Haille Mariam-Lemar on Thucydides

(note to myself for future reference)

Several years ago, before I discovered Popper, I read Thucydides and his account of the Peloponnesian War. After about 150 pages of reading I began to despise the Athenians deeply. However it had not occurred to me that my feelings were being manipulated by the omissions of a long dead author. However one day I picked up the Open Society and its Enemies and in that book I discovered that Thucydides was an anti-democrat belonging to the autocratic faction of the Athenian Aristocracy. With this insight came a greater appreciation of the text. Whilst reading Thucydides i had ignored all the hints that he was a rabid anti-democrat and that with the spartans he had actively conspired to destroy the greatest civilization ever to emerge in the Peloponnese


The Spartans unlike the athenians left virtually nothing. Their cities were like villages, decrepit and disorganised. All they were good for was war and the yearly pogrom of slaves. They also opposed free trade and bNned their nobles from owning gold. In effect they were proto-totalitarians who were only good at breeding armed sociopaths. When the Persians came, they allied with them to defeat their kinsmen. They then imposed an autocracy on Athens which lasted a few years before it was destroyed. Plato, as you may know was a member (admirer) of the anti-democratic athenian faction. His Republic is a mirror of the Spartan “Constitution” although in this case, the ruler is a philosopher such as Plato aspired to be.


Roman, the man was a rabid anti-democrat with strong oligarchical inclinations. One of the best works out there is
A.H.M. Jones’, ‘The Athenian democracy and its critics’, Cambridge Historical
Journey. 11.1 (1953), 1-26.

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