The Peloponnesian War

The Declining Role of Justice in Athenian Government

Thucydides set out to narrate the history of what he believed would be a great war, one requiring both great power and great leadership. Although he measured greatness through both economic and military prowess, Thucydides dictated the history of the Peloponnesian War through a multitude of magnificent speeches by major figures in Greece to show the impact of political leadership on the outcome of the war. Leadership was especially vital in Athens due to the democratic nature of its government: the city’s leaders were elected by the people and therefore reflected the mentality of the city-state and its citizens. The development of the Athenian empire marked a radical departure from Hellenistic tradition, and the construction of a powerful navy, as well as the timing of the Persian invasion, provided Athens the opportunity to become the major force in the Mediterranean. Thucydides distinctly discusses the roles of Athenian leaders in the expansion of the Athenian empire, from Pericles to Alcibiades, in order to emphasize the decline of morality and justice in Athens. Thucydides clearly points out the consequences of the weaker quality of leadership in Athens, but does not specify what sparked the moral deterioration of Athenian...

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