The Peloponnesian War erupted when Sparta and Athens could not agree on the costs of maintaining the large navy created for the Persian Wars. Sparta always believed their army had won the Persian Wars for Greece and Athens always believed it was their navy that had been victorious. In fact, there was truth on both sides. You have now read Thucydides’ account of two events from his History of the Peloponnesian War. Dates are important here. The Funeral Oration occurred about a year into the conflict. Pericles was memorializing the young men who had died in the conflict (kind of like a Memorial Day speech today). The Melian Dialogue occurred nearly fifteen years later. The war had dragged on ( and Athens would eventually lose); the tiny island of Melos refused to choose sides, but was strategically located for the Athenians to raid Sparta (look for it on the map). The Melians chose death and enslavement of their widows and children at the hands of the Athenians, rather than give up their liberty, stating they would “Live Free or Die’….a phrase much borrowed since, from Patrick Henry’s speech to the N.H. motto.
Your assignment: Thucydides gives us two different pictures of Athens in his account of these events. Based on your reading of Chapter 3 and these documents, write a short (250-400 word) essay explaining which (or both) of these accounts best reflects Athens’ cultural values. Be sure to give specific examples from your reading to support your statements and do not neglect DATES and CITATIONS. Once you have posted your own essay, comment on at least two other postings.
Textbook-A History of Western Society 13th edition, Vol. 1
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