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The Influence of the International Politics on the Internal State Politics on the Example of the Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War, a war between Greek cities started in 431 B.C. It was more lengthy and destructive than any Hellenic or barbaric war that had preceded it. In the fifteenth year of Peloponnesian War the former allies of the Persian War Sparta and Athens turned against each other and the rest of Hellenic world joined their sides. The Peloponnesian War shattered the Hellenic political model of order within the city, or polis, and between them. Many historians and poets tried to trace the reasons for the Peloponnesian War, its roots and results. Most of these writers agree on the point that the whole Hellenic political system was corrupted and the polis could not function any longer in its original form. Thucydides, the Ancient Greek historian of the fifth century B.C.
in his work The Peloponnesian War gives the full account of the war events and shows how the combined faults of internal and external policy lead to this war. The same themes can be traced in works of another ancient Greek writer Aristophanes. In Aristophanes comedy The Clouds the author shows the scheme of relation between different classes within the city, which dictate the social behavior. The author shows how such hierarchy between the social classes corrupts people. The analysis of The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides and The Clouds by Aristophanes helps to determine such drawbacks of Hellenic political system as hierarchy between the cities led to the Peloponnesian war, how the war shattered the legal and social structure within the cities, influenced the ethical outlook of the people and the importance of the international politics for the state order. The description of the civil war in Corcyra by Thucydides is the essential part for to understanding the rest of Thucydides' book The Peloponnesian War. On the example of Corcyra Thucydides shows that all the Hellenic polis order was determined by the certain hierarchy within the city and by the hierarchy between the cities as well, this dictated the relation structure.
Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian War focuses on the empire and power. All the Hellenic states interacted within the confines of determined hierarchy. Before the Peloponnesian War Sparta was the most powerful Hellenic state. Athens and other states were far behind. Thucydides described such political system as unethical and corrupting. The strong could do whatever the wanted and the weak could only passively accept everything that was brought upon them.
The change of position in Hierarchy by any weak city could not seriously affect the political structure between the Hellenic cities, but the political development of another strong city could easily collapse the whole structure. The growth of power by a stronger state formed an equal rival to the dominant state and shook the system of subordination. The city of Athens gradually accumulated political and military power and tried to rival the power of the city of Sparta. Thucydides emphasizes that such gradual political growth of Athens damaged the stability of hierarchy between the cities. Made the war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused Sparta" and causes "a change in the hierarchy or control of the international political system."(Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War) The hierarchy between the cities shown by Thucydides can not be mentioned apart from the hierarchy between the citizens within one state. Thucydides was the first who distinguished the rules of internal politics and interstate politics. He shows that within the city the citizens of all classes, democrats and oligarchs enter a community, based on rules, traditions and laws.
Such regulations within the community help to make the people equal in the face of law or ethics. But such model is not working between the states because their interaction is based not on social but on political contact. In the interstate relationship the strong dictates how the weak should be treated and how they should behave. But when the weaker state accumulated enough power to rival the leader, the battle for domination ensures. After the war broke, the politics was strongly affected the international affairs. Thucydides in the part of his book Civil War in Corcyra shows that the social classes of the citizens divided into two parties, supporting the different sides of war. The weaker commons supported the former weaker state, the city of Athens and the stronger oligarchs supported the city of Sparta.
Before war citizens could not think about inviting the third party for supporting them against other citizens, but during the war everyone tries to draw as greater benefit as possible. When in the days of peace all citizens were equal and defended the order and liberty in the city by law, in the days of war all the social laws ceased to exist. The society was ruled only by the power of the strongest, which chose how to treat the weakest. Here lied the trap for the dominant part of such scheme. The author had already shown how the scheme between weaker and stronger shattered the balance between the cities and the result of relationship can not be different here. When the subordinate party acquires strength or power, it tries to shatter the dominant. Aristophanes in his comedy The Clouds also represents the struggle between the Athenian and Spartan leagues.
The Peloponnesian war is represented in the quarrel over three harlots and Dicaeopolis wishes that Lacedaemon, the city that he hates, was leveled to the ground by earthquake. Through Dicaeopolis words Aristophanes describes the affects of war on the city and the citizens. The war leveled to the ground, or evaporated city order and the political structure, which was being developed for centuries shattered. Citizens were left with blank slate instead of the order and fulfilled it in accordance to their whims. The only possible force for suppressing any riots was terror. The sufferings which revolution brought 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.
(Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War). Thucydides shows that human nature dictated the behavior to people when order is shattered. During the War, when ethical values are not protected by the law and people do not have the fear of punishment, people they deny the moral values and act in accordance to their advantage. For in peacetime, and amid prosperous circumstances, both cities and individuals possess more noble dispositions, because they have not fallen into the overpowering constraints imposed by harsher times. (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War) The author emphasizes the importance of the state in order to preserve the order and ethical behavior. Thucydides also shows that drawbacks of international politics irreversibly affect the internal politics and order.
Describing the shatter of state social and legal order Thucydides shows, that even anarchy can not rule without certain order. During the war, when the strong rule the weak the dominating parties instill rules that virtually legalize their actions. Thucydides shows the appearance of such new political order in development of new scheme of behavior and thinking,even kinship came to represent a less intimate bond than that of party faction, since the latter implied a greater willingness to engage in violent acts of daring without demur. (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War). The author shows how common moral values are transfigured in the process of war and the idea of self-preservation, instilled by the dominating class, overpowered the ethics and family values. And people altered, at their pleasure, the customary significance of words to suit their deeds. (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War). Aristophanes in The Clouds described such phenomena in the scene, when Pheidippides learns immoral logic in the Thinkery and Strepsiades rejoices because of his son's and his own cleverness and hopes to get rid of his creditors. Pheidippides beats his father and after wards he advocates his actions as rightful. Strepsiades in this comedy represents the commons, the democrats. Pheidippides represents the class that stands between the democrats and oligarchs, and Strepsiades wife represents the upper class of the oligarchs.
Aristophanes in his comedy also emphasizes the importance of state order, which would preserve the ethical and moral values. The shattering of order leads to denial of relations between the classes starts misunderstanding and war. Socrates and Strepsiades both represent the working class. Their actions should be directed on the prosperity of their class and the society as the whole. Socrates responsibility is even greater, because he is the teacher and thus he is responsible for the decisions and actions of his students. But he is indifferent to the results of his study and most of his attention is directed to higher material.
Pheidippides also studies logic for defending his father, but instead of pursuing his duty he turns it against him with no shame. Aristophanes shows both, the social and the family problems which were brought by the war. People forget their duty and responsibility and turn against their allies and family. The climax of this gradual approach to anarchy is the burning of the Thinkery by Strepsiades. The Thinkery was supposed to produce the defender for Strepsiades, but it produced his offender. The same is with the state. The government of the city was supposed to defend liberty, law and equality, but instead it suppressed and cruelly chased all people.
The cruelty can beget only cruelty, and people, symbolized by Strepsiades arose against the government. The analysis of two ancient Greek works, historical book Thucydides the Peloponnesian War and Aristophanes The Clouds showed the authors of different literature genres both agree that the state order between the Hellenic state was corrupted and false. The international politics was neglected and the relationship between the states was based on power of the stronger. Such scheme led to the war, which shattered the political systems within the cities and led to anarchy. Thucydides and Aristophanes show that the relationships between the citizens are impossible without being based on law, that the laws and rules should be protected by the state, and such protection is impossible during the War. This leads to the conclusion, that any state should be based on a strong international politics, and only successful international politics can prevent the state order and the human moral and ethical values.
Bibliography Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War Book 3.82-83.Civil War in Corcyra. Literature website. 3 Nov. 2004 Aristophanes, The Clouds. Classic Reader Website. 2 Nov. 2004.
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