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Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom$
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Mary P. Nichols

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453168

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453168.001.0001

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Athenian Freedom in the Balance

Athenian Freedom in the Balance

Mytilene and Plataea

(p.51) Chapter 2 Athenian Freedom in the Balance
Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom

Mary P. Nichols

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines two Athenian speeches on opposite sides of an issue: how to treat the Mytileneans who revolted trying to seek greater freedom from Athens. In his speech, Cleon denounces the defects of democracy and argues that Mytilene should be punished. Diodotus insists that the Athenians should consider what treatment of Mytilene will be to their advantage in dealing with future revolts. The chapter first discusses the debate in Athens concerning Mytilene before describing the events surrounding the fall of Plataea to the Spartans and their allies. It then compares the ways that Sparta treats the fallen city of Plataea with how Athens treats Mytilene, highlighting the ambiguities in Athens's treatment of Mytilene and Plataea. It also explores Diodotus's account of the power of the passions and Thucydides's portrayal of Diodotus in which he illustrates a politics cognizant of both the advantageous and the just, ennobled by the generosity or liberality that Pericles presented as a defining feature of Athens's excellence.

Keywords:   speech, revolt, freedom, Athens, Cleon, Mytilene, democracy, Diodotus, Plataea, Sparta

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