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Deadly Dialogue: Thucydides with Plato Author(s): Daniel Boyarin Source: Representations, Vol. 117, No.

1 (Winter 2012), pp. 59-85 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/rep.2012.117.1.59 . Accessed: 05/12/2013 09:03
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D A N I E L B O YA R I N

Deadly Dialogue: Thucydides with Plato


For Andrea Nightingale Orators dispute cases and philosophers refute and establish positions.
Richard McKeon1

Thucydides is not ordinarily thought to be a major player in the gestation of the rhetoric/philosophy rhubarb. Nor is he ordinarily read as providing a protreptic for rhetoric. In any history of philosophy, Plato will be notedfor good or ill, usually the formeras the thinker who drew the sharp distinction between debate (rhetoric) and dialogue (philosophy). Debate, that is, the attempt to persuade an audience of the truth of ones position by delivering a lengthy prepared address intended to advance ones position against an opponents similarly intended speech, is taken as the highly problematic emblem of rhetoric and hence sophism.2 The genre of dialogue, on the other handundistinguished from dialecticis taken as the true form for philosophical inquiry into truth in a disinterested fashion. Even though it is only in Plato that we first find the contrast between debate and dialogue explicitly thematized, I propose that it is well formed, if implicit, in the slightly earlier but nearly contemporaneous Thucydides as well. By comparing the singleton dialogue, the Melian Dialogue, with another moment in the same author, the equally famous Mytilenian Debate, I hope to show that Thucydides is taking a position on the question of dialogue (philosophy), as opposed to rhetoric (sophism), a position exactly opposite to the one adopted by his rough contemporary but slightly junior, Plato. There are, notoriously, twenty-six speeches and only one dialogue in all of Thucydidess great work. As cannot be emphasized enough, the Melian Dialogue is an absolute unicum in Thucydidesthere is no other dialogue anywhere in the workprompting many critics, from antiquity (Dionysius of Halicarnassus) until now, to wonder what might be its explanation.3 In his attempt to answer this conundrum, after showing that the distinction between long speeches and dialectic was a highly thematized one at the time of Thucydides by citing Euripides and Aristophanes, H. LL. Hudson-Williams
abstract In this paper it will be argued that Thucydidess Melian Dialogue is best illuminated in the context of Socratic dialogue as given by Plato. Thucydides and Plato take directly oppositional positions on dialogue versus debate or philosophy versus rhetoric. Representations 117. Winter 2012 The Regents of the University of California. ISSN 0734-6018, electronic ISSN 1533-855X, pages 5985. All rights reserved. Direct requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content to the University of California Press at http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintinfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/rep.2012.117.1.59.

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noted, as well, that the speeches were the metier of the law courts and the assembly. He then cites two previous attempts to answer the question of the unique form of the Melian Dialogue, one by F. M. Cornford who had argued in 1907 that the form was due to the influence of drama, an argument that, on Hudson-Williamss account, was successfully refuted by 1914 by W. R. M. Lamb.4 A second strikingly untenable position had been maintained by G. B. Grundy who had averred that the dialogue represents a rough outline summarizing arguments which Thucydides intended to work up into two long antithetical speeches. However, as Hudson-Williams points out, at the very beginning of the dialogue, attention is specially drawn to the fact that there will not be the usual long antithetical speeches.5 Hudson-Williams has certainly captured the point that the use of the dialogue form here is intentional and in contrast to the usual Thucydidean presentation of two long speeches in debate with each other.6 The distinction between debate in antithetical long speeches and dialogue or dialectic is, I will argue, much more fraught and much more significant than Hudson-Williams, who has at least discerned it, would have it. It represents, in my view, no less than the contest within Thucydides of two fundamental political philosophies. Hudson-Williams, well on the road to an answer, misses the main point because he does not turn to the writer who most deeply engaged the question of debate versus dialogue; that is, of course, Plato. Felix Wassermann had already indicated the hermeneutical significance of the Melian Dialogue owing to its form: Thucydides expects his readers to ask why he introduces a dialogue instead of a pair of speeches. This is the reason for his presenting it as a suggestion from the Athenians.7 This thematization must, therefore, mean something. However, for Hudson-Williams, the only relevant distinction between the debate and the dialogue form is that one is to be used for public purposes and the other in private, and since the Melian discussion was to take place in private, dialogue was the appropriate form for it.8 In a sense, Hudson-Williams, by this conclusion is begging the question, because the private nature itself of the Melian Dialogue is by no means adventitious but in itself a thematized choicewhether in the actual history or Thu cydidess ownand a highly meaningful one.9 Platos dialogues began to be written within three decades after Thucyd ides began his work (431) with the first probably dating from c. 399. However, Thucydides was still working on his text as late as 404, or even later, so it is entirely plausible to read these two corpora of texts together in a sort of new historicist mode, that is as co-texts within the problematic of a particular epistemic shift. In fact, one could say that this is the very ideal type of epistemic shift, involving as it does the invention of the very idea of epistm, truth defined as philosophical, opposing doxa, opinion, the wisdom of the collective. In several of his dialogues, Plato foregrounds the sociopolitical aspects of 60
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the discursive practice that he calls dialectic or dialogue, as opposed to rhetorical debate, the making of contrasting arguments through paired, prepared speeches of some length. The Platonic material invites us to examine the ways in which Thucydides positions these two discursive practices in relation to the social and political economy of classical Athens, and, in particular, to the question of democracy. As Andrea Nightingale has reminded us:
On the one hand, [Plato] approaches a given genre as the conveyor of a certain set of ideas by means of a specific discursive style and structure. But his critique invariably goes beyond the level of discourse and ideas. For he is always aware of a genres context of performance and the ways in which it is implicated in the social and political institutions of the Athenian democracy. In order to comprehend fully Platos interrogation of a given genre, then, the interpreter must first analyze the genre as a literary form grounded in a specific socio-political context. Fortunately, a good deal of recent scholarship in the field of Greek literature has set out to recontextualize various genres of poetry and rhetoric, focusing in particular on their specific performative contexts as well as the ways in which they reflect the social, political, and economic practices of their (respective) cultures.10

This type of critical eye, however, has hardly been focused on the dialogue itself, within the dialogues, as itself a genre. The opposition between dialogue and debate is at the very heart of the Platonic project itself, and, as I shall argue here, at the heart of Thucydidess project as well (with exactly opposite aims). Dialogue vs. Debate In the conclusion to his discussion of dialogue versus debate, Harold Barrett has put his finger on the matter:
Thus form and substance unite. The absolutist position . . . finds consonance and agency in the dialogical short form of oral address. To the end of maintaining control, leadership is invested with dominant authority. Regulating all of its functions, the system rigidly restricts discussion, insists upon brief statement, denies refutation, arbitrarily acknowledges only the judgments it produces, and remains idealistically detached in seeking after the value it names as permanent. The democratic idea enjoys congruity with the long speechwith form more obviously rhetorical. It accommodates free expression, extended argument, choice and management of thoughtsubject only to social regulation, necessary cooperation and consensus, refutation, flexibility of behavior, popular judgment, and a practical adaptable episteme for particular ends.11

Not only are different and contrasting views of authority at stake, then, but dialectic and debate imply different and contrasting epistemologies as well. The production of the common knowledges (doxa) upon which democracy was both theoretically and pragmatically maintained was in large part effectuated through the debating process as carried out in assembly and law
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court. Rhetoric is the foundation for the reproduction of democratic knowledges, as well as for their modifications. The elenchus, Socratic dialectic par excellence, is not only an attack on doxa, on that which appears to be true to the Athenian citizenry, the foundation of their legal and political decisions, but also an attack on the speech-institution, the debate, in which doxa is both maintained and modified for the purpose of democratic deliberation. It is thus part and parcel of Platos general attack on Athenian institutions tout court, homologous with his attack on Athenian eros in the Symposium.12 Platos near-obsessive disdain for rhetoric and his near-obsessive insistence on dialogue as the means of exposure of doxa as false, on this reading, constitute a sustained attack on democracy. Dialogue, in this Platonic sense, identical with dialectic (both in Plato and in his interpreters, there being, in fact, no distinction between them in ancient Greek), constitutes the least dialogical of speech forms.13 Having recently argued at length for this position, I will spare readers here a detailed account.14 Suffice it to say here that in my view, readings that claim that all of the voices in Platos texts are, in some sense, Platos, and that there is robust dialogue in them between the philosophical and sophistic, fail to contend with two things: (1) Socrates always wins even in the aporetic dialogues, and (2) the others are mostly parodies of one sort or another.15 In late fifth-century and early fourth-century Athens, rhetoric was not only an art of politics but rhetorical theories and practices were of the very stuff of politics, as well understood by Aristotle, inter alia, who closely associates his Rhetoric with his Politics. Insofar as rhetoric (as debate) was the epistemology of democracy, then Plato argued obsessively for dialogue (as dialectic). A powerful moment in the Protagoras will illustrate this point well. Protagoras has just given a nuanced and convincing speech in which he articulates his reasons for not assenting to Socratess insistence that all virtues are one by indicating the ways that certain things are beneficial to certain people in certain circumstances and distinctly harmful to them in others (I oversimplify).16 At that point, the audience shouted their approval of his speech. Socrates, with his usual ironic self-deprecation, announces that he has a defective memory and cannot follow a long speech, anticipating as well his ironic and deceptive self-deprecatory reaction at a similar moment in the Symposium.17 He therefore insists that Protagoras confine himself to giving short answers to questions addressed to him by Socrates. After some byplay as to whether Protagoras or Socrates will decide what the proper length is, it becomes clear that it is Socrates who will determine this. At this point, Protagoras protests, Socrates, he said, Ive had verbal contests with a great many people, and if I had done what you tell me to do, and spoken according to the instructions of my antagonist, I should never have got the better of anyone, nor would the name of Protagoras have become known in Greece 62
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(335a). Platos rhetoric here is anything but innocent. By having Protagoras formulate his preference for long speech in this fashion, he is having the sophist confess that his goals are victory in speech contests and the consequent fame (and presumably wealth) that such victories portend and at the same time completely disabling any conceivable thought that what is at stake is the possibility that one might have a better chance of explaining ones true views in an autonomous speech than as the antagonist in a conversation in which someone else entirely controls the discourse and allows one only short answers to set questions. And, of course, he thus further occludes the point that Socratess purpose and advantage are entirely served by his insistence on dialogue and the management of such dialogue. At this point, Socrates pretends to give up, I knew that he was dissatisfied with his previous replies, and that he wasnt willing to take the role of answerer in the dialectic [dialegesthai], so I felt that there was no point in my continuing the conversation [sounousias] (335ab). Socrates is about to take his football and go home, and indeed gets up with intent to do so. Predictably, others intervene and insist that he remain, upon which, after some further expressions of false modesty (explicitly marked as a joke by Alcibiades just a bit further on), Socrates stipulates, If you want to listen to Protagoras and me, ask him to answer now the way he did at first, briefly, and sticking to the question. If not, what sort of discussion [dialog n] will we have? I thought that a discussion [sunenai . . . dialegomenous] was something quite different from a speech in the assembly [dm g oren] (336ab).18 Of course in the two previous exchanges in which Protagoras had kept to Socratess rules, Socrates had managed to twist him up in thoroughly sophistical knots, which is presumably what Socrates desires to continue to be able to do.19 Then a further very arresting development takes place. Socrates is asked to choose a referee for the discussion, that is, someone who will determine who has successfully defeated the arguments of his opponent and defended his own point of view. Socrates, of course, refuses this option, arguing that if the referee be inferior to the speakers, then his opinion is obviously useless; if he is equal to them, he will simply do the same as we should, so it will be a waste of time to choose him, and, of course, it is impossible to choose one superior to Protagoras, so why bother? What has not been noticed, I think, by commentators is that what Plato is doing here is parodying and dismissing precisely the ethos of the democratic speech situation, in which opposing speakers make their best arguments and others (their inferiors) decide who was right, or more right at any rate. Moreover, the further assumption is that equals will always see exactly the same truth, because it is, simply, the Truth. Persuasion can have no role, disagreement is impossible and democracy a sham.
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Even as sympathetic a reader of Socrates as Patrick Coby remarks that via his manipulation of democratic nostrums Socrates is left free to arbitrate himself. The natural ruler will be the judge.20 Cobys summation is powerful:
Because the standard of dialectical brevity remains in force, Socrates can be thought to have emerged victorious. His victory and Protagorass defeat are indicative of the relative dependence of each speaker on the audience. Socrates can endure the publics scorn; but Protagoras depends on its applause. Insofar as this procedural dispute exposes Protagoras to be a creature of public opinion, it calls into question the sophists central claim that by sophistry he is made secure.21

If, however, we recast these sentences only slightly, we can see them quite differently. Reading this byplay as a political parable, we catch on that Socrates can endure the publics scorn, indeed, and as philosopher-king would not have to depend on the public at all. Protagoras is a creature of public opinion; in a democracy he would have to prevail with his rhetoric over opposing rhetors and convince the assembly or the jury of the justice of his cause, just as Pericles had to continue to persuade of his excellence in governing in order to continue being chosen to do so. The reason that Socrates insists on dialogue is owing to the way dialogue allows one party to control and manage the discourse in such wise as to assure his own victory.22 The dialogue is taken to be self-judging, in that there is some kind of absolute standard of victory that appears from within the situation itself and to the parties themselves, while the debate is always to be judged by others, notably, in the democratic situation by the voters. Barrett takes us further along the road to an elaboration and refinement of an explanation for this Platonic preoccupation. As Barrett argues, the difference is that in the rhetorical debate the two sides are presented with a certain equality of opportunity, and it is up to another group, the assembly or the jury to render a decision of what is right or wrong in the case, while the dialogue allows for the decision, as it were, to be entirely internal to the discussants: No other agency is needed, as Plato would structure the process. . . . Fundamental to the points of difference, then, are two profoundly conflicting mentalities: democratic and authoritarianone needing and trusting popular will and the other denying it. . . . The Platonic-Socratic way demands obedience to form and leadership.23 In the Platonic topos of long persuasive speech versus so-called dialogue lies an answer to our dilemma regarding Thucydidess choice of the dialogue form for the incident on Melos. Precisely reversing the values assigned by Plato, for Thucydides (I hypothesize), the Melian Dialogue signifies a strong critique of the dialogical form itself as the agent of a particularly vicious form of the exercise of power.24 Let me now put some flesh on these bones. 64
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Hybris and the Athenian Tragedy Somewhere near the middle of the Peloponnesian War, something happens that is so terrible that for writers as diverse in style and manner as Thucydides and Euripides (in The Trojan Women), it marks the very turning point, the anagnorisis of the Athenian tragedy. Although this event was of relatively minor political and military significance, both the historian and the tragedian mark it as the moment after which Athenss tragic fate is sealed. The event is the massacre of prisonersor more like the near genocide of the entire populationon the island of Melos. Melos is an island in the southwest Aegean, as close to the Peloponnesus as it is to Attica. The Melians were a Spartan colony that did not submit to the Athenians but wished to remain neutral, and did not participate at all in the war. The Athenians, nevertheless, attack, but before actually doing any harm to the Melian land, send envoys to negotiate. Upon the failure of these negotiations, the Athenians massacre the Melians. In Thucydidess great tragic history, this moment, one of utter moral degradation and hybris (also in the older sense of this term as outrage, rapine), as seen through his eyes, is the moment at which all begins to go badly for his hero, Athens, and that will lead inexorably to the final defeat and destruction of that hero, left as wounded and blinded as an Oedipus at Colonnus or a bound and demoralized Prometheus.25 We can get some sense of the tragic temper of that time by reading Euripides, writing as he lived through it. Although performing such a reading here is beyond the scope of the present argument, as Louise Mead has remarked, Of course, everyone who reads the Troades knows that it was Euripides answer to the Melian massacre perpetrated by the Athenians in 416 B.C., the year before it was first produced.26 As hinted by P. G. MaxwellStuart, in a now near-classical little article, Euripidess play is more than that; it is also a prediction of a sort of the terrible effects on Athenss future of the moral collapse implied both in the massacre and in the Sicilian expedition about to begin.27 Given this point, it is reasonable that, notwithstanding the gifts of hindsight that would only have strengthened his affect, Thucydidess reading of the Melian massacre as the moral turning point of the war, the hybris that caused the tragedy of Athens, was a vital part of the sensibility of critical Athenian intellectuals horrified in 416 by the moral evacuation of their city and convinced that it could only lead to disaster. To my temper, everything about the Thucydidean passage, from its rhetoric to its placing in the design of the history as a whole, suggests that the historian, in his quite different style, was as horrified at this moment as the tragedian, even from the distance of a by-then seven-year exile from Athens. The Melian Dialogue purports to provide us with the record of those fatal negotiations.
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The Earliest Philosophical Dialogue I think I am in a position now to suggest, at least, a novel answer to the question of the uniqueness of the Melian Dialogue in Thucydidess text. In addition to its historical meaning as the moral disaster that led to Athenss downfall, Thucydides through this pointed and singular formal invention is making, on my reading, a metacommentary on speech genres current and contending in Athens, (philosophical) dialogue versus (rhetorical) debate. As we have seen, since Dionysius of Halicarnassus writing in the first century BC, critics have understood that the Melian Dialogue is unique in Thucydides and highly pointed in its form. It would seem that George Kennedy is exactly wrong to ignore this uniqueness of character: Another famous example of opposing arguments [in addition to the Mytilenian Debate] found in Thucydidess Historythis time on the conflict of might versus rightis the Melian Dialogue.28 Even more wrong, in my humble opinion, is Dennis Proctor, for whom the Melian Dialogue is itself practically a sophistical display on the part of the Athenians.29 Once again, this, to my mind palpably wrong claim can be made only by ignoring the topos of debate versus dialogue and their cultural and political entailments. Neither of these interpreters spots at all the highly charged opposition of debate in speeches, for Plato the province of sophists and their only province, and dialogue, for Plato the province of philosophers and their only province. For Kennedy, the Mytilenian Debate and the Melian Dialogue are two examples of the same phenomenon, opposing arguments. I venture to suggest that the Mytilenian Debate and the Melian Dialogue are precisely examples of rhetoric and its antithesis. The Melian Dialogue, says H. D. Rankin, may properly be regarded as the earliest example we have of philosophical dialogue in a developed form.30 Given that the upshot of this philosophical dialogue was mass murder by the Athenians of their Melian dialogue partners, this comparison by Rankin is sharply observed (in both senses). I agree with Rankin and with Ober that there is a strong and important connection between the Melian Dialogue and those of Plato. The Melians lost the argument. It was lost even before the talking began.31 I read the Melian Dialogue as about as genuinely dialogical as the Protagoras and speculate, therefore, that the disastrous results of this encounter reveal much of Thucydidess attitude toward dialogue and dialectic and to the political forms that attend these. The dialogue begins with a metacomment that is immediately reminiscent (to us) of the incipets of various Platonic dialogues, namely an explicit thematization of the form of the discourse.32 Just as in the Symposium, the Gorgias, the Protagoras, and the Republic, where Socrates insists on dialogue 66
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and not debate, refusing that the decision of right and wrong in the discussion be made by anyone else (the form of democracy), so too in the beginning of the Melian Dialogue, the Athenians refuse the Melians the opportunity to carry on a debate, in which each party would be able to express their own position at length, freely, and with full opportunity to express themselves. To be sure, it is the Melian oligarchs themselves who demand that the discussion take place in private, a perhaps fatal error on their part, but this does not alter the force of Thucydidess presentation of the dialogical speech situation and its consequences for Melos. That this is a metacommentary on Thucydidess part is borne out by the following consideration: The alternative of a debate is on the face of it absurd, for such a debate belongs only to a situation in which an outside party will decide between the two as to whose speech carried more conviction (typically, but not only, the democratic speech situation). Two examples from book 1 of the History bear this out; in both the Corcyrean debate and the Corinthian debate at Sparta in that book, contending parties give their speeches in order to persuade a third party of the rightness of their cause, but where is the third party at Melos? Who would be the judge in this case, the Melian populace? But they are the most interested of interested parties; its a life and death matter and they could hardly be expected to judge it. The whole notion, then, of this conversation is preposterous, and therefore must be seen as a pointed significant construction on Thucydidess part.33 The incongruity continues: The reason that the Athenians give in refusing to allow a debate of long speeches is, as we shall see immediately, a standard critique of debate, that it deceives the ears of the multitude by arguments. But what multitude is there here to deceive? Even if it did make sense to have the Melians judge and jury in their own cause (no more troubling than having the Athenians judge and jury in theirs), Melos is no democracy; as a Spartan colony, it has an oligarchic form of government.34 The Melian oligarchs bring the Athenians before their magistrates and the few (the oligarchic leaders themselves). The alternative possibility of a debate to be judged by others, as in democracy, is a patent preposterousness. Why, then, does Thu cydides even raise it? There must be some other reason for him to have roused the alternative of a democratic debate here from its bed only to have it dismissed so summarily. My answer to these questions is that the false alternative of a debate is a Thucydidean set-up, by which I mean an attempt to instruct his audience, an artificial expos of the inequities, dangers, and consequences of dialogue/dialectic itself, of the speech situation of Platos dialogues also, in which there are only two parties present (in the speech situation itself others of course may overhear or interject), the proponent and the opponent, and they themselves are meant to judge the success or failure of the
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arguments. By even raising the specter of long speeches and debate, Thu cydides is clueing us in to a contrast that he wishes us to perceive. In other words, I suggest that via the naked self-interest of the Athenians in both their proposal and conduct of this pseudo-dialogue, Thucydides is suggesting that the Socratic dialogue has similar verbal violence built into it (without, one would hope, the horrific consequences of physical violence). This does not in any way preempt a reading of the text as a condemnation of the content of the dialogue as well, namely, that might makes right. Indeed, the two are joined, for it is precisely in so-called dialogue, I submit, that might has a strong tendency to make right also. Thucydides is exposing the political and ethical entailments of philosophical dialogue (as a form of tyranny) in a way that will be enormously helpful for analyzing Plato, while Plato helps to uncover these meanings in Thucydides.35 Note that this argument is not made on the basis of what is said in the dialogue but on what is said about it, implicitly and explicitly, in Thucydidess voice; neither the Athenians nor the Melian oligarchs are here heroes (although there is no doubt in my mind that the Melian populace, murdered, raped, and pillaged, are quite clearly presented as victims). That the consequences of the dialogue are seen as horrific by Thucydides is not, I think, in question, nor is the meaning of its placement in the history as a whole just before the beginning of the end for Athens.36 I would insist that the uniqueness of this moment, as the only dialogue in all of Thucydidess work, renders the suggestion that we have here a condemnation of the dialogue form quite compelling. Thucydides has chosen never to show us a dialogue any more benign and dialogical than this monological dialogue to the death. Artificial as it all is (according to my reading), it is clear from the discourse that follows that the Melians would have liked to present their case to the Athenians in the form of speeches, but the Athenians would have nothing of it:
Since the negotiations are not to go on before the people, in order that we may not be able to speak straight on without interruption, and deceive the ears of the multitude by seductive arguments which would pass without refutation (for we know that that is the meaning of our being brought before the few), what if you who sit there were to pursue a method more cautious still! Make no set speech yourselves, but take us up at whatever you do not like, and settle that before going any farther. And first tell us if this proposition of ours suits you.37

The Melians, despite their oligarchical stance, understand both the irony and the threat implied by the Athenian insistence on dialogue. They are being made an offer they cannot refuse: To the fairness of quietly instructing each other as you propose there is nothing to object; but your military preparations are too far advanced to agree with what you say, as we see you are come to be judges in your own cause, and that all we can reasonably 68
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expect from this negotiation is war, if we prove to have right on our side and refuse to submit, or in the contrary case, slavery. It is certainly instructive to compare this with a moment in the Gorgias in which the modes of discourse are similarly being negotiated. In this passage we see Socrates analogously browbeating Polus to follow his dialogical method of discourse and refrain from debate:
Soc.: For my part, I am willing to take back any agreement you think was reached improperly, whichever you pleasebut on one condition. Pol.: What is that? Soc.: That you bridle that long-answer method you tried using at first. Pol.: Why? Cant I talk any way I wish? Soc.: You would be treated terribly indeed, O best of men, if having come to Athens, where there is more freedom to talk than anywhere else in Greece, you were the only person here denied it. But there is another side. If you speak at length and wont answer what is asked, wouldnt I, in turn, be terribly treated if I couldnt leave and not listen to you? Now if youre concerned for the argument weve carried on and wish to set it straight, then as I just said, take back whatever you think you should, asking and answering questions in turn just as Gorgias and I did, refuting and being refuted. (461d462a)38

I contend, or at any rate propose and offer, that the reasons for the Athenian insistence on dialogue are precisely symmetrical with Socratess reasons for such insistence against Agathon and Protagoras and Gorgias/Polus. Socrates must win, just as the Athenians must win, and the most powerful instrument for ensuring victory is total control of the others discourse (all, of course, under the guise of disinterested seeking of truth. Just when, in what dialogue, is Socrates ever refuted by an opponent, I ask.) Just as the function of dialogue in the Platonic context isas Barrett has already seen so clearlyto ensure a Socratic victory beyond any possibility of doubt, homologously in the Melian Dialogue the function of the choice of weapon is to ensure beyond any possible doubt that the Athenians will prevail. The Athenians determination to be judges of their own cause is, I suggest, precisely parallel to Socratess insistence in the Protagoras that there not be any outside judges either, that only the natural ruler will arbitrate.39 The Athenians, moreover, in true Socratic fashion, dictate the terms under which the discussion can take place. They will not present the justice of their case, using the topoi of Athenian right owing to their defeat of the Persians or of wrongs done the Athenians by the Melians: We shall not trouble you . . . and make a long speech which would not be believed (The irony is Socratic avant la lettre). But the Melians also may not claim their right to independence on the basis of having never attacked the Athenians nor supported the Peloponnesians in their war against Athens. The Melians cannot give long speeches about the rights and wrongs of the matter, but only
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speak of what is expedient to the Athenians, for as these insist: might is right (5.89).40 Now Thucydides puts a very sagacious remark into the mouths of the Melians:
As we think, at any rate, it is expedientwe speak as we are obliged, since you enjoin us to let right alone and talk only of interestthat you should not destroy what is our common protection, namely, the privilege of being allowed in danger to invoke what is fair and right, and even to profit by arguments not strictly valid if they can be persuasive. And you are as much interested in this as any, as your fall would be a signal for the heaviest vengeance and an example for the world to meditate upon. (5.90)41

The Melians make a brilliant argument for rhetoric here. Although the Athenians have enjoined them not to speak of morality but only of expedience, they argue for the expedience of morality. Furthermore, they suggest that a decent politics can only proceed via the epistemology of rhetoric, sophist epistemology, of doxa, that which appears right and true. Epistm , the insistence on only absolutely valid arguments, will lead, as they see rightly, to their destruction. The earliest example of a philosophical dialogue continues. As the Melians have predicted, it leads perforce to the ends of Athens and the end of Melos. Just as much as Socrates in the philosophical dialogues of Plato that Ive alluded to, the Athenians as the powerful party simply impose their will on the weaker party, the Melians, through the medium of a dialogue in which they are the sole controlling party and of which the telos is a foregone conclusion:
Melians: And how, pray, could it turn out as good for us to serve as for you to rule? Athenians: Because you would have the advantage of submitting before suffering the worst, and we should gain by not destroying you. (5.9293)42

This is, one might say, a philosophical argument that the Melians cannot refute (or better put, a philosophical offer that they cannot refuse), or indeed they will (and do) suffer the worst. And a terrible worst it is; after a siege, all of the men of Melos are simply taken out and murdered. And Thucydides is appalled by this conclusion to the dialogue, every bit as much as Euripides is. The foregone discursive practice that conduces ineluctably to foregone conclusions is approved by Plato, as it leads to Truth, while Thucydides finds it appalling, since it can lead to massacre, as it would, as well, during the rule of the thirty tyrants. It needs to be pointed out, moreover, that as much as the Melian Dialogue is an indictment of the Athenians at their least democratic, it is also (at least plausibly) an indictment of the Melian oligarchy, who in refusing to allow the case whether to resist or not to

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be brought before their own dmos made themselves vulnerable to the oppressive force of the dialogue.43 With reference to the denouement of the Protagoras, Barrett wittily remarks: Plato gives Protagoras the attitude of a rehabilitated rebel who has learned the right way and the right words to say.44 Glossing Barrett a bit here will enable us to see the aptness and deadly accuracy of his barb. In the Protagoras, the eponymon has repeatedly tried to get Socrates to allow him to present his argument in a coherent and organized speech, and as repeatedly Socrates turns down this plea, insisting that the only game in town is dialectic, with Protagoras playing the role of answerer (only yes or no) or alternatively being forced to ask the questions that Socrates wants asked. In the end, thoroughly bamboozled by Socratess dialectical pyrotechnics and realizing that he has been beaten without assenting to Socratess conclusions or reasoning, he just says I guess you win.45 At the end of Melian Dialogue, there is nothing left for the Melians but to concede defeat and be led out to the slaughter. In the Platonic topos of long speech versus so-called dialogue lies an answer to our dilemma regarding Thucydidess choice of the dialogue form for the incident on Melos. Dialogical Melos signifies a strong critique of the dialogical form itself as the agent of a particularly vicious form of exercise of power. It is, then, not inapposite to refer to the Melian discourse as the first philosophical dialogue in a very dark sense indeed. Jaqueline de Romilly has hinted at the great significance of the contrast in form between the Melian Dialogue and the Mytilenian Debate: It can even be said that Thucydides adds a genuine commentary to his account of these measures, since one (Mytilene) gives rise to a discussion with antithetical speeches, and the other (Melos) to a dialogue.46 However, even the redoubtable de Romilly does not develop this insight at all; she never tells us of what the genuine commentary consists, thus leaving us with an enigma.47 In what follows I hope to shed some light on this enigma and will turn, therefore, to an analysis of the Mytilenian Debate, which is also, one must note, about the advisability of a massacre. The Debate of Rhetoric, The Rhetoric of Debate In the Mytilenian Debate, it is the very question of rhetoric and its democratic entailments that is at issue for Thucydides. If I read Plato generally as a discourse of protreptic for the philosophical, dialogical life, I will read (at least some of) Thucydides as a protreptic for rhetoric. But this reading is doubly (or even triply) complexified by two factors. Rhetoric is,

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indeed, the discursive mode of democracy, and, insofar as Thucydides seems to be a defender of rhetoric (and I believe he is), he could be seen as a critical and somewhat skeptical defender, not an enemy of democracy. But rhetoric itself, as even Gorgias well knew, can easily become an instrument for misleading the populace, and then democracy itself becomes corrupt.48 Moreover, a genuine dialogicity, that is, a true commitment to rhetoric (the Protagorean Antilogoi), must allow for both sides of the issue to be presented with a high degree of fidelity, even the side that undermines rhetoric (and thence democracy) itself.49 As Protagoras is famous (some would say notorious) for saying: On every subject there are two logoi opposed to one another (Diogenes Laertius 9.51). My thesis is that all of these complexities and even paradoxes have been enacted in Thucydidess writing in the Mytilenian Debate. The background: The Mytilenians, who are the inhabitants of Lesbos, an island that is key to Athenian power, have revolted, and their revolt has been put down. The Athenians, in their anger, have voted to execute all the male inhabitants and sent a boat with that message and charge. The next day, they reconsider their Draconian order, and after a debate in the assembly decide to rescind the order, which they manage to do, just. The debate is the speeches that were made in the assembly on the occasion of deciding to reconsider. They constitute a good example of the structure of Athenian democracy and the role of rhetoric within it. It is important, I think, both to remember and to take very seriously Thucydidess pledge to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said (1.22).50 As Rankin has already observed, [Thucydidess] account of the debate whether to rescind the order is notable for its use of arguments that bear the colour of sophistic influence.51 Thucydides himself is quite clear where his own sympathies lie. He has already informed us that Cleon is the most violent man in Athens and made fully explicit his contempt for him. Moreover, he indicates that the desire for reconsideration was the product of a wave of revulsion among the dm os for their cruel decision of the day before. Finally, he shows them being persuaded (if only barely) to make the right decision through deliberation and rational judgment. Cleon makes a double case in favor of the massacre. On the one hand, he argues that might makes absolute right and that the Athenians should think only of their own well-being (rather narrowly defined). On the other hand, and even more important from my point of view, he argues that the decision, having been made in the healthy heat of anger of the common folk, should not be reconsidered at all, let alone overturned as the result of the work of intellectual sophist/rhetors in persuading the populace. 72
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Thucydidess own rhetoric indicates in this case his evaluation of the matter as well. The two speeches are very close structural parallels as noted by de Romilly:
The parallel between the plans of the two speeches brings out the rigorous nature of Diodotus reply; for everythinganalysis and considerationsis more precise in his speech than in Cleons. In the analysis itself, Cleon merely mentioned Mytilenian hubris, while Diototus discusses the nature and consequences of hubris in general. In the considerations, Cleon deals simply with the possibility of future desertions, while Diodotus (who, as his analysis shows, considers them inevitable) judges them in relation to two specific circumstances, ignored by Cleon but mentioned in the narration of events; the fact that Mytilene was easily reconquered, and the fact that the people soon changed their minds in favour of Athens.52

In other words, we have here an excellent double usage of rhetoric. On the one hand, we have examples of the sort of speeches with which Athenian politicians would try to sway the decision makers of Athens (the dm os in the assembly); on the other hand, this is Thucydidess own rhetoric attempting to convince us that Diodotus was right and Cleon was wrong: The two speeches were thus composed by Thucydides in such a way that the systematic contrast between them, although rather improbable in an actual debate, brought out the wisdom of one solution compared with the folly of the other.53 Not only the speeches but also the speakers are contrasted in a very interesting and important way. It has long been noted in the scholarly literature that the speech of Cleon, the most violent man in Athens, contains much language and ideology that are very reminiscent of the speeches of Pericles, Thucydidess hero. This has been seen, of course, as a paradox. Much less noticed perhaps has been the extent to which Diodotus too repeats much of Periclean ideology and even Periclean language in his discourse.54 It almost seems as if Pericles is being praised and blamed in the same moves, a fact that has led some scholars to read Thucydidess own apparent praise of Pericles as ironic in some degree or fashion. One way of thinking beyond this dilemma is to imagine Cleon and Diodotus as indeed both projections of Pericles: a bad Pericles, as it were, and a good one. I want to read this as an exploration on the part of Thucydides of the two faces (the two logoi) of logos, rhetoric, itself. As someone once wrote, for Thucydides, the best argument for the democracy is that democracy sometimes will throw up a Pericles. After Pericless death, Thucydides shows us the worst that democracy can do but also imagines (I believe a fictive) worthy successor to the great luminary, Diodotus, balancing the evil and the good possibilities of democracy on a razors edge. That democracy, at any rate, is the question at hand in the Mytilenian Debate is made clear at the very outset of Cleons remarks: Personally I have
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had occasion often enough already to observe that a democracy is incapable of governing others, and I am all the more convinced of this when I see how you are now changing your minds about the Mytilenians (3.36).55 Indeed, [Cleon] speaks as Callicles is made to speak in Platos Gorgias.56 Callicles is the very parody of a democrat, so Thucydidess discourseif Cleon is to be taken as a democrat toocould be read (and has been) as an attack on democracy, just as Platos is. This would seem to be borne out, moreover, by the continuation of Cleons remarks:
Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. The latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule every proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more important matters, and by such behavior too often ruin their country; while those who mistrust their own cleverness are content to be less learned than the laws, and less able to pick holes in the speech of a good speaker; and being fair judges rather than rival athletes, generally conduct affairs successfully. These we ought to imitate, instead of being led on by cleverness and intellectual rivalry to advise the people against our real opinions (3.36.35).57

This would seem, on one reading, to be an argument for radical democracy, and since Cleon is the most violent man of Athens, according to Thucydides, the argument would constitute in fact a powerful indictment of democracy. To make the point in slightly different words, Cleons apparent praise of the decision-making powers of the simple folk would constitute, on this reading, an attack on democracy, since this praise is in the mouth of Cleon.58 But, on another reading, Thucydides is not damning democracy at all, for Cleon is no true democrat but literally a demagogue, and it is quite explicitly demagoguery that is being condemned through his praise of it, not democracy.59 Democracy, in the Periclean sense, requires intelligent, trained expert speakers to argue for different positions between which the people will decide, exactly that which Diodotus praises here, while Cleon condemns it. Indeed, Cleons attack on the rhetors is redolent of nothing so much as Platos attack on them, so in this sense Cleon is no Callicles at all but almost Socratic in his assault on the ethics of rhetors. It is made clear in the immediate sequel that Cleons case is not for rational persuasion (indeed it is the opposite) but for demagoguery. He is made to openly claim the virtue of acting in haste and in the heat of first anger and not of rational reconsideration. His argument, moreover, is pursued in the form of an attack on the sophists: I wonder also who will be the man who will maintain the contrary. . . . Such a man must plainly either have such confidence in his rhetoric as to attempt to prove that what has been once for all decided is still undermined, or be bribed to try to delude us by elaborate sophistic arguments (3.38).60 Socrates-like, Cleon is the one who portrays democratic debate as if it were a mere gymnastic competition or a 74
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contest of rhetoricians or tragedians. His argument for the virtues of stupidity (not being clever) and never changing decisions once made is, in fact, an argument for the superiority of Sparta, the oligarchy, over Athens, the democracy. It is Sparta, whose traditional and primitive constitutional features became a symbol of what was politically natural for Socratics like Antisthenes and for some of the Cynics. Even Platos Republic, in outlining a constitution that would be more true to nature and therefore essentially true, introduces adaptations of Spartan customs.61 It is worth remarking that Socrates in the Protagoras is made to give a discourse praising the Lacedaemonians for their laconic speech, a discourse in which, the two countries [Sparta and Crete] most renowned for their adherence to traditional ways and their doctrinaire regimentation are accorded supreme honors for their achievements in the liberalizing field of philosophy. To be sure, on my take, philosophy (in the Platonic sense) is hardly liberalizing, so neither Socratess nor Cleons upholding of the Lacedaemonians is surprising, but it is significant: Socrates seems intent on depriving Athens of all her most cherished accomplishments and ascribing them to Lacedaemon, her fiercest rival.62 Fascinatingly, in contrast to the usual charge that it is the Athenian sophists (or rather foreign sophists in Athens) who hide their true viewsas reflected in Cleons remark just quotedSocrates praises the invented Lacedaemonian sophists for hiding their true opinions and wisdom.63 Although this must remain in the category of hermeneutic leap of faith, I would ascribe to Cleons apotheosizing of the Spartans here the same antidemocratic spirit that animates Socratess. Cleon declares, I therefore now as before persist against your reversing your first decision, or giving way to the three failings most fatal to empire pity, sentiment, and indulgence (3.40.2).64 It is the second term in this list that needs discussion, for the translation sentiment hardly seems to cap log n). Simon Hornblowers rendition, ture the sense of the Greek 65(hedon the charm of wordsone might even suggest the pleasure of speech seems much closer to the sense.66 It seems clear that the question of rhetoric is centrally on the table in this debate. Although Cleon was surely one of the most effective of rhetors in Athens at the time, Thucydides takes pains to make him here the opponent of the democratic process of suasion through argument. He is the most violent man in Athens and the one who exercised the greatest influence over the people in this time (3.36.6).67 Thucyd ides is showing us herenot telling usof what might consist a possible distinction between Cleon the demagogue, whose speech is violent, and a sort of parody of Pericles and true democrat, the invented (I feel quite sure of this) Diodotus, who is the true successor to Pericles. Diodotus answers this with a spirited defenseof rhetors and of logoi, speech-making in the deliberation of action:
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I do not blame those who have proposed a new debate on the subject of Mytilene, and I do not share the view which we have heard expressed, that it is a bad thing to have frequent discussions on matters of importance. Haste and anger are, to my mind, the two greatest obstacles to wise counselhaste, that usually goes with folly, anger, that is the mark of primitive and narrow minds. (3.42.1)

This, of course, is a direct refutation of Cleons attack on democratic reason, as Cleon had insisted that words, speeches, only confuse and that the assembly should decide in the heat of emotion and anger and then maintain that decision unwaveringly. It echoes, moreover, Pericless own praise of debate and deliberation in the Funeral Oration. As Harvey Yunis has put it, By seeking to rid the political forum of personal ambition and to restore merit and public-spiritedness as its fundamental values, Diodotus echoes the meritocracy of the funeral oration.67 Diodotus has more to say:
And anyone who maintains that words cannot be a guide to action must be either a fool or one with some personal interest at stake; he is a fool, if he imagines that it is possible to deal with the uncertainties of the future by any other medium, and he is personally interested if his aim is to persuade you into some disgraceful action, and, knowing that he cannot make a good speech in a bad cause, he tries to frighten his opponents and his hearers by some good sized pieces of misrepresentation. Then still more intolerable are those who go further and accuse a speaker of making a kind of exhibition of himself, because he is paid for it. (3.42.12)68

Diodotus then gives a spirited defense of rhetors, to argue strongly against the punishing of unsuccessful ones, and especially to decry the practice of accusing rhetors of acting out of self-interest and desire for monetary gain, precisely, of course, the main tenets of Socratess attack on sophist rhetors. Rhetors who are so treated, argues Diodotus, cannot serve the polis well and are, indeed, almost forced into lying, but the implication is clear: rhetors who will be well and fairly treated will provide an enormous service to Athens via the democracy. Diodotuss speech might be taken as a rebuttal of the arguments of Megabyzus in Herodotuss fictive discussion on the virtues of various forms of government (3.81.2). This antidemocratic figure argues that the dm os lacks all political intelligence either from within or without and cannot deliberate or make rational choices at all. Yunis shows how the herald in Euripidess The Suppliants (41722) makes essentially the same charge, namely that the dm os cannot properly assess the speeches of the rht ores.69 And it is effectively this argument too that Socrates makes in the Protagoras when he insists that no one else should judge between them. Insofar, then, as Cleon attacks rhetors and rhetoric and Diodotus defends both, and if it be granted that Diodotus is the hero of the Mytilenian Debate,

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then it follows that Thucydides is mounting here a strong defense (if not a univocal one) of rhetoric, debate, and thus of democratic process as opposed to the essential undemocracy of the dialogue, Melian or otherwise. One point needs to be made clear here, since there has been some confusion in the literature. For instance, Proctor has written, At Melos the reader is to see the uncompromising intellectuality by which Diodotus saved Mytilene serving the same vindictive ends as the emotionalism of Cleon.70 This is simply not the case. In fact, Diodotuss version of an argument from self-interest, namely, that it is in our self interest to behave decently because some day the shoe may be on the other foot, matches perfectly the argument that the Melians offer to the Athenians as to their (the Athenians) self interest, while the argument that the Athenians force down their throats uncannily echoes Cleons arguments in the Mytilenian Debate. The selfinterest proposed by Diodotus and the Melians is a matter far different from (and finer than) the justice of vengeance proposed by Cleon. Far, then, from the Melian Dialogue being read as a cynical condemnation of Diodotuss argument, it should be read, as Ive proposed, as a condemnation of the implicit might-makes-right practice of the so-called dialogue. Diodotuss argument in defense of democratic debate seems quite like that of Pericles in the Funeral Oration:
Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, we regard the citizen who takes no part in these duties not as unambitious [apragmona] but as useless, and we are able to judge proposals even if we cannot originate them; instead of looking at discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all (2.40).71

Thomas Hobbes wittily translated this phrase as follows: For we only think one that is utterly ignorant therein, to be a man not that meddles with nothing, but that is good for nothing.72 The point, in any translation, is that what in other places is a compliment, to be , is not so at Athens, where to be uninvolved in political life is to be deemed useless. Perhaps better would be to say that the adjective is still a compliment, even at Athens, but would not be applied there to one who is ignorant and uninvolved in public affairs.73 The essence of Athenian democracy hangs here, on the ability of the Athenian citizens who are not experts and not even adepts in political tekhn to nevertheless hear and understand speeches about justice and to make just decisions on that basis. We see better now why this issue will be such a fraught one for Plato, reappearing as we have seen in the Protagoras in the discussion of taking on of a referee. Thucydides palpably supports the practice of free discussion of

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all citizens, in the form of their listening to speeches by experts who make proposals and counter-proposals and then make their decisions on the merits of those proposals. He is certainly no knee-jerk antidemocrat, in the mold of Plato, that old oligarch. Cleon, by appearing as a democrat, while systematically attacking the fundamental and crucial practice of the democracy, deliberative rhetoric, thus reveals himself to be a hypocritical demagogue and no democrat at all. Now it is very clear that Cleon is the representative of extreme imperialism in this debate and he is the antidemocratic voice. He does not believe that deliberative speech can truly and honestly affect decisions; for him it is only a matter of contests of skill on the order of athletic contests. He draws the same ratio between the speech of the assembly and the law courts and that of rhetorical contests as does Socrates in the Symposium: As for the speech-makers who give such pleasure by their arguments, they should hold their competitions on subjects which are less important, and not on a question where the state may have to pay a heavy penalty for its light pleasure, while the speakers themselves will no doubt be enjoying splendid rewards for their splendid arguments.Cleons antidemocracy goes, then, hand in hand with his extreme imperialist position. On the other hand, Diodotuss speech, as we have seen, also immediately thematizes a prodemocracy stance. The strong defender of democracy is the moderate (true Periclean) imperialist and the explicit defender of rhetors/ sophists from the usual charges against them. Cleon attacks rhetoric, but Diodotus defends it, and on nearly precisely the terms of Pericless own account of it in the Funeral Oration. When Thucydides has Diodotus win this debate, as he certainly does, he is putting in a qualified, ambivalent, but nonetheless undeniable vote for democracy. It is not only that the form of the discourse, debate, and the juxtaposition of speeches is the very metier of democracy and that it prevails here in achieving a just result but also that the explicit defender of democratic process of debate and decision making by the dm os is the one who has prevailed in this encounter.74 Note, as well, that Diototus, in his last sentences, is invoking (once again, proleptically speaking) some of the topoi of Platos attacks on rhetoric, suggesting that those attacks were, indeed, current at least by the time of Thucydidess writing. If, as Rankin has put it, like a Socratic dialogue, this confrontation informs us about the medium as well as the subject matter of the discussion, then the message of this medium is that democracy works, at least sometimes even in the presence of a Cleon.75 For if the conclusion of the Melian Dialogue is a moral (and historical) disaster in Thucydidess eyes, the conclusion of the Mytilenian Debate is just as surely a desirable result. While it has not infrequently been noted in the literature that Cleon expresses political opinions that are similar to Pericless, in his disdain for 78
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deliberation he is the opposite of that hero, while Diodotus is made the true successor of Pericles in his views on deliberation and rhetoric in a democracy. Yunis has noted the strong support for democracy entailed by Diodotuss speech, but he does not take it quite seriously: Aside from Diodotus one speech there are no further traces in Thucydides of the Diodotean conception of democratic deliberation. Having forcefully articulated that conception once, perhaps for the sake of giving an interesting idea its due, Thucydides apparently had no further use for it.76 I suggest instead that Diodotuss speech and its outcome are not simply a jeu desprit on Thucyd idess part but a strong hermeneutical key to his view of democracy at its best, which is, or can be, for him, politics at its best. Its best, however, after Pericles was not too frequent or even very good. Given how unattested, almost uniquely so, Diodotus is outside of Thucydides, and even there outside of this one incident, one might even suspect that Diodotus was made up to indicate what a proper successor to Pericles might have looked like, a true democrat, not a false one like Cleon.77 A true democrat is one who also can criticize, educate, and improve the dm os, not mislead them by flattery; the latter is the definition of a demagogue, not a democrat. At the same time, we must, however, note carefully that Thucydides hardly idealizes democracy, even at, as it were, its best. He is deeply aware of the flaws of the Athenian democracy even as he is, on my view and according to my argument, defending it against oligarchy and its alleged companion, dialectic. The right position even here only wins by a slim majority, and elsewhere throughout the history democratic decision-making brings disaster, most notably in the decision to invade Sicily, the very hybris that brings Athens down in the end. There is a tragic dimension to rhetoric (and thus to democracy) of which Thucydides is always aware in his total refusal to compromise his clear sight, to be seduced by any solutions at all. Although, to be sure, I am arguing that Thucydides sides with the sophists in his defense of rhetoric as the very stuff of democracy, at the same time, there is a dark side to Athenian democracy itself, namely, its passion for power over others, its imperialism. Reading Thucydides carefully, one finds this destructive passion at the very site and heart of the democracy itself. Tim Whitmarsh has made this point well, arguing that Thucydides presents Pericles as publicly praising Athens as an education [paideusis] for Greece ( , Thuc. 2.41.1), but then in a footnote remarks, Thucydides does not, however, silence the alternative, and less flattering, descriptions of Athenian hegemony as a tyranny or an enslavement.78 That complexity of thinking is Thucydidess hallmark, but even more: it represents in my view nothing less than the organizing and motivating ideational base of the entire History. Thucydides, I argue, appalled by philosophical dialogue and realizing its inherent and almost inevitable inability to represent different views, found
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another way to write a richly, authentically dialogical text. In the very dialogue of genres, debate versus philosophical dialogue, the great historian found his way to write a history that, while not in any fashion disengaged, disinterested, or objective, nonetheless was adequate to the task of presenting, in its own form, the different sides of the Athenian debate on democracy.

Notes
I would like to thank the following readers of various earlier versions of this argument over the six or seven years of its gestation: Carlin Barton, Erich Gruen, A. A. Long, and Andrea Nightingale, who all nurtured it with tough love. I would thank as well readers for TAPA and Historia who just hated it, and the much more helpful, yet critical, readers of the Representations board, and especially David Henkin. Finally a seminar with the students of Rhetoric 200 at Berkeley on (literally) the eve of the conclusion of this paper was very salutary for some final nuancing. 1. Richard McKeon, Greek Dialectics: Dialectic and Dialogue, Dialectic and Rhetoric, in Dialectics, ed. Cham Perelman (The Hague, 1975),2. 2. Although strictly speaking sophists and rhetors are two different professions, the one teachers of the skill of persuasion by speechmaking, the others politicians, precisely since the alleged sin of the sophists is that they teach the rhetors to seek to persuade without regard for the truth and of the rhetors that they do indeed, do that, the close association of the two as virtually one group seems not far-fetched to me at all. This does not mean, as Andrea Nightingale has pointed out to me, that all sophists were democrats. Protagoras himself is hardly a perfect democrat; the point is rather that, on my somewhat controversial view, Plato uses interlocutions with sophists as in the Protagoras and the Gorgias as well (where Socrates refuses to allow the bringing in of outside witnesses) to figure the democratic speech situation in which rhetors speak and others judge the persuasiveness of their claims. 3. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Thucydides; English Translation, Based on the Greek Text of Usener-Radermacher, with Commentary, trans. W. Kendrick Pritchett (Berkeley, 1975). 4. H. LL. Hudson-Williams, Conventional Forms of Debate and the Melian Dialogue, American Journal of Philology71, no.2 (1950):164. 5. Hudson-Williams, Conventional,164. 6. Contra, e.g., Georg Deininger, Der Melier-Dialog/Georg Deininger, bound with Das Programm Des Thukydides/August Grosskinsky (1938; reprint, New York, 1987), 13839. The Deininger is a 1939 dissertation. 7. Felix Martin Wassermann, The Melian Dialogue, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association78 (1947):20. 8. Hudson-Williams, Conventional,167. 9. For intimations of the politics of public vs. private in Socratic speech, see Allan David Bloom, The Ladder of Love, in Platos Symposium trans. Seth Benardete (Chicago, 2001),122.

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10. Andrea Wilson Nightingale, Genres in Dialogue: Plato and the Construct of Philosophy (Cambridge, 1995),9. 11. Harold Barrett, The Sophists: Rhetoric, Democracy, and Platos Idea of Sophistry (Novato, CA, 1987),62. 12. Daniel Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis (Chicago, 2009),281318. 13. For the nuances of this claim, see ibid.,3235. 14. Ibid.,33132. 15. See John Beversluis, Cross-Examining Socrates: A Defense of the Interlocutors in Platos Early Dialogues (Cambridge, 2000), as well as my own arguments as cited earlier and esp. Boyarin, Socrates,28283. In the book I have argued, however, for a double voicing of Plato between the serious and comic, indeed for a kind of Menippean effect; Boyarin, Socrates,81132, 31943. If there be multivocality in Plato (and I believe there is), it is to be found here in this second accent and not in the pseudo-dialogues between Socrates and the sophists, contra such readers as Francisco Gonzalez, who, in the name of vaunting Platos dialogicality only end up inscribing the absolute and invidious opposition of philosophy to rhetoric even more strongly; Francisco J. Gonzalez, Giving Thought to the Good Together: Virtue in Platos Protagoras, in Retracing the Platonic Text, ed. John Russon and John Sallis (Evanston, IL, 2000),11354, and see discussion in Boyarin, Socrates, 34550. The voice of internal critique via narrative that I have identified does not vitiate the point that the dominant accent of the Platonic texts is vigorous propaganda for dialectic as the only way to Truth and the disparagement of rhetoric as specious and only self-serving. The argument here, thus, neither stands nor falls on the considerations offered there but the discussion there may temper the impression of hutzpa vis--vis Plato that my rhetoric here would otherwise indicate. 16. Plato, Protagoras (334ac), in Plato, Protagoras, rev. ed., trans. with notes by C. C. W. Taylor (Oxford, 1991). All citations are to this edition. 17. Boyarin, Socrates,31213. 18. , ; . For a brilliant account of the role of this false modesty in Socratic discourse, see Ramona Naddaff, Exiling the Poets: The Production of Censorship in Platos Republic (Chicago, 2002), 5556. As Melissa Lane, The Evolution of Eirneia in Classical Greek Texts: Why Socratic Eirneia Is Not Socratic Irony, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy31 (2006):4983, has compellingly shown, this has nothing to do, however, with the term eirn eia, as used in Platos own texts. 19. Socratess generous offer to let Protagoras be the questioner in the first round hardly changes this point: Everyone agreed that that was what we should do. Protagoras was altogether unwilling, but none the less he was obliged to agree to put the questions, and when he had asked sufficient, to submit to questioning in his turn and give short replies (338ce), anything, that is, but to do that which he wants to do: present his ideas in a reasoned and wellformed speech! It is remarkable the way some interpreters gloss over this compulsion of Protagoras: It is agreed to proceed by question and answer, with Protagoras questioning first; Plato, Protagoras, 135. Even more telling, in my opinion, is the fact that Taylor, in his expansive commentary, has almost nothing more to say on the topic of this clearly highly fraught contestation between speeches and dialectic.  Deadly Dialogue: Thucydides with Plato

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20. Cf. Josiah Ober on the old oligarch: Democracy is thus marked for Ps.-Xenophon by the hegemonic political authority of those who are necessarily inferior, both morally and culturally, over their betters; Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule (Princeton, 1998),17. 21. Patrick Coby, Socrates and the Sophistic Enlightenment: A Commentary on Platos Protagoras (Lewisburg, PA, 1987),97. 22. Barrett, Sophists,5960. 23. Ibid.,6062. 24. The irony of the situation [a Socratic irony indeed] lies in the fact that what apparently is a free discussion, in reality is a thinly disguised ultimatum, as the Melians point out from the very beginning (5.86); Wassermann, The Melian Dialogue,20. 25. It was Francis Cornford who early on and most clearly delineated the tragic structure of Thucydidess narrative, with the Melian Dialogue placed just before the Sicilian Expedition not so much for reasons of chronology as to indicate the consequences of the hybris. Francis Macdonald Cornford, Thucyd ides Mythistoricus (London, 1907), x. 26. Louise M. Mead, The Troades of Euripides, Greece & Rome8, no.23 (February 1939):102. 27. P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, The Dramatic Poets and the Expedition to Sicily, Historia 22 (1973): 39899. Maxwell-Stuart seems to imply that this interpretation supersedes the reading of the play as being a response to the Melian massacre, but I would suggest it deepens it and complements it instead. 28. George Kennedy, A New History of Classical Rhetoric (Princeton, 1994),23. 29. Dennis Proctor, The Experience of Thucydides (Warminster, Wilts, UK, 1980),88. 30. H. D. Rankin, Thucydides: Sophistic Method and Historical Research, in Sophists, Socratics, and Cynics (London, 1983),116. 31. Ibid.,121. 32. Since, as pointed out by Ober, Political Dissent, 96, there is meta-rhetoric in the Mytilenian Debate, it is hard to ignore the ways that Thucydides is thematizing the forms of speech in these passages. 33. As realized clearly by Wassermann, The Melian Dialogue,2021: Why, then does Thucydides have his Athenians suggest a discussion at all? The very fact that it has no external results and cannot have any, makes the general issue behind the particular case stand out more clearly. For Wassermann it is two political philosophies that are at issue, while for me it is the question of dialogue itself, but he has clearly seen how the artificiality of the speech situation forces us to interpret it. On Wassermanns account, precisely the question that he himself raised of why this is a dialogue and not a pair of opposed speeches remains unanswered, for if one of the main purposes of the Melian Dialogue is to make clear that both sides have a point (21), then a pair of speeches would have done as well. Even more, as we have seen, in fact the form of dialectical dialogue is spectacularly unsuited for such purposes. All that said, I find Wassermanns account of the dialogue as a conflict between an older Hellenic order and a newer one persuasive, only disagreeing as to Thucydidess affect toward that conflict and its impact on the text. 34. Indeed the argument could be made, although perhaps it would be overreading, that it is precisely the Melian commitment to oligarchy that brings their downfall.

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35. It is a masterpiece of Thucydides presentation of the dynamic and dangerous energy of his people in the field of the and of the , that the zeal to convince which they reveal in the Dialogue turns into ruthless suppression of actual resistance; Wassermann, The Melian Dialogue,35. 36. I make this obvious point, since it does not seem obvious to everyone. See citations in James V. Morrison, Historical Lessons in the Melian Episode, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974)130 (2000):12122, some of which scholars consider the Athenians as humanitarian here, because they engaged the Melians in dialogue before killing them. 37. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (5.85), in The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, ed. Robert B. Strassler, intro. Victor Davis Hanson, trans. Richard Crawley (New York, 1996),351. 38. Reginald E. Allen, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Gorgias, Menexenus, vol.1 of The Dialogues of Plato, trans. Reginald E. Allen (New Haven, 1984),246 [translation slightly modified from Allens]. 39. The claims anent Socrates have been argued at length in Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis. 40. Thucydides, Landmark,352. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid. 43. See a related point in Maurice Pope, Thucydides on Democracy, Historia37 (1988):287n28. 44. Barrett, Sophists,60. It should be stated that T. H. Irwin, Coercion and Objectivity in Platos Dialectic, Rvue Internationale de Philosophie40 (1986):4974, is largely an attempt to show that in the Gorgias Plato partly corrects for defects in the earlier elenctic method that render it coercive, but even Irwin (7273) is not entirely sure of his success in this enterprise. In any case, whatever Irwins conclusions about the possibility of a noncoercive dialectic might be, it seems clear that in practice Socratic speech was coercive and criticized as such by democrats (Callicles!), and that is what is crucial for my argument here. 45. For a detailed examination of the actual text, see Boyarin, Socrates,7278. 46. Jacqueline de Romilly, Thucydides and Athenian Imperialism, trans. Philip Thody (Oxford, 1963),93n2. 47. Moreover, the obvious inference from this contrast directly contradicts Romillys own argument in Jacqueline de Romilly, La Condamnation du plaisir dans louevre de Thucydide, Wiener Studien (1966):14248, and see Ober, Political Dissent,60n18. 48. Cleon in the Mytilenian Debate is perhaps the parade example. See too John Finley, The Unity of Thucydides History, in Three Essays on Thucydides (Cambridge, MA, 1967),15455. For Gorgias, see Boyarin, Socrates,93103. 49. For the Protagorean Antilogoi, see Hermann Diels and Walther Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Griechisch und Deutsch (Zrich, 1966), 80 A1, B56. For Protagorean influence on Euripides in this regard, see John Finley, Euripides and Thucydides, in Three Essays on Thucydides,15. 50. Thucydides, Landmark,15. 51. Rankin, Thucydides,105. For more on connections between Thucydides and the Sophists, see John H. Finley, Three Essays on Thucydides,154. 52. Romilly, Thucydides,15960. 53. Ibid.,160.  Deadly Dialogue: Thucydides with Plato

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54. The point has been partially anticipated, however, by Harvey Yunis, Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens (Ithaca, NY, 1996),9394, who also does well in my opinion in emphasizing Thucydidess Protagorean connections. 55. Thucydides, Landmark,176. 56. Rankin, Thucydides,106. 57. Thucydides, Landmark,176. It is fascinating to note how similar Cleons notes here are to those of Strepsiades in The Clouds. But thento his creditIve not been able to quite figure out whose side Aristophanes is on, anyway. The Clouds is usually taken as an indictment of Socrates (or the Sophists) but Strepsiades seems hardly a hero either. 58. Cf. Daphne Elizabeth ORegan, Rhetoric, Comedy, and the Violence of Language in Aristophanes Clouds (New York, 1992),11:
Increasing prominence of speech and rhetorical technique and theory was matched by increasing controversy about the nature of logos and the significance of its use. The year after the death of Pericles (428) saw the beginnings of Cleons ascendency and the Mytilenian debate. Thucydides presentation makes this a forum for a new negative analysis of the power of logos and its speakers that invites his readers to meditate upon how far Athens had already fallen from the ideal articulated in Pericles funeral oration. There, Pericles made faith in and commitment to speech and discussion one of the distinguishing features of his idealized Athens. Thucydides Cleon represents the new perversion of this ideal. Described as the most violent of the citizens, and by far the most persuasive to the demos, Cleon is dedicated to logos only insofar as it helps him maintain his position. His continuous rhetorical thundering reflects no respect for others, no belief in discussion, and no commitment to the tongue rather than the hand, in short, no understanding of the special role of logos in human relationships or in the maintenance of the polis. His views reflect this, for to support his previously enacted decree, Cleon attacks the prized Athenian debate as a sham, singling out in particular the new sophistic rhetoric. Its speakers, delighted with their own cleverness, use and abuse the power of words for not public but private ends. Its listeners have similar motives: pleasure in judging rhetorical skill and appearing fashionably familiar with the latest techniques. As all try to maximize personal benefit, the city is lost. The best city is not one where everyone speaks, but where the laws rule in silence. Logos itself is undermining the democratic polis.

ORegan sees only one side to this debate, for clearlyat least in my view Diodotus represents the other side of a debate on logos. 59. See also Harvey Yunis who writes, Cleon, however, facing a dm os who have experienced nothing more serious than a desire to reconsider, contravenes Pericles: he repudiates reconsideration altogether by denying the utility of democratic deliberation, Taming,89. 60. Thucydides, Landmark,177. 61. Rankin, Thucydides,107. 62. Both cites are from Coby, Socrates,106. 63. For all too rare exceptions, see Rankin, Thucydides,108; Ober, Political Dissent,98. 64. Thucydides, Landmark,178. 65. Simon Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides: Volume I: Books IIII, (reprint; Oxford, 2003),431. See also Reginald Winnington-Ingram, Ta Deonta Eipein: Cleon and Diodotus, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies12 (1965):7082.

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66. Thucydides, Landmark,176. For discussion of the correct translation, see Hornblower, Commentary,420. 67. Yunis, Taming,94. I thus find it very difficult to accept Obers thesis, as carefully argued as it is (Ober, Political Dissent, 7879), that Thucydides promotes the critique of democratic knowledge spoken by Cleon. That being the case, why would Thucydides have put this critique into the mouth of Cleon, the most violent man in Athens (Thucydides speaking in propria persona) and in the mouths of the Athenians engaged in their horrifying project of exterminating the Melians, while the opposing view to the effect that the Athenians are competent to judge between competing speeches and make decisions (surely not always wise ones, but that can hardly be the criterion for any system of government) is placed in the mouths of Pericles and Diodotus? 68. Thucydides, Landmark, 179. Contra Ober (Political Dissent, 99), I dont think that Diodotus willfully embraces the well-known Cretan Liar paradox here. He doesnt say that all rhetors are engaged only in their own self-interest but something quite different; rhetors who argue against rhetoric are either fools or liars, not rhetors who argue in favor of rhetoric. See Yunis, Taming,99101, with whom I tend to agree on this question. 69. For discussion of these texts, see Yunis, Taming,4043. 70. Proctor, Experience,93. 71. Thucydides, Landmark,113. This seems, moreover, to have been a commonly held account of democracy, namely that what citizens do best is judging. See on this point Pope, Thucydides, 285: a glimpse here into a fifth century democrats handbook. Note how thoroughly Plato attacks this notion in the Protagoras, as well as in the Symposium. Aristotle, on the other hand, fully approbates it; cf. Politics 3.11.12 (1281b). For a sense of how widespread this topos is, note that it comes up again the famous speech of Athenagoras in Thucyd ides 6.39.1, and see discussion in A. H. M. Jones, Athenian Democracy (Baltimore, 1986),5455. 72. Cited in A. W. Gomme, Antony Andrewes, and Kenneth James Dover, A Historical Commentary on Thucydides (Oxford, 194581),2:121. 73. For further discussion of this point, see Hornblower, Commentary,305. 74. It seems to me that the Mytilenian episode is, at least, a palpable exception to Obers claim that in practice, the Athenian demos is depicted in Thucydides text as tending to act selfishly in the narrow interest of the many, and as making decisions on the basis of highly misleading speeches delivered by personally selfish and self-interested parties; Ober, Political Dissent,72. It is not entirely clear where, in this episode, even Cleon is being condemned as being personally selfish or self-interested, a fortiori Diodotus. Even Diodotuss argument is realpolitisch for sure, as has often been observed, but in no sense is it a defense of the interest of one Athenian group over others, still less of his own personal interest, and the Athenians, far from being misled, vote the right way. 75. Rankin, Thucydides,111. 76. Yunis, Taming,96. 77. Cf., however, Hornblower, Thucydides (Baltimore, 1987),53. 78. Tim Whitmarsh, Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation, 2nd ed., (reprint; Oxford, 2004),7.

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