The Republic ~ Introduction

“Socrates: I walked down to the Piraeus yesterday with Glaucon the son of Ariston to make my prayers to the goddess.”

Well, I’ve finished History of the Peloponnesian War (except for my final post), yet I’m afraid I’m going to continue on the same track with The Republic and put a number of my readers to sleep.  But I am enjoying this history project ….. as we’ve meandered through Herodotus, then Thucydides, and now Plato, you do see changes and developments within the Greek culture and worldview that can’t be ignored.  And since our civilization, to a certain extent, grew out of it, I believe it’s valuable to learn something about that development.  I anticipate that Plato will be more interesting, but possibly more frustrating.  It doesn’t seem like it was only the ancients who wanted to strangle Socrates …..

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The History of the Peloponnesian War – Book VIII

 

Isle of Chios
Frederic Leighton
source ArtUK

History of the Peloponnesian War

Book VIII:  While Athens is paralyzed in disbelief about the catastrophic Sicilian expedition, Sparta takes advantage of their weakness and begins to foment strife among Athenian allies. They instigate revolts in Chios and Miletus, as well as other areas that pay tribute to Athens. The Athenians fight back with some success. Various battles and political strategems abound, with Alcibiades coming to the forefront, inciting unrest and disagreement wherever he goes, a result of his selfish manipulations. Finally the Peloponnesians suspect him of subterfuge as he is now tight with the Persian, Tissapherne, and the Athenians mistrust him as well. It is unclear as to whether Alcibiades’ urging is the main catalyst, but suddenly Athenian groups break from their beloved democracy and revolt against it, sending envoys back to Athens to overthrow the democracy and establish oligarchies along the way. Their actions are so ill-planned that the areas they convert are so intoxicated with their new freedom that they begin self-government and the intended plan of the reform set to them by the Athenian envoys is completely ignored.Sparta and Persia form an alliance and Alcibiades is up to his usual no-good, playing off Sparta and Athens against each other with the help of Tissapherne, the corrupt Persian governor.

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The History of the Peloponnesian War – Book VII

 

A Dream of Ancient Athens
Sydney Herbert
source ArtUK

History of the Peloponnesian War

Athenian navy, Sicily
source Wikimedia Commons
Book VII:  Gylippus has great success in Syracuse, turning the tide of the war in favour of the Sicilians, capturing outposts and generally making a great nuisance of himself.  Nicias is ill with a kidney condition and writes to Athens to send more armaments, as Alcibiades has turned traitor, Lamachus is dead and he is the only general left.  They immediately send Eurymedon with ten ships which is hardly encouraging, and Demosthenes sets to gather more reinforcements to leave in the spring.  Meanwhile Gylippus prods the Syracusans to engage the Athenians in a sea battle and although they lose, he is able to capture three forts with loads of supplies and this feat is labeled “the first and foremost cause of the ruin of the Athenian army”.  Athenians ships fail to stop other Spartan ships from leaving Peloponnese and an Athenian supply vessel is destroyed, further damaging the Athenian cause, and with a Spartan invasion at Decclea, a second war front springs up for the beleaguered Athenians.  Thucydides relates complete disbelief that, in spite of all they had suffered and the emerging war on the home front, they still stubbornly clung to their Sicilian expedition. 
 

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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.

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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

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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

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.

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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:

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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!

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Cyrus the Persian by Sherman A. Nagel

“The city of Babylon, ‘the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency,’ ‘the lady of kingdoms,’ lay quiet under the silvery splendor of an oriental moon.”

I just finished reading Herodotus’ The Histories, where the story of Cyrus figures prominently, so when Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children’s Classic Literature Event appeared for April, I thought what better time to read a children’s book about the same historical figure?

Nagel sets the story of Cyrus in the time of the Jews captivity in Babylon, and their story runs parallel to that of Cyrus before the two intersect.  One hundred years before Cyrus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah named him as the man who would permit the Jews of Babylon to return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the story allows us to be a part of events leading up to the fulfillment of this prophecy.

King Astyages sending Harpagus to kill young Cyrus
Jean Charles Nicaise Perrin
source Wikipedia

The grandfather of Cyrus, Astyages king of the Medes, is visited by a disturbing dream and his magi tell him that he must destroy the child of his daughter, Mandane, if the child she bears is a boy.  At Mandane’s marriage to the Persian king, Cambyses, Astyages extracts a promise that she will return to him before she gives birth to her firstborn and the promise is fulfilled as Cyrus is born in the kingdom of the Medes.  In fact, so crafty is Astyages that he persuades the parents of Cyrus to leave him with his grandfather, and then sends for his trusted servant Harpagus, commanding him to kill the child.  At the notification of the baby’s death, his parents are grief-stricken but unknown to them and Astyages as well, as Harpagus gives the child over to his chief shepherd, Mitradates, to dispose of the will of God is stronger than all. Upon returning home, Mitradates is distressed to learn of the death of his own child and, on a whim, his wife and he substitute the corpse for Cyrus and pass off his death without a hitch.  Raised as a shepherd boy until, through unexpected circumstances, he comes to the palace an adolescent, he is ultimately recognized as a possible heir to the throne.  With Cyrus back in Persia and Astyages becoming more nervous of his grandson’s power, a force is gathered by Astyages to invade Persia but Harpagus turns loyal to Cyrus based on the king’s cruelty and arranges with Darius, Cyrus’ uncle, that half the army will fight for Cyrus.  At the completion of the battle, Cyrus is victorious. Eventually he will become king of both the Persians and Medes.

At this time as well, Jewish discontent is fomenting due to their religious persecution and captivity by the Babylonians, which the reader experiences through a raid on Rabbi Hermon’s house during a weekly meeting, as the Jews impatiently wait for their prophesied coming deliverer.  We also encounter Jewish history through the activities of Azariah, better known by his Babylonian name of Abednego from Biblical tradition, and his relationship with a Babylonian woman, Iris.  History weaves into story, battles into harmony, and captivity into freedom.  It’s an enduring story that Nagel has obviously thoroughly researched with his attention to historical detail and the relationships he so subtly crafts.  Themes of loyalty, betrayal, persecution, love, friendship, death and perseverance, one can hardly put it down.

Cyrus hunting the great Boar
source Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah 45: 1-3

Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name ……..

⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚

This book contained a number of wonderful quotes of which I’ll share.  There are many but every one is worth reading!

Quotes:

“When one is full of himself, he is empty.”

“Love is a very rare quality.  So many emotions are mistaken for love.  Of all the counterfeits, lust has always been love’s strongest opponent.  Nothing is so wonderful, so conducive to happiness, so health-producing, as the heart union of two lives, where true love reigns and lust has no power.”

“If there is one thing heaven hates in man it is pride.  Not self-respect, but that quality of pride which causes a man to think more highly of himself than he ought.”

“Unholy ambition has brought ruin to many a man who has followed her unhallowed footsteps.  Multitudes of the human family have suffered and died because of the ambition of one.  He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping.”

“How often we doubt because we cannot know all that is going on which we cannot see. Faith is believing in God.  It is taking Him at His word.  It is evidence when there is no evidence in sight.  It is ‘the substance of things hoped for.’  Belief is accepting a map; faith is taking the journey.”

“Patience is a pearl oft produced by petty irritations.  The human heart cannot be whole until it is broken.  Care becomes its own cure when it drives us to prayer.  To our prayers God gives answers, but in His love, makes ways and times His own.  Their leaders wisely taught the people not to worry about the future, but to be optimistic.  Nature hates to disappoint the man who is always looking for the worst to happen.  We only live a day at a time.”

“The average man is like a match; if he gets lit up, he loses his head.”

“And Astyages talked boastfully on, like a man who may think he is eloquent when he is only evaporating.”

“Those who throw themselves away usually do not like the place where they land.”

“Best character is developed amid storm clouds and tempests.”

“Conscience is not like a bore; if you snub it a few times, after that it won’t bother you.”

“When one was asked the secret of his happy life, he replied: ‘I have a friend.’  True friends are to be cherished for they are precious.  One should keep a little cemetery in which to bury the failings of one’s friends.  The man who never puts in an honest day’s work on friendship’s railroad, has no reason to expect a sidetrack to his door.  Selfish people may have acquaintances but not friends.  With some people you invest an evening, with others you spend it.”

“Cyrus was naturally of a very affectionate disposition.  He had a great deal of sentiment.  No man is worth much without it but to have too much is suicidal.”

“God has not promised to do for us that which we can do for ourselves.”

“Some of the unhappy folk in our world today are men and women with more money than they know what to do with.”

“It has been said that happiness is made of so many pieces that there is always one missing.  Happiness is never found by searching for it.  Like boys chasing butterflies, happiness is always just out of reach.  It does not consist in a fine house, fine furniture, a sixteen-cylinder car or alot of money.  In many places dwell unhappy hearts.  All of the things enumerated may conduce to happiness but the poor man has access to happiness as well as the rich.

Happiness consists in contentment, in having a clear conscience.  It will be found in acting in an unselfish manner towards others.  You cannot pour the perfume of happiness upon others without getting a few drops on yourself.  Victor Hugo has well written: ‘The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.'”