thucydides - 1 The verisimilitude of Thucydides' account of...

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1 The verisimilitude of Thucydides’ account of the speech made by Pericles depicts the prominence of conformity in ancient Greece as a social characteristic that provided false security and a sense of belonging for the individual. The Spartans, known for their stringent and structured community, placed great emphasis on uniformity. The Athenians, however, idealized and encouraged individuality through democracy. Nonetheless, the majority’s opinion obligated its citizens to take active participation in the state by prioritizing the military realm before their own lives. By exploiting the freewill spirit of democracy, the citizens of the polis were manipulated into compliance. An Athenian may have objected to this paradoxical proposal, arguing that Athens is revered for its unparalleled constitution, and that no other city is as cultured or as democratic. Contrary to the belief that Athens was a haven for individual expression, democracy did not flourish nor was it encouraged in this once revered city. Democracy is the synthetic beating heart that drives the effectiveness and momentum of Pericles’ speech; he attempts to utilize pride evoking qualities of Athens to persuade his listeners of the prominent idea of nobility in sacrificing their lives for the glory of the state. Personal gains are secondary to the defense of the country: “…holding that vengeance upon their enemies was more to be desired than any personal blessings, and reckoning this to be the most glorious of hazards, they joyfully determined to accept the risk, to make sure of their vengeance and to let their wishes wait…” (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War , p.92). It is implausible to expect the citizen to express his individual thoughts when he is pressed to fulfill the wishes of another man. It’s not enough for a citizen to accept his duty, but he must also to take joy from the risk of bringing back his country honor despite the fact that he could be killed doing so. Seemingly, democracy is endowed upon Athenians to suit the wishes of the state prior to
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This essay was uploaded on 04/19/2008 for the course SOCI T03 taught by Professor Peyroux during the Fall '08 term at NYU.

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thucydides - 1 The verisimilitude of Thucydides' account of...

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