The Melian Dialogue About War essay example
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The Melian Dialogue About War

The Melian Dialogue is a debate between the representatives of Melian and Athenian about the sovereignty of Melos. The arguments given by each representative side were of the own creation of Thucydides. Thus, Thucydides believes that the Athenians have the stronger argument. The Athenians question Melian’s actions, do the Melians act in the best way or is it in their own interest? After all, attempts to persuade the Athenians, the Melians will have to give in or fight. But in the end the Melians place their trust in the help of chance, the Spartans, and the gods (all of which disappoints them.)

To the question of how other neutral Greek cities could have reacted to the Athenian aggression, Athens responded that any neutral cities that could have become hostile did not worry them. They also argued that neutral cities represented little threat and because of their actions it only showed that they were under pressure to join the alliance. Instead, they mentioned that if they were cowardly if they had presented themselves. Athens replied that there is only misfortune in submission to the same power, but that there is none like Athens. The Athenians did not stop responded to Melian’s concern, however, the Melians often had no words. The Melians do not agree that they have should stay out of the war and be friends instead of enemies.

In the Melian Dialogue, they argue more about who could be right by saying “by a law of nature, if you were as strong as we are, you would do as we do.” The arguments of Athens are of a higher that Melians, because they can be proven or refuted. The Athenians were aware of higher forms argumentation and the Melians were not (Thucydides believes that Athenian arguments could be tested) Apparently, The Athenians always had the last word. Although the Melians managed to question their rivals, the Athenians replied that there was no Melian refutation.

On the other hand, the Melians begin to argue that an invasion will alarm the other neutral Greek states, which the passage of time will be those who will become hostile to Athens for fear of being invaded themselves. The Athenians do not seem to believe in what the Melians say, so they responded that it is unlikely that the Greek states would act that way. The Melians argue that it would be cowardly and shameful of them to submit a fight. The Athenians have in mind that it is not about honor but about self-preservation. But the Melians continue argue that although the Athenians are much stronger, there is a possibility that they can win. The Athenians say that “only the strong have a right to indulge in hope: the weak Melians are hopelessly outmatched (The Melian Dialogue)”

The Melians believe that the gods will protect them because they are right and that the Spartan will come to their defense. The Athenians say that “gods and men alike respect strength over moral arguments because the strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must.” The Athenians concluded by saying that there is no shame in submitting to a stronger one. The Melians don’t change their minds.

This dialogue has practically guided the perspective and attitude of the Athenians throughout the war. Melians says that Athens seeks gain, in the place of justice, although Athens is clear that justice can only exist in equality. Athens admits that justice has nothing to do, and that they are acting in their own interest. They also deflect the issue by eliminating the question of religion, the Melians try to convince the Athenians that this is not the case, but it is clear that they do not change their minds.

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Ultimately, “the difference between Athens’ openness, qualities freedom, generosity and their actions as butchering and enslaving the Melians: Athens must do what is best for Athens (A common leader) The Athenians, frankly, offer the Melians to surrender and pay homage to Athens, or be destroyed.

The Melians says that they are a neutral country and not an enemy (so Athens has not need to crush them) The Athenians thinks that if they accept the independence and neutrality of Melos, they would be weak, and people will think they are not strong to conquer it. In this dialogue, news from Melos indicates that Athens may need help from cities that are currently weak. Athens seeks the point of profit in the place of justice, while the path of justice and honor is dangerous, and danger is an unlikely to run.


  1. Dwight. “A Common Reader.” Kaputt Summary, 1 Jan. 1970, bookcents.blogspot.com/2011/01/peloponnesian-war-melian-dialogue.html.

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