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Old January 14th, 2012, 12:08 AM   #31

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1. Segeste was just a far-fetched excuse for the expedition; it had no issue with and was not even close to Syrakousai.
I wouldn't even remotely try to defend the opposite

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And of course, if you are going to invade any remote land, it is regularly expected that you recruit your local allies before beginning your expedition, not the reverse.
I'm also not supposing the campaign was well-thought out (even for such a mad idea).

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Yes, I focus in the miltary aspect because this was a military expedition.
It was an extremely costly and ambitious enterprise, even for the rich Athens; it's only possible goal (conquest) couldn't have been any more evident for any party involved.
I disagree because yes, although in the minds of Lamachus and Alcibiades - not Nikias - the first and foremost goal entailed conquest - or at least they fathomed that idea, this doesn't mean that at any given point one could realise the futility of it and at least try to safe what can be saved, at least face.

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2. "Capable leadership" and "Athenian expedition to Sicily" in the same sentence are an oxymoron.

Any capable leadership would have remained at home to face the myriad problems of the ongoing war against half Hellas; easy as that.
I adressed this in my self-attached point (3) because I don't see this as reasonable. Of course: yes, by all means you are correct and I couldn't agree more. But this simply wasn't the issue, the problem was not just the lack of capable and responsible leaders like a Pericles but the demos of Athens itself. I doubt even a Pericles in 418 would have still been able to bend matters to his will, in fact I'm staunchly convinced he could not have done so without resorting to outright tyranny.

The Athens of Miltiades, Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon and Pericles (and I'm not naming these men because they were in any way aligned in ambitions and assumptions of course) died with the latter.

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Returning from such a great epic adventure without any conquest would already have been nothing short of ridiculous and already a diplomatic defeat; even so, we must agree that it would have been the least catastrophic possible scenario.
Indeed.

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Athens simply had no useful military objectives in Sicily...
Even in the unlikely (frankly delirious) scenario of total victory, it would still have been just an absurd diversion of urgently required manpower ans resources for their critical war... at home.
Agreed of course. However this at least would not have dealt a deathly blow to their cause. The Athenian army and fleet was more then capable enough to deal with her enemies at home, whether (defective) friend or foe, of course, losing the prime of your men in such a wasted fashion simply added insult to injury.

Entirely their own fault of course.

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But again, that was a delirious scenario; in real life they simply lacked the required resources for such kind of imperialistic adventure by an exponentialy long shot.
Probably yes.

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This is exactly the risk of general chauvinism; any enemy tends to be utterly underestimated, and any people could be easily manipulated by any demagogue.

Plainly, Nikias had been objectively entirely right; it was a no win situation even in the (delirious) total military victory scenario, with an evident huge potential of total disaster from the very beginning.
Nikias certainly was the only one with the right mind at the time, yet once at the spot he was utterly burdensome to the enterprise.

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3. Thanks for so timely adding this number
Athens was a radical democracy; the influence of Perikles and other individual politicians has tended to be utterly exaggerated, among other reasons because our available information comes largely through the filter of LM Plutarchus and other imperial Roman historians, who tended to have a rather poor concept about any popular administrations.
I still tend to notice that towards the end of the life of Pericles the city, or at least the demos, somewhat derailed in ambition. Pericles and his predecessors to an extend share in that responsibility yet as I see it a pandora's box was opened in Athens that gave rise to the unblatant imperialism. I don't wish to focus on Pericles as a deus ex machina amongst men but as the prime example of how the people and their (self chosen) leaders interacted, and to the extend that this relationship changed and where along the lines that responsibility got lost for blatant shortsighted opportunism.

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On your comparison between Alkibiades & poor ol' Perikles; why do you hate the latter so much ?
Not intended to give that impression I think Pericles at least had common sense to temper ambition.

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Alkibiades was a good commander, but hardly unique; he evaded overt personal defeat essentially for his political opportunism and his oustanding personal talent for timely betrayal; he almost always shared his command, often with other strategoi of at least equivalent curriculum.
Regarding properly political administration, I'm not aware that good ol' Alki may have ever shown any particularly exceptional capability.
Agreed.
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Old January 14th, 2012, 08:56 AM   #32
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Sparta wasn't dependant on grain supplies but the rest was, specially Corinth, as population densities in central Greece at the time were very high, and since they did not have very high levels of productivity per acre they had to import food. Not only Athens but nearly all cities in mainland Greece had to import food.

Sicily was a main grain exporter at the time and they had to export their grain somewhere and they did not export their grain to Athens or the rest of the Athenian Empire, therefore they had to export their grain to the rest of mainland Greece, including Thebes and Corinth.

The concept that Athens attacked Syracuse in other to deny their enemies in the mainland the needed grain supplies suggests implicitly that by the end of the 5th century the greek cities around the mediterranean had formed a single integrated economic system. However some cities such as Sparta weren't that integrated with the rest of the mediterranean world.
This is a fascinating hypothesis, but IMHO much more information would be required to explore it; e.g.:

- To what extent were Korinthos, Thebes & other poleis of mainland Hellas of specifically the Sicilian grain?
(I.e. relative to other exportes, like let say Campania, Carthage or Kyrenaika)

- Which parts of the island were the main grain producers?
(I.e. would a total conquest of such a huge island be required for this purported strategic goal to be at least feasible?)

- Was this specific strategic goal ever explicitly suggested by any Athenian source?
(I have not found yet any hint within either Thoukidides or Diodoros).
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Old January 14th, 2012, 09:37 AM   #33
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I wouldn't even remotely try to defend the opposite



I'm also not supposing the campaign was well-thought out (even for such a mad idea).



I disagree because yes, although in the minds of Lamachus and Alcibiades - not Nikias - the first and foremost goal entailed conquest - or at least they fathomed that idea, this doesn't mean that at any given point one could realise the futility of it and at least try to safe what can be saved, at least face.



I adressed this in my self-attached point (3) because I don't see this as reasonable. Of course: yes, by all means you are correct and I couldn't agree more. But this simply wasn't the issue, the problem was not just the lack of capable and responsible leaders like a Pericles but the demos of Athens itself. I doubt even a Pericles in 418 would have still been able to bend matters to his will, in fact I'm staunchly convinced he could not have done so without resorting to outright tyranny.

The Athens of Miltiades, Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon and Pericles (and I'm not naming these men because they were in any way aligned in ambitions and assumptions of course) died with the latter.



Indeed.



Agreed of course. However this at least would not have dealt a deathly blow to their cause. The Athenian army and fleet was more then capable enough to deal with her enemies at home, whether (defective) friend or foe, of course, losing the prime of your men in such a wasted fashion simply added insult to injury.

Entirely their own fault of course.



Probably yes.



Nikias certainly was the only one with the right mind at the time, yet once at the spot he was utterly burdensome to the enterprise.



I still tend to notice that towards the end of the life of Pericles the city, or at least the demos, somewhat derailed in ambition. Pericles and his predecessors to an extend share in that responsibility yet as I see it a pandora's box was opened in Athens that gave rise to the unblatant imperialism. I don't wish to focus on Pericles as a deus ex machina amongst men but as the prime example of how the people and their (self chosen) leaders interacted, and to the extend that this relationship changed and where along the lines that responsibility got lost for blatant shortsighted opportunism.



Not intended to give that impression I think Pericles at least had common sense to temper ambition.



Agreed.
"Hating Perikles" was just the poor idea of historical humor from yours truly ; both him & Alkibiades were fascinating (but entirely different) historical figures.

As usual we essentially entirely agree on the facts and largely on their interpretation.

Actually, the proposal of Nikias was equivalent (not more "burdensome") to that of Alkibiades; both of them proposed some preliminary conquests previous to attacking Syrakousai; only Lamaxos suggested a direct attack to the main target. Irrespectively of their respectove plus & minus aspects, the main problem for all the three proposals was the same; the inherent impossibility of their mission.

Analogous to other predominantly democratic states (the Republican Rome would be the paradigmatic example) the balance from the shared command by several colleague strategoi had regularly perfectly worked for the imperialistic Athens; the campaigns of Alkibiades & his peers in Ionia a little later withis this same war is another excellent example. If the system had any problem fof the three aforementioned strategoi at the beginning of the Sicilian Expedition, that was fundamentally explained by the inherent total impossibility of the intended task; easy as that.

The demos was always, always in charge, both in the happy and in the disastrous times.
At any time it was inevitably (either for better or for worse) exposed to the influence of some distinguished politicians.
On one hand, Irrespectively of the pro-autocratic bias of some Roman historians, Perikles never ever ruled Athens alone.
On the otehr, the absurd chauvinistically driven democratic decision for the impossible conquest of Sicily was largely the reponsibility of the rhetorics of Alkibiades and other demagogues.
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Old January 14th, 2012, 09:45 AM   #34

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Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
This is a fascinating hypothesis, but IMHO much more information would be required to explore it; e.g.:

- To what extent were Korinthos, Thebes & other poleis of mainland Hellas of specifically the Sicilian grain?
(I.e. relative to other exportes, like let say Campania, Carthage or Kyrenaika)

- Which parts of the island were the main grain producers?
(I.e. would a total conquest of such a huge island be required for this purported strategic goal to be at least feasible?)

- Was this specific strategic goal ever explicitly suggested by any Athenian source?
(I have not found yet any hint within either Thoukidides or Diodoros).
This is the closest you will get to the idea: HoTPW, 3.86.4.

You also make an extremely valid point, at least in relation to Kyrenaica, as its capital city was a Dorian colony. These Dorian colonies dotted the mediterranean and showed great kinship to their Peloponnesian cousins, where they would undoubtedely have great amounts of resources to lend assistance if needed.
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Old January 14th, 2012, 11:36 PM   #35

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As for the references Fuller used to support his theory goes,here is how it is.

This entire discussion is actually to be found in a single,if long,paragraph on the pages 74 and 75.After quoting from Thucydides:

Quote:
To prevent the exporation of Sicilian corn to Peloponnese
he writes in the note at the bottom of page 74:

Quote:
Thucydides, VII, 86
he says:

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When the pretexts of war are set aside, the former (strategical conception) appears brilliant: it was to make good the lack of Athenian man-power, which prohibited Athens from gaining supremacy over her enemies on land, by depriving the enmy's superior man-power of its means of subsistence - its corn, oil and trade.
and

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It can only be assumed that Sicily as a source of supply was as important to the Spartans and Corinthians as the Ukraine was to the Athenians, and the command of the strait of Messina was a vital for the first two as the command of the Hellespont was to the later.
All these quotes are from page 74.

So,there you go.No other reference apart from that line in Thucydides.He developed his theory from there.

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Old January 14th, 2012, 11:41 PM   #36

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Very interesting, I wasn't aware that the Peloponnese was reliant on outside grain imports from Sicily.
Neither was I.That's why I put it here,to see your reactions.
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Old January 14th, 2012, 11:52 PM   #37

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As for the references Fuller used to support his theory goes,here is how it is.

This entire discussion is actually to be found in a single,if long,paragraph on the pages 74 and 75.After quoting from Thucydides:



he writes in the note at the bottom of page 74:



he says:



and



All these quotes are from page 74.

So,there you go.No other reference apart from that line in Thucydides.He developed his theory from there.

Alcibiades
Thanks for printing those Alcibiades. I'm about to turn in, so I am going to look at them more carefully in the morning. There isn't anything wrong with the theory in general, I just wanted to see if I had missed something or if the author thunk it up by himself.
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Old January 14th, 2012, 11:56 PM   #38
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This is the closest you will get to the idea: HoTPW, 3.86.4.

You also make an extremely valid point, at least in relation to Kyrenaica, as its capital city was a Dorian colony. These Dorian colonies dotted the mediterranean and showed great kinship to their Peloponnesian cousins, where they would undoubtedely have great amounts of resources to lend assistance if needed.
That is actually a rather close textual evidence:
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At the close of the same summer the Athenians sent twenty ships under the command of Laches, son of Melanopus, and Charoeades, son of Euphiletus, to Sicily, where the Syracusans and Leontines were at war. The Syracusans had for allies all the Dorian cities except Camarina--these had been included in the Lacedaemonian confederacy from the commencement of the war, though they had not taken any active part in it--the Leontines had Camarina and the Chalcidian cities. In Italy the Locrians were for the Syracusans, the Rhegians for their Leontine kinsmen. The allies of the Leontines now sent to Athens and appealed to their ancient alliance and to their Ionian origin, to persuade the Athenians to send them a fleet, as the Syracusans were blockading them by land and sea. The Athenians sent it upon the plea of their common descent, but in reality to prevent the exportation of Sicilian corn to Peloponnese and to test the possibility of bringing Sicily into subjection. Accordingly they established themselves at Rhegium in Italy, and from thence carried on the war in concert with their allies.
The action corresponds to 427 BC, i.e. twelve years before the Expedition of the OP; the occupied Rheggium is in the strategical straits, and for the size of the force it's clear than some blockade and corsay activity was the most that was expected. In fact, at least since the early XX century it has been suggested that the very beginning of this war (the conflicts in and around Kerkyra, also in the same coastal route) included an anlogous economic goal.

The whole issue of the effect of the trade in the Hellenic warfare would require its own thread; for now, on the OP let just say that the major exporters of grain of the time were Sicily, Kyrenaika, Egypt, Cyprus, Thacia & the Black Sea zone (the last one already attested by Herodotos [Polymnia CXLVII) during the Persian War).
Admitting that the later source was probably largely monopolized (& blocked) by Athens, there were still several alternatives for corn supply (Italy and Carthage may have been included too).
In the case of Kyrene, even some peacetime delivery of grain to Corinth was attested by the Athenian Lykourgos circa 335-330 BC.
Ergo, it is far from clear if any Sicilian blockade would have been effective for causing famine to the Corinthians and other Peloponnesians.

Another relevant point for the OP is that the grain harvest seems to have been widely distributed all along Sicily; e.g. based on numismatic evidence several poleis (like Leontinoi and Selinous) are described as agricultural colonies.
Ergo, either for this purported strategy or for simple ambition (as attested more than once by Thoukydides) the occupation of the whole island was implied; some people like Hyperbolos would have even suggested an extension of the expedition against Carthage!!!

This project was simply out of any feasible proportion...
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Old January 15th, 2012, 12:00 AM   #39

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You know,I'm starting to see the logic behind sylla' claims that Sicilian Expedition was a doomed affair right from the start.

There are certain tasks that,simply put,no sane man would even dare to have as a wet dream,let alone try to accomplish it.

For example,if we are to see Sicilian Expedition as an impossible mission,can you imagine if Macedonian kings,after subduing the heavily populated and volatile Mainland Greece just a few years ago,and wild and extremely proud Balkan tribes in north,would to consider invading the biggest,most populated,wealthiest country in the world.How great an insanity that would be!!What a logistical and strategic nightmare!!!

Country 10 times as big,having between 30-50 milion big a population (the population of Macedonia proper is 500.000-750.000),for all intents and purposes,having an unlimited resources.AY CARAMBA!!

I mean,surely the whole of the mighty Persian Empire would unite in the face so obviously a shameless imperialistic adventure.There would be a fresh army,ready to oppose Macedonians on every 200 miles,surely.And,with the manpower and resources at their disposal,Persians could potentially afford to fight 20+ big,pitched,set-piece battles,where their numbers would be at least equal to Macedonian army (50,000+).Not only that,but surely scorched earth policy would be adopted.Macedonian king would,without a doubt,face an insurmountable logistical problem,and,if he persisted,his army would end up just like Ahenians ended in 413 BC in Sicily.

Surely,no difference in quality of the respective armies(but with same level of technology) would be able to make up for all this?!I mean,even Romans themselves were absolutely thrashed in more than a few battles on these same regions centuries later,you know!
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Old January 15th, 2012, 12:18 AM   #40

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How great an insanity that would be!!What a logistical and strategic nightmare!!!
Cimon is laughing at you from his grave , as would Xenophon and his 10 000. Apples and eggs you're comparing here. A rather well established kingdom compared to a city-state? This is a rather hollow statement.
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