People go great lengths in order to express their strengths or positive sides while hiding or covering up their vices. However, this has nothing to do with the city of Athens and its citizens. This is revealed in the readings entitled “Pericles’ Funeral Oration” and “Melian Dialogue”. The given readings try to introduce the two sides of the same state. While the former reading shows the impressing and attractive side of Athens, the other one presents an imperfect nature of the city. The questions raised in the reader’s mind may concern the author decision to demonstrate such contrasting sides of the same subject. The two readings prove that greatness encompasses both strengths and imperfections of Athens.
In his oratory, Pericles describes Athens as an admired city. According to the people, “we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves” (Thucydides 2). They paid the deserved respect to the fallen soldiers and administration of the city “favour [ed] the many instead of the few” (Thucydides 2). Through his speech, Pericles appreciates that the state has weaknesses, especially when it comes to the laws, even though the spirit behind the laws is good. In his speech, Pericles tries to make his listeners see other issues that might not be defined at first glance. It is clear that the state is successful and great. The main question is how it reached its greatness. Here the readers see the unappealing sides of the state.
In attempts to comfort people and prepare them for the procedure and outcome of affairs, Pericles states that “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). It is, therefore, necessary sometimes to do evil for the greater benefit of the society. Athens was known for its victories and expansion of its borders that were not captured without shedding of blood from the both sides of the battle. 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. The Athenians show no mercy towards the people of Melos. In response to the Melians’ question as to how they (Melians) would benefit 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 only trying to achieve one goal and that was in line with capturing Melos and its people. At that time, it was necessary to be ruthless 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 excerpts show that the way to victory is not smooth and easy even though it is so admirable and enjoyable. However, the fallen soldiers had not died in vain. In order to conquer an admirable state, ruthlessness and cruelty had to come into play for the people of Athens or any other state that was willing to achieve greatness. Instilling fear in the other states in order to achieve greatness led to the admirable success. The two readings show that people had to appreciate the two sides of their state for they were both necessary for its success.