Thucydides on Pericles and Athens

Essay by acl53College, UndergraduateA+, October 2006

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Athens, said by Thucydides, is so great a city it is to be "an education to Greece" (p. 78). It was a city that prided itself with its righteous government, superior military, as well as its upstanding and patriotic citizens. It was a city founded by forefathers whose great courage and virtues paved the way to the free and just empire into which it evolved. This brilliant city was considered to be the jewel of the Greek world. If a city considered so great, that it is undefeated in battle, feared by its enemies, and revered by its allies, how is it possible that it can come to such a rapid and pitiful demise?

According to Thucydides, the success of Athens was not simply due to the spoils of war but rather due to the hard work of both the Athenian forefathers and the current citizens of the state.

First of all, the government placed its "power in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people" (p.77), a system of government known as a democracy. With this sort of system in place individuals that institute laws are chosen based on "the ability which the man possesses" (p.77) rather than his class. Second of all, Thucydides states that there was a significant difference in the military mindset to that of their opponents. Athenian soldiers were said to only rely on their courage and loyalty to their country without the need of rigorous training from the state as to what a soldier should be, this was said to be "state-induced courage" (p.77) and worth nothing. Thirdly, the main success of Athens and what makes it great, lies within each and every one of its citizens; the idea that each individual is equal, and the attitude toward not...