Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The History of the Peloponnesian War - Book VI


Ruin of Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller
source Wikiart

History of the Peloponnesian War


Book VI:  The Athenians decide to attack Sicily although ignorant of the island’s size and number of inhabitants.  Sounds like a bad idea.  Thucydides now gives a history of the people who settled the island which is very interesting, so don’t skip it if you read this book.  Lots of expelling from cities is included.  I’m amazed at how many people were often just kicked out from where they had lived for years and had to go elsewhere.  However, Thucydides relates it as an unsurprising regular occurrence, so obviously my reaction is very different than the people of that time. 

Planning not only to invade the island, but to help their Greek-Sicilian kinsman, the Athenians use pleas from Egestaean envoys as an excuse to help stop the domination of Syracuse, the kingdom on the island who is a possible supporter of Sparta.  When Athenian envoys return from Egesta, they report riches beyond their wildest imaginations and the Athenian people are wild to start the expedition.  Three generals are chosen to lead it, Alcibiades, Nicias and Lamachus, but of the three, Nicias is against its implementation.  He argues that Sicily is too far away to maintain control of, that affairs at home are still precarious; they should be using this time to recover from plague and war, and that Athens is respected by the Sicilians because they are unfamiliar with them, but by showing their hand, they risk later conflict.  A persuasive argument but Alcibiades counters, defending himself and his ostentatious and elaborate private life, claims that the Sicilians are politically weak, they will find assistance in other areas, and that they must strike now and expand their empire or risk losing their domination.  Nicias tries to counter his arguments but only succeeds in fuelling the people’s determination for the expedition.  


Alcibiades being taught by Socrates (1775)
Françoise André Vincent
source Wikimedia Commons
While the preparations for the expedition commence, the stone Hermae, figures in the doorways of private houses are mysteriously defaced and Alcibiades is accused of plotting to place himself in power.  When he demands a trial to clear his name, it is postponed, his enemies planning to use it as an excuse to recall him at a later date.  The occurrence, though, is seen as a bad portent for the expedition.

Meanwhile, the Syracusian, Hermocrates, tries to warn the people of the pending Athenian attack.  He wants the peoples to unite and meet the enemy in the Ionian sea but Athenagoras, a Syracusan general, pishaws the warning, saying that Athenians are too clever to make such foolish plans.  He implies Hermocrates’ warning is to destabilize the government, yet does suggest the city’s defences should be prepared.

Cape Zafferano, Sicily
source ArtUK
The Athenians and allied forces assemble at Corcyra.  The fleet consists of one hundred thirty-four triremes, the largest force seen since that of Pericles’ attack of Potidaea.  As the fleet sails down the coast of Italy, no city is happy to see them and even at the tip of Rhegium, the people who were supposed to be their allies, refuse to take sides.  The Athenian force also learns of Egesta’s trickery in appearing to have a massive treasury when, in fact, they have little.  Alcibiades and Lamachus are stunned and Nicias suggests engaging with the Selinuntines (which was their main objective to bring peace with Egesta).  They sail past other cities to show their force, and then return home and in that, prevent risking any resources of the Athenian state or their allies.  Alcibiades wants to send heralds to each city to gain alliances and then attack everyone who refuses, and Lamachus wants to attack Syracuse immediately, but he will defer to Alcibiades.  Attempts to solicit support mostly fail and then a delegation arrives to summon Alcibiades to answer for the Hermae affair as Athens is terrified of oligarchic and monarchical conspiracy stemming from their fear of the tyranny of Pisistratus and his sons; however Thucydides claims that the Athenians do not know their own history and it was Hippias, not Hipparchus, who was the true dictator.  He proceeds to give an account of a love triangle including Hipparchus, and of Hippias’ tyranny, how he was sent into exile in Persia and returned twenty years later at the Battle of Marathon (see Herodotus Book V).  Alcibiades sets sail for Athens, but with prejudice against him and blame for other happenings; he escapes and eventually surfaces in the Peloponnese.  Athens condemns him to death in his absence.

Syracuse, Anapo River (1904)
Walter Crane
source Wikiart
Meanwhile the Sicilian expedition is still sailing and sailing without accomplishing much. They have not been paid by Egesta and by their inaction, are losing the respect of the Syracusans.  The Syracusans march to Catana to engage the Athenians, only to find they have left for Syracuse and have to hurry back.  The inexperienced Syracusan army is routed but manage to regroup, a truce is made and the expedition breaks off for the winter, while the Syracusans reform their army and send for aid from Corinth and Sparta.  While the Athenian, Euphemus, tries to convince the Camarinaean populace of Athenian goodwill, the Spartans, who at first refused to aid the Syracusans, are persuaded by the argument of crafty Alcibiades, who has an answer for everything, including his treachery to his own country.  The Athenians build a wall around Syracuse, whereupon the Syracusans build their own but are dissatisfied with their eighteen generals, replace them and begin to consider surrender.  The Spartan, Gylippus, leaves for Syracuse, ignored by Nicias because of his small force, and Sparta invades Argos.  Athens comes to their aid, giving Sparta a pretext for ignoring the treaty and recommencing hostility towards Athens.  


Mount Etna from Taormina
John Brett
source ArtUK

Saturday, 1 July 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book V



History of the Peloponnesian War


Book V:  After the armistice is concluded, Cleon, emboldened by his success in Pylos, leads an expedition through Thrace to Torone where he takes Torone, destroying some of Brasidas' fortifications.  He makes Eion his base and Brasidas makes Amphipolis his, whereupon Cleon attacks, however in his delusions of grandeur he misjudges his ability, and tries to retreat too late.  In the fighting, Cleon is killed but his nemesis, Brasidas, is also fatally wounded.

Argos from Mycene (1884)
Edward Lear
source ArtUK


Both sides are eager for peace now, Athens suffering heavy losses, no longer certain of her strength in arms and worried about Sparta taking advantage of her weakness, and Sparta concerned about the devastation of their lands, deserting Helots, the return of the prisoners at Pylos to their important families, the possibility of civil war, their expiring thirty-year truce with Argos, and Peloponnesian cities intending to go over to the enemy.  Negotiations ensue with new leaders, Pleistoanax, son of Pausanias for Sparta and Nicias for Athens, each with their own agendas and with an idealistic view that peace would bring all things good with no repercussions from the war.  The peace treaty is then agreed upon.  Allies of Sparta refuse to accept the treaty, whereupon Sparta forms a fifty-year alliance with Athens, hoping this will dissuade aggression from Argos.  This happens in the winter of the tenth year of the war. Yet as time passes, the two powers begin to suspect each other, as both neglect to act on some of the conditions of the treaty, Sparta dragging her heels the most and being the whiniest.  Thucydides claims this was not a bonafide peace treaty but merely a ceasing of hostility in a war that continued.  

Near Athens (1863-65)
Harry John Johnson
source ArtUK

With the Corinthians once again causing trouble, they attempt to persuade Argos to go against Sparta.  Other states, uneasy with the treaty between the two major players, consider an alliance with the Argives.  More small invasions continue as does political plotting.  The Argives attempt to elicit a treaty with Sparta but changes its mind and makes one with Athens.  Alcibiades opposes Athens' treaty with Sparta and Nicias pushes for its fulfillment while attempting to delay their treaty with the Argives, however he fails and the treaty is made, yet even so, the Athens and Sparta alliance continues.  The Spartans surround Argive forces, yet a truce is called by their leaders, Agis king of Sparta (remember the Spartan dual-king thing) and the Argive, Thrasylus.  The people on each side are furious at the undemocratic decision, each thinking they could have won; Thrasylus is stoned and has to flee to an altar to save his life and Agis nearly loses his home and is fined.  Instead, they enact a law, giving Agis ten counsellors and he is unable to make a decision without them.  


More fighting between Sparta and her allies and the Argives and her allies, then the Argives make an alliance with Sparta.  With infighting in Argos, the Argives change their minds again and reforge ties with Athens.  Athens launches an expedition against Melos and after persuasive arguments, finally kills the men, sells the women and children as slaves, and settles Melos itself.


The bay of Milos
source Wikipedia


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book IV


Pylos from the north
source Wikipedia


History of the Peloponnesian War

Book IV:  Demosthenes continues his strategies to Athens' benefit.  There is an ironic battle between Athen and Sparta in Pylos, where Athens is fighting on Spartan land, defending it against the Spartans who are approaching by sea.  A power struggle between Creon and Nicias ensues and Creon is forced to take command of the troops against his will, after clever manipulation by Nicias, and chooses Demosthenes as his commanding officer.  The Spartans are eventually defeated with the prisoners being taken to Athens.  The Spartans try to negotiate peace but the Athenians reject the proposal, always "grasping at more."  Nicias now leads an expedition and more Athenian battles ensue.

Athens with the Acropolis
William James Müller
source ArtUK


More battles are described covering many areas of Peloponnese and Attica.  Athens appears most of the time to have the upper hand until Brasidas, a Spartan commander, begins a march through Thessaly toward Macedon where he has been invited by its leader, Perdiccas, to help them, and surrounding areas revolt from Athens.  Brasidas is wildly successful and is only stopped from invading Eion by Thucydides (our famous author!), however most other Chalcidice territory falls into his hands.  His attacks and revolts by kingdoms continue in spite of a one-year armistice between Athens and Sparta that is agreed upon in the 9th summer of the war.  However, as some of Brasidas’ soldiers vent their anger on baggage and oxen of deserting Macedonians, a falling out occurs between Perdiccas and Brasidas, the former “beg{inning} to regard Brasidas as an enemy and to feel against the Peloponnesians a hatred which would not suit well the adversary of the Athenians.  Indeed, he now departed from his natural interst and made it his endeavor to come to terms with the latter and to get rid of the former.”  The ninth winter ends with a failed attempted by Brasidas to conquer Potidaea.

He became a target for every arrow
(Brasidas)
source Wikipedia


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

History of Peloponnesian War - Book III



History of the Peloponnesian War

Landscape of Attica
Nikolaos Lytras
source Wikiart
Book III:  In the summer of the fourth year, there is much action along the Ionian coastline.  Sparta also prepares to invade Attica.  Lesbos revolts from Athenian control and Mytilene follows suite and after fighting, Athenian strength prevails.  Cleon and Diodotus argue over how to treat the revolutionaries with Cleon arguing for execution.  In the end, Athens votes to spare them.

We have many descriptions of battles and states allying with one opponent or the other.  Most often the alliance was formed for self-preservation, rather than from any deep conviction, although the occasional loyalty did crop up.

The Thebans and Plataeans squabble, Sparta judges and executes the Plataeans (yes, all of them) and their city is razed.

Thucydides gives a fascinating speech on the evils of war and revolution and how it changes men both externally and internally.  There are chilling similarities to the politics and power struggles of our times:

"The sufferings which revolution entailed upon the cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in a severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases.  In peace and prosperity states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants and so proves a rough master that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes ...... words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question incapacity to act on any.  Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self-defence.  The advocate of extreme measure was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.  To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries .......  The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention ...... Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles.  The ancient simplicity into which honor so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.  To put an end to this, there was neither promise to be depended upon, nor oath that could command respect; but all parties dwelling rather in their calculation upon the hopelessness of a permanent state of things, were more intent upon self-defence than capable of confidence.  In the contest the blunter wits were most successful .... {yet} often fell victims to their own lack of precaution."

For a second time a plague strikes the Athenians, although the first plague has not quite left, and lasted for a year, has a devastating effect on their population.

Demosthenes (1893)
Nicholas Roerich
source Wikiart


We are introduced to Demosthenes and his aggressive and single-minded leadership, which seems to work well for him, as he assists the Acarnanians in routing the Peloponnesians and the Ambraciots in a decisive victory.

The winter of the sixth year of the war concludes with an eruption of Mount Etna.

Viw of Mount Etna (1844)
Thomas Cole
source Wikiart

Friday, 16 June 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book II

Peloponnese region
courtesy of Ian Gkoutas
source Wikimedia Commons


History of the Peloponnesian War


Pericles Funeral Oration (1877)
source Wikimedia Commons
Book II:  This book takes the reader from the beginning of the war to the third year in the winter season.  An altercation between Spartan and Athenian allies provides the spark for Sparta to invade Hellene lands and so the war begins, with descriptions of battle and raids and refugees. and even the great Athenian general Pericles donates his land to the Athenian government for political reasons.  His eulogy over dead fighters (his famous funeral oration) gives a particular insight into Hellenic culture and character:

"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves ......  We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality .... We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggles against it.  Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, we regard the citizen who takes no part in theses duties not as unambitious but as useless, and we are able to judge proposals even if we cannot originate them; instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminiary to any wise action at all ...... But the prize for courage will surely be awarded most justly to those who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger .... "

Soon after, an horrendous plague hit Athens, which started on Lemnos and is speculated to have originated in Ethiopia.  Thousands upon thousands of Hellenes began to die and Thucydides was one of its targets, although obviously he didn't die and was an expert on its progression, both from having the disease, to observation and inquiry.

Anaxagoras and Pericles
Augustin Louis-Bell
source Wikimedia Commons
Pericles is then disparaged by the people for the deprivation and struggles they are facing during the war, and he gives a rather stirring speech in his defense, after which the people throw their support behind him, albeit not without a fine to assuage their previous grumblings.  Thucydides' description of Pericles is very complimentary:

"For as long as he was at the head of the state during the peace, he pursued a moderate and conservative policy; and in his time its greatness was at its height.  When the war broke out, here also he seems to have rightly gauged the power of his country.  He outlived its commencement two years and six months, and the correctness of his foresight concerning the war became better known after his death.  He told them to wait quietly, to pay attention to their marine, to attempt no new conquests, and to expose the city to no hazards, during the war, and doing this, promised them favourable results.  What they did was the very contrary, allowing private ambitions and private interest, in matters apparently quite foreign to the war, to lead them into projects unjust both to themsevles and to their allies ---- projects whose success would only conduce to the honor and advantage of private personas, and whose failure entailed certain disaster on the country in the war.  The causes of this are not far to seek.  Pericles indeed by his rank, ability, and known integrity, was enabled to exercise an independent control over the multitude --- in short, to lead them instead of being led by them; for as he never sought power by improper means, he was never compelled to flatter them, but on the contrary, enjoyed so high an estimation that he could afford to anger them by contradiction.  Whenever he saw them unreasonably and insolently elated, he would with a word reduce them to alarm; on the other hand, if they fell victims to a panic, he could at once restore them to confidence.  In short, what was nominally a democracy was becoming in his hand government by the first citizen."

Then follows many general descriptions of battles that take us through to the end of the third year of the war: Plataea is wooed by Archidamus, king of the Spartans, but decides to remain loyal to Athens and are besieged by the Peloponnesians for their decision; Acarnania, in western Hellas, is attacked by the Peloponnesians and defends itself, causing a Peloponnesian retreat.

The Acropolis of Athens (1883)
Ivan Aivazovsky
source Wikiart



Book I                                                                                            

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

History of the Peloponnesian War - Book I


Confusion
Achraf Baznani
source Wikiart

I swore I would never do this again ....... After being completely drained by my The Histories posts, I made a pact with myself NOT to do the same with Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.  After all, how much brain power can one person have?  But my post for the book is getting longer and longer and longer, and honestly I'm getting more engaged with Thucydides narrative, somewhat dry though it may be.  I was admittedly bored until about halfway through, but now it has suddenly become interesting and I'm eager to keep reading.  So, with some renewed energy and in an effort not to overwhelm everyone (including myself!) with an hideously long book review, I've decided to take the plunge and travel book by book.  Most of the reviews won't be as long as Herodotus, in fact, some will be rather short.  I'm certain everyone is sighing in relief!

So without further ado, Book I of History of the Peloponnesian War:


History of the Peloponnesian War

Peloponnesian War Alliances
source Wikipedia
Book I:  Think of two brothers embroiled in an enormous disagreement, trust and unity quickly eroding to jealousy, self-importance and suspicion.  Athens incenses Corinth by placing their fleet so they are unable to attack Corcyra and then they woo Potidaea, a colony of Corinth. Now Corinth is livid and appeals to Sparta with their grievances.

I quite liked this comparison between the two nations, Athens and Sparta, offered by the Corinthians:
"..... you will encounter in the Athenians, how widely, how absolutely different from yourselves.  The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you {Sparta} have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough.  Again, they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine; your wont is to attempt less than is justified by your power, to mistrust even what is sanctioned by your judgment, and to fancy that from danger there is no release.  Further, there is promptitude on their side against procrastination on yours; they are never at home, you are most disinclined to leave it, for they hope by their absence to extend their acquisitions, you fear by your advance to endanger what you have left behind.  They are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse.Their bodies they spend ungrudgingly in their country's cause; their intellect they jealously husband to be employed in her service ...... To describe their character is a word, one might truly say they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others."
Theatre of Ancient Sparta
source Wikipedia
While the Spartan delegation counsels war with Athens, their king, Archidamus, cautions that they must build their alliance and gather resources as the war must prove to be long and arduous.  Thence, we hear of a number of alliances and misalliances involving both states plus further introductions to a more crafty Themistokles and an arrogant and violent Pausanias, that appears to be in direct contrast to his portrayal by Herodotus.  Pausanias, inflated by his successes in the Persian Wars, attempts to solidify his power by courting Persia's regard and is eventually questioned by Sparta.  Tricked into revealing his crimes, he flees to the temple where he is confined and ultimately perishes of starvation.  Likewise, Themistokles is an anathema in Athens, and to preserve himself, pursues the favour of the Persian king, now Artaxerxes, is appointed governor by him and eventually dies. However, the Spartans vote for war, encouraged and praised by the shrewd Corinthians, and Athens vows to defend herself, inspired by the stirring speeches of Pericles.  All-out war seems imminent, but it doesn't happen just yet.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

June ~ Is Summer Finally Here? .....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel


Well, it looks like summer has finally arrived.  We've had temperatures close to 30C (90F) some days, however the temperature has also dipped into the teens, so it's still somewhat unsettled and colder than normal.

While the month of May was very eventful, it would probably boring for anyone who isn't interested in sports.  I'm part of the administrative crew for the largest fastpitch tournament in Canada and we've started to gear up for it, so it's been taking up much of my time.  My job includes lots of recruiting, scorekeeping and sending endless emails. It's my first year in this position and I'm prepared for a trial-by-fire.  Please keep me in your prayers, ha ha! ;-)

Source
In mid-May I travelled to scorekeep a softball tournament in the Interior of B.C. where it is usually desert-like conditions.  Not this year.  They had been having torrential rains and flooding, and we were set to arrive right in the middle of another storm and predicted evacuations.  The rains and flooding were said to be an event that would only happen there once every 200 years.  Ah, what luck!  As it turned out the drive was uneventful except for a snowstorm and fog at the summit of the highway, which lasted only about 10 minutes and the weekend, while overcast, did not bring any further rain.  Phew!

Source
I was able to have a short weekend away to visit the city of Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia.  It's a lovely old-world British-style city with wonderful shops and amazing places to eat, not to mention the Parliament Buildings.  If anyone ever visits B.C., don't miss it!

As for reading, as you can imagine, my time has been very limited.  Thucydides' The History of the Peloponnesian War seems to be taking forever and (can I be honest?), he is so dry and uninteresting that I'm feeling like falling asleep whenever I read him.  On a positive note, I do like the speeches, and in particular, Thucydides' speech on the evils of war.  In any case, if I'm not finished this book by the end of this month, I'll cry.  And I think Thucydides caused me to lose my mind a little because I went off track and read three totally unplanned un-classics.  Seriously, don't faint.  I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby, a book reminiscent of On the Road by Jack Kerouac, being a memoir of an adolescent adult who refuses to grow up, behaves like a child, and then is completely puzzled that his life is a total mess and he is incapable of having a fulfilling relationship.  Duh!  Next, I read an Alex Delaware novel, Heartbreak Hotel, which was awful (after 32 Alex Delaware books, perhaps Kellerman should give up), and finally Empire of the Sun which was about a boy trying to survive Japanese occupation of China during WWII.  It was mildly interesting but, while two of the books counted for my Guardians 1000 list, I realized that I needed to return to those dependable classics.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel


June comes with continuing softball responsibilities yet I'm also going to make an escape to the island for a weekend and hopefully recapture some lost reading time.  I'd like to be able to pull out the kayaks and go for a good long paddle as well.  Biking .....? Yoga .....?  Well, hopefully, but of course, as time permits.  I've also starting planting in my garden which should have started a month ago but was held up because of the weather.  Finally my figs are coming out on my fig tree, my quince is in blossom, my apple tree has just finished blossoming, and my Italian plum tree is destined to be torn out because in spite of having piles of blossoms every year, it never bears plums.  I did manage to plant the potatoes I received during my farm trip in April, so it's been fun to see them starting to come up as well.

Source
As for reading, I'm going to finish Thucydides.  Let me say that again, I AM GOING TO FINISH THUCYDIDES!  I have a number of buddy reads starting including two on Goodreads where we'll read The Republic and Augustine's City of God (help!).  A third will be with Cirtnecce and Helen and we'll start Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye as soon as I get my copy, hopefully in another week.  I'm not trying to look farther than that.  My cup overfloweth and if I started thinking of any more books, my head would probably explode.

And the food blog? ..... ah, the now dreaded food blog.  I'm still waiting for my partner to make a date to get together and compile our bios and mission statement.  Both of us are very busy but chasing him down can be a task in itself.  I've already drafted a number of recipes and tested a number of them (ha, funny how he seems to be around for the testing but not for the writing!) so I'm really ready to launch except for this one snag.  Will we be unsnagged by July?  Stay tuned to find out!


“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”  ~ Dr. Seuss