trust the Thebans.
  • The view on the war becomes more pronounced by the speech of Pericles and the issue of Plataea. The Greeks are angry with the Athenians, because they use terror to subdue the Greeks. Pericles defends this terror by stating that it makes the Athenians rich and powerful, otherwise they might become the slaves of others. But even richness is not enough, serving and dying for the state is of the most importance according to Pericles, who has a distaste for easy temporary pleasures and individualism.

22nd March 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting on:

material read for meeting: Book II, aphorisms 75-end of book II

Themes for discussion on 22nd March[edit]

  • Siege of Plataea.
  • Naval warfare. Two battles won by the Athenians and an assault on Salamis.
    • We can discuss tactics and engines used for naval and siege warfare.
  • Northern front: Odrysian Thracians, Macedonia, Chalcidice.
  • Invasions of Athenians in Chalcidice and of the Peloponnesians in Acarnania fail.


29th March 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting on:

material read for meeting: Book III, aphorisms 1-25

Themes for discussion[edit]

  • Speech in Olympia
  • Mytilene revolts against Athens
  • Plataea: escape of 212 people (over the Peloponnesian wall)
  • Peloponnesians + allies plunder again in Attica
  • campaign of Athenian Asopios in Acarnania


5th April 2008 - with chat log[edit]

chat log of meeting on:

material read for meeting: Book III, aphorisms 25-50

Themes for next meeting[edit]

  • topic: The whole text is about the siege of Mytilenè on Lesbos. Some themes that interests me (Daan):
  • The bad leadership of Alcidas, sailing too slow, killing neutrals, not taking a risk, but rather going home.
  • Democracy at work: Cleon versus Diodotus. Cleon could be described as a conservative and Diodotus as a liberal. Cleon defends terror and Diodotus defends free speech and carefull analysis.
  • The speech of Diodotus compared to other speeches so far.
    • Diodotus versus Archidamus Book I, aphorisms 80-85. Archidamus has a different kind of 'conservatism' than Cleon, defending not to change anything. 'Real conservatism', so to say.
    • Diodotus versus Pericles Book II, Aphorisms 60-64. Pericles is positive about the wealthy, while Diodotus is clearly negative.
  • Cleon mentions the Sophists in his text and is negative about them.