The Constitution Of Athens By The Old Oligarch And The Peloponnesian War

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The Constitution of Athens by the Old Oligarch and the funeral Oration given by Pericles in Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War offer two very different views of democracy in Athens. While the Old Oligarch lists the ways in which democracy fails the elite of Athens, Pericles’ speech highlights the very best aspects of Athens government. Fundamentally these two works are advocating for the different classes found in Athens, one the one hand the Old Oligarch supported the elite and on the other Pericles supported the average citizens of the city. As his moniker implies, the Old Oligarch favors oligarchy as opposed to democracy. He argues for oligarchy by describing how “…the rich are made poorer” (The Old Oligarch, 1.13). In …show more content…

The Oligarch admits that a democracy a type of government which is much better suited to deal with the needs of a naval power. In his own words “…it is only just that the poorer classes and the common people of Athens …seeing that it is the people who man the fleet, and have brought the city her power.” (The Old Oligarch, 1.2). While the more heavily armored infantry would still be comprised of higher status men who could afford the proper armor, anyone could help to man a ship; as men from the lower classes became more involved in defending their city they would have wanted to be more fairy represented in their government. Democracy would have appeased the men who manned the ships, allowing Athens to have a large and effective navy, making them the leading maritime power in the Aegean. The Old Oligarch goes on to say that having a strong navy corresponds with Athens’ goal of building an empire. He explains that state which wields the most naval power is at an advantage, both because it can easily control island cities and even engage in battle with stronger enemies because it can choose when and where to do battle (The Old Oligarch, …show more content…

In his speech he says that Athens uses the wealth of its citizens not as a display of status but to benefit the state. The sacrifices, plays, and athletic events, that the Old Oligarch condemned, actually aid the city in Pericles’ opinion because “…the delight which [the Athenians] daily feel in all these things helps to banish melancholy” (Thucydides, 38). In Pericles’ opinion, these civic expenses are crucial and the real problem is citizens who avoided their duty to the state by not paying when they had the ability. This line of thinking, not so subtlety, accuses men like the Old Oligarch who begrudge the state the money it needs to perform these functions. The citizens who put their own prosperity before that of the state are the real threat because they weaken the idea of a united Athenian

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