Homework Question on Athenian Democracy
Pericles was responsible for dragging Athens into war with Sparta, and next we’ll cover the course of that war during his lifetime and in subsequent decades (he died in the second outbreak of the plague in Athens). For your response, consider the debate about the so-called Sicilian expedition of 415 BCE, which took place after a brief six-year hiatus in war between Athens and Sparta. Even without the benefit of hindsight (the expedition was an unmitigated disaster which cost thousands of Athenian lives by 411 BCE),
- In what ways can you see the on-the-ground practice of Athenian democracy pushing the assembly into ever more violent and inadvisable policy during the course of the war?
- What about the appeal from Egesta would have appealed to Athenians in 415 BCE? Nicias openly discusses the peer pressure that complicates any vote for or against an aggressive military policy; how might we trace this back to a social institution we discussed a couple weeks ago?
- To which citizens in the assembly is Nicias appealing in his argument, as opposed to the target audience for the policy advocated by Alcibiades?
- Imagining yourself in Athenian sandals, what personal experiences might have influenced your vote in this case?
Homework Answer on Athenian Democracy
The envoy sent to Sicily sought to analyze the state so as to determine whether to expedite their plans or uphold peace. Instances of debate so as to reach a consensus on whether the expedition is a practice of democracy or not are in some way unrealistic since expeditions and peace are varied and cannot be compromised in the pretext of a debate.
The Egestans sought help from Athens so as to defeat the Syracusans. This made the Athenians more eager for the expedition than before. Nicias was then pressured to grant the Athenians their wish of going against cities which were great but not subject to others so as to create the conditions of servitude and exchange the democratically provided freedom.
The influence that an aggressive military policy has for any institution is of great impact and in many instances, forms the basis from which the greatest support will lie. For example a government that does contrary to what the military agitates for can be overthrown by the military due to the strength and the ability to work as a team. This was evident when Athenians voted to have their generals have full powers over the army. There was also reigning as a result since everything was easily provided.