Two Sides of the State
People go to great lengths in order to express their strengths or positive sides while hiding up their vices. However, this has nothing to do with the city of Athens and its people. This is clearly evident in the reading entitled “Pericles Funeral Oration” and “Melian Dialogue”. The readings of the city show the two sides of the state expert. For instance, the former expert depicts the good side while the other one shows imperfect nature of the city. The argument is why the author decides to do so. This is meant to invoke in the mind of the reader the democratic city how it treats it citizens and neighbors.
In his oratory, Pericles describes the city of Athens as the best in the world. He describes its military strength, administration personnel, wealth, education and hospitality among others. According to Pericles their city is the one that sets the pace for the rest of its neighbors. They paid the deserved respect to their fallen soldiers and rewarded the deceased survivors. He says that in their city, justice prevails and there are systems such as the law and magistrates that are fair in their judgments. It is seen as a city where everyone would like to live there because of its good governance. However, is it true? No because this is clearly brought out in the Melian dialogue. Here the reader is able to see the unappealing side of the state where cruelty is clearly depicted.
In attempts to comfort people and prepare them for the procedure and outcomes of affairs, Pericles states “steadfastness in his country’s battles should be as a cloak to cover a man’s other imperfections: since the good actions have blotted out the bad” (Thucydides 5). In the treaty, the Athenians state that it is necessary sometimes to do evil for the greater benefit of the society. The Athenians were known in expanding their territories unsupported unlike the Lacedamonians. Even though the Athenians celebrated their victories, they never really seemed to understand the extent to which the leaders were willing to go in order to make reach such a success.
The “Melian Dialogue” describes Athens as a coercive and cruel state to its neighbors. The Athenians show no mercy towards the people of Melos by telling them to submit. However, the Melos feels that to submit is to despair. In response to the Melians’ question as to how they would gain from the Athenians’ actions, the Athenians answered that “you would have the advantage of submitting before suffering the worst, and we should gain by not destroying you” (Thucydides 9). This shows that the Athenians were interested in capturing Melos and its people. At that time, it was necessary for any state to be ruthless and cruel in order to achieve the victory and success. As the Melians were willing to protect their land at the risk of their lives, the Athenians were willing to expand their territory by their own blood.
The two experts show that the way to victory is not easy even though it is so admirable and enjoyable. However, the fallen soldiers are honored according to the Athenians customs which was approved by their forefathers. In order to conquer a state, cruelty and ruthlessness ought to come into play for the Athenians or any other state that was willing to achieve greatness. This is possible by instilling fear in other states as demonstrated by the Athenians. The two experts show that individuals had to appreciate the two sides of their state for they were both necessary for achievements.