Posts Tagged ‘Mytilene Debate’

Fake News?

There are ‘Thucydides’ quotes that immediately raise suspicions, and generally they are easiest to eliminate as being fake – “A collision at sea can ruin your whole day” is so obviously a modern fiction that it’s scarcely worth worrying about, even before you notice that it was originally attributed to Book 9. Most, however, are at least plausible – and, given that Thucydides’ difficult Greek can almost always be translated in multiple ways, it can be extremely difficult to establish that a quote really isn’t genuine if you can’t track down the phrase in another source that is manifestly not Thucydides. I suppose one could argue that the burden of proof should be on those who propagate dubious quotations to justify the claim that they’re from Thucydides (more…)

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In the aftermath of the onset of BRAGNARÖK, a number of people have been talking somewhat wistfully of the Mytilene Debate in Thucydides (3.36-48), when the Athenians changed their minds about massacring the entire population of a rebellious allied city. I think the first reference I saw to Mytilene on Twitter was from Angie Hobbs (@drangiehobbs) on 25th June (given how rapidly events are developing at the moment, I think it’s important to keep the chronology clear…), offering it as an exemplum rather than an analogy, but in recent days there’s been a blog post by Caitlin Harris, an MA student at Swansea (https://projects.swan.ac.uk/ancient-world/?p=386), arguing that it would be fundamentally undemocratic to deny people the right to vote again with a different perspective; a letter in the Grauniad from one Shoshana Goldhill in Cambridge (now there’s a famous classical surname…) arguing that it shows the ability for democracy to self-correct its own excesses; and an article in the Frankfürter Allgemeine Zeitung from Uwe Walter (Professor of Ancient History at Bielefeld, for anyone who doesn’t know his work), ‘Man müsste bloß wieder zurückrudern’, drawing on the work of Egon Flaig to explore in detail the circumstances of the second Mytilene debate and concluding by wondering whether the fateful Article 50 trireme that’s been dispatched will be over-hauled by a new Parliament, a courageous government or the obdurate Scots. (more…)

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I’ve never seen the whole of The Phantom Menace,* only odd five- or ten-minute snatches here and there, generally with the sound turned down, but over the years this has been enough to build up an overall impression of the film. This has tended to confirm the comments of various critics that it’s basically a number of show-piece action sequences interspersed with long discussions of galactic politics and trade embargoes with the Naboo, that could easily have been edited down into something a bit punchier. Some critics have said similar things about Thucydides – though in this case the temptation is to skip the battles and action sequences** to get to the meaty political debates, rather than vice versa. There is also, thankfully, no equivalent of Jar Jar Binks. Thucydides doesn’t really do comedy, even if it seriously cuts his margins on the merchandising.

How should one read Thucydides? Or, as I put the question at the end of the last blog post, do you really have to read all of it? (more…)

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