An analysis of the theme of human nature in the peloponnesian war by thucydides

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Nature, Chance, and Human Decision-making as Primary Causal Agents and History as a Repeating Cycle. Plot Summary The History of the Peloponnesian War, also known as Histories, recounts the war between the Athenian alliance called the Delian League by modern historians and Sparta and its allies called the Peloponnesian League by modern historianswhich took place from BC.

An analysis of the theme of human nature in the peloponnesian war by thucydides

An analysis of the theme of human nature in the peloponnesian war by thucydides

First, it will describe human nature and human convention in the polis and their binary relationships with power and justice, respectively. Second, it will show that without conventions such as justice; human nature and unchecked power drive civilization into anarchy.

Finally, the essay will demonstrate that without concertedly applying the convention of justice in the international sphere, civilization will continue to lapse into chaos throughout human history. He therefore believes that human nature is forever cruel and unjust.

Explained similarly to the Hobbesian approach, without restraints, human nature will pursue whatever means necessary for self-interest and greed. Coinciding with human nature, power is based on self-interest and the need to control reality at any cost. Power, along with human nature, cannot be properly managed without the presence of a State and they both tend to undermine convention wherever possible.

In the conflict with convention, human nature and power are together capable of great achievements when restrained. However, together they are also capable of depraved criminal action when the constructs of society decline into anarchy.

In order to escape such destructive human nature, civilization is engineered with restraints to secure an ordered and thriving polis. Within the domestic sphere polis of Athens, convention is defined as the collectively shared and agreed upon understandings of how individuals must interact.

Examples of conventions are ubiquitous and subsequently shape human nature since even language by definition is a convention. For Pericles, for example, the traditional funeral is sacrosanct to the maintenance of respect and honour in civilized Athens Thucydides, 2: Even while conventions are artificially constructed out of the need for collective-preservation, its principles are of paramount importance for functionality against the constant tension caused by primary human nature and the lust for power.

The most prominent convention for state safeguarding is justice.

Contemporary Analysis of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War

As a convention, law is arrived at by mutual consent of the polis allowing power distribution to be peacefully negotiated within the domestic sphere. The moderation of the natural human desire for power requires the institutionalization of this artificial rule of law that protects individuals from each other.

However, human nature can regress into anarchy if the polis undergoes institutional failure. The devastation of the Athenian Plague was not anticipated as part of the war effort. Under the plague, society entered a state of depolarization creating a vacuum for unregulated power-starved human nature to emerge.

Thucydides observes that even the convention of the funeral procedure crumbles when it is found to be more expedient to pile up bodies anonymously Thucydides, 2: In the chaos of the plague, human nature is exposed as self-interested and desirous of public self-indulgence since the restraints that have made civilization possible disintegrate.

In the case of Corcyra, the violent civil war is caused by the hyper-polarization of political actors allowing natural aggression to rein supreme. In the midst of polarization between the ideologies of Athens and Sparta even the convention of language is under siege. This stasis has changed collectively accepted discourse making lawlessness synonymous with just action.

Instead of defending and sternly maintaining the conventions that had built up society, the Corcyrians allow their state to fragment because they failed to value the supremacy of justice over the natural human drive for political control.

He furthers this argument when Nicias dies during the Sicilian Expedition, despite his posturing as a voice for moderation and prudence Thucydides, 7: What the plague and the civil war demonstrate is that unrestrained human nature destroys civilization if citizens collectively reject the necessity of restraint under the rule of law in the domestic sphere.

It is evident that the plague and the civil war serve as a foil to the Peloponnesian War itself since, similarly, anarchy thrives where there is no adherence to convention. Such is the reality in international relations. The realist theory that the balance of power is supreme is especially consistent with the Athenian perspective by the later stages of the conflict.

While Thucydides details the downfall of the hegemon, a solution to repeated human error in history is to use the constructivist argument as this essay has come to suggest. Justice must be transplanted from the domestic sphere to the international and be made sacred above all else.

This will ensure prosperity for all competing powers in an international system. All competing powers must have an understanding of the moral world where there are justified ends and means to every action.

Thucydides’ Life

Unfortunately for the Athenians, they ignore morality and justify their empire by arguing it is in their nature to conquer the weak. Throughout the History, the Athenians progressively come to believe that justice has no instrumental value in foreign affairs as they turn instead to a rationalized understanding of sheer power in dealing specifically with the autonomous island of Melos.

In the Melian Dialogue, the Athenians have completely ignored the convention of justice when addressing the expansion of their empire. While Pericles had once stated that justice must be made among equals, the Athenians have subsequently distorted justice so that, in the measure of power, the Melians should not be treated as equals.

The Athenians thus rationally imply that the convention of justice is an ineffectual construct and consequently disregard any argument against their illegal action. Their legitimacy, then, is undermined by power and human nature and their failure as moral agents, who do have a choice, thanks to their preponderance, but squandered it with realist logic.

By not applying the same principle of fair play that readily functions in the domestic sphere, the Athenians engineer their own destruction.

Word Note: "Sparta!"

In this History, it is evident that the common survival of all polis requires the supremacy of international law. Anyone breaking the sacred justice that is universal among all polis will be destroyed eventually by the perpetuation of the same transgression they have committed.

Of course, the decision makers frequently pass away before the consequences of their actions come to fruition.Work: History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides spent his years in exile researching and writing his history of the war between Athens and Sparta, BCE He advertises himself as a more "scientific" historian than his contemporaries or .

Work: History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides spent his years in exile researching and writing his history of the war between Athens and Sparta, BCE He advertises himself as a more "scientific" historian than his contemporaries or predecessors.

The History of the Peloponnesian War continued to be modified well beyond the end of the war in , as exemplified by a reference at Book I to the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War ( BC), seven years after the last events in the main text of Thucydides' history. The Value of Conventions: An Analysis of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

By evaluating the theoretical implications of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, this essay will accomplish three objectives.

The History of the Peloponnesian War continued to be modified well beyond the end of the war in , as exemplified by a reference at Book I to the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War ( BC), seven years after the last events in the main text of Thucydides' history. Thucydides and the History of the Peloponnesian War; Thucydides’ Style and Themes; Thucydides’ Legacy; offer lasting insight into the politics of war and the complexities of human nature. Work: History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides spent his years in exile researching and writing his history of the war between Athens and Sparta, BCE He advertises himself as a more "scientific" historian than his contemporaries or .

Aug 21,  · Watch video · Thucydides and the History of the Peloponnesian War ; Thucydides’ Style and Themes offer lasting insight into the politics of war and the complexities of human nature.

?In Thucydides’, The History of The Peloponnesian War, there are many themes that are illustrated throughout various passages. One major theme can be found in book 2, chapter 53, where Thucydides describes the situation in Athens after it had been stricken with plague during the Peloponnesian War.

History of the Peloponnesian War Themes