The Athenian Persona (5)

by cheri block

I am the only one in my group who likes Alcibiades.

We have read and discussed Thucydides and two of Plato’s Dialogues, Alcibiades I and II. This morning, we will begin analyzing the historian Plutarch’s take on Alcibiades  and the first part of Plato’s Symposium.

Alcibiades’ complex personality continues to engender heated discussion in a small hot room.

Is it all that complicated?

Here is a paragraph from Thucydides about the Athenians. Let me set the scene:

The Corinthians were in town to complain bitterly about the Spartans’ provincial approach to the expanding Athenian aggression, especially because the Corinthian colony of Potidaea was under siege at the hands of the Athenians.

The boldfaced words are my emphasis.

“The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you [the Spartans] have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you [the Spartans] never go far enough. Again, they [the Athenians] are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine…they are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse…a scheme unexecuted is with them a positive loss, a successful enterprise a comparative failure…Thus they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their life…To describe their character in a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others. Such is Athens, your antagonist…”

Although the Corinthians envoys here are referring to Athens, they could have been characterizing Alcibiades. He was all of these things and more.

He was Athens incarnate.

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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9 Responses to The Athenian Persona (5)

  1. Man of Roma says:

    I think your post to be perfect. I agree in all. I’ll come back. I need to ponder in my thermal bath(room) a bit.

  2. I remember that Alcibiades ended up being exiled because his successes presented a threat to Athenian democracy; his popularity could have caused him to become too powerful so the law of the time called for his removal fron the City-State.
    I wonder if his dog was a yellow Lab.?

  3. andreaskluth says:

    The Athenians then sound a bit like the Americans today, no?

    (Don’t know who Sparta would be today.)

  4. Sparta would be a boot camp in North Korea.

  5. Man of Roma says:

    Ah ah ah, Paul, yes, very true.

  6. zeusiswatching says:

    I don’t know if they are also referencing Xenophon and his writings about Socrates too, but this is clearly the view held by Xenophon, an Athenian general, student of Socrates too, who later moved to Sparta. I think this view would be supported by Xenophon also because of what he writes about at the beginning of the Hellenica when Alcibiades knowingly puts into port on an Athenian holy day on which the clothing for that statue of Athena was taken to be washed, and it was considered ill omened and impious to have done so on such a solemn occasion.

  7. The opening chapter or two will give one Xenophon’s impression of Athenians and Alcibiades.

    http://www.archive.org/stream/h0llenicabooksii00xenouoft#page/n0/mode/2up

    Alcibiades seems to have been viewed by Socrates’ defenders as something of an opportunist who used Socrates’ lessons and wisdom for personal gain rather than any form of self-improvement of character and conduct.

  8. Man of Roma says:

    Your writing, such a beautiful vision Cheri, we were ALL with you thanks to your words dear gal!

    Richard has a gentle heart – this being controversial, I won’t throw the gauntlet here, no, no. I’m sure he agrees it is time the British give those marbles back to the Greeks. They have kept them well, the Brits. But desormais, the grand kids of Pericles, they have the technology to go on keeping them imo.

    Dear Hyperborean gal, French is easy. You already know some Italian.

    You said you were my slave as for Ancient stuff? Uh uh, I took my role seriously – for sheer historical zeal of course – so here are your Italian Master’s commands … :mrgreen:

    1) practice with Spanish a bit (very easy since, as a Californian gal, you’ll have Mexican people everywhere);
    2) frequent at the same time Paul’s blog A LOT (he has Google translator embedded btw) 3) read Asterix or whatever French comics in the original;
    3) continue with Dante – or whatever you like – in Italian, the most beautiful passages only, finding help with English translations.

    With such Spanish-Italian-French salad a) you’ll potentially be a teacher of romance languages in 6 months, b) you’ll be provided a royal path to easy Latin, AND most of all c) you’ll be soo delighted to have pleased your Maitre Romain, ça va sans dire.

    8) 8)

    😛 😛 😛

  9. Man of Roma says:

    Wrong place to comment, what an ass. I’ll recomment in the right page. Pls delete this Cheri 😦

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