I was happy with the introduction I wrote for the Wednesday assignment and am looking forward to fleshing out the section. This week I intend on writing a line by line commentary of the Melian Dialogue. This will include an amalgam of three translations by Hobbes, Crawley, and Hornblower with pertinent notes about the differences and similarities and their possible meanings. In a sense this section will write itself as it is less original thought and more a combination of contemporary works. However this section will certainly be a lengthy one as I intend on putting down the entire dialogue. I thought a lot about whether or not the paper would be improved by including the full dialogue. On one end it allows for readers to understand the topic I am discussing in full. On the other it will make for a slightly dry section if readers are more interested in a summary rather than the raw text. In the end I believe it will benefit the paper in its ability to familiarize new readers, and point out interesting differences for more informed scholars.
As far as research goes most of it is in the bag already, but I will make an effort to find more contemporary sources as well. I have no secondary sources written past 2008, which is certainly a flaw in my bibliography. If I get through the introductory section easy enough I plan on rewriting my historiography which will create a better landscape of Thucydides throughout history.
This week was a particularly frustrating one in regards to my paper. Almost as soon as I submitted my historiography I didn’t like what I wrote. What I put on the paper seems so forced and rigid. Since then I have rewritten the entire thing several times. I’ve been happy with nothing I’ve produced. The idea I have feels so clear in my head until I try to articulate it. Even though this feeling (which could be summed as writer’s’ block) is all too common that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. So instead of smashing my head against the wall until one of us cracks, I’m going to ask for help. I’m going to bring my project to Dr. Robin Mitchell Boyask and discuss it over with him. From what I’ve heard him say in front of my classic’s class, he has the possibility to be a great resource.
In regards to other aspects of the writing process there is a stagnation on all fronts. However, throughout the weekend and the early week I did manage to at least format my ideas into a more structured outline. This involved rewriting an earlier rough outline I had created a few weeks ago. Even though I love my subject, I almost wish I had chosen one without so much written about it. I have this constant sensation of scrambling to read as much as I can, but with every page read I realize just how deep the water is.
I began writing my “first two paragraphs” yesterday but I would hardly call them an introduction. I am firmly in the camp that a proper, concise, and effective introduction can only be written at the end. Although the plan for my paper is set down, it is hardly in stone. I hope that my ideas and writing will fluidly change in order to present the best end product. So instead of writing the introduction to my paper I have began an introduction to the Melian Dialogue. The paragraphs are set to introduce readers to the core topic of my paper but they will hardly introduce the paper itself. This overview style writing is easier and for now what I’ve been focusing on.
RESEARCH BLOG #5
This week I focused on two aspects of my paper, Greek rhetoric, and the historiography of the Melian dialogue. In doing so I found a fantastic source that provided information into both pursuits. Literary Texts And The Greek Historian, by Christopher Pelling, contains an incredible amount of information on the ancient greek rhetorical tradition. Given how Athenian courts were set up, it makes sense that being able to persuade through oration or writing was most certainly a useful skill. In learning more about the tradition the similarities between the Melian Dialogue are uncanny. As a major facet of my essay’s argument is to prove thucydides is sending a message throughout the dialogue, tying it to rhetorical tradition is essential. Pellings’ book will be invaluable for that.
On top of the aforementioned assistance, Pellings’ account of Greek historians is helping me structure my historiographical section. He gives a succinct account of major Greek historians and their contributions to field of study. Pelling goes into detail on the various schools of thought in analyzing and understanding Greek rhetoric. The historiography shows a fluid and changing view on the ever evolving materials. Texts like the Melian Dialogue have such depth, it feels like no two scholars see it the exact same way. His historiography inspires me to show this variety, while also discussing the nature of the text. Unfortunately unlike myself, he has a book in which he can explore topics to full lengths. I will have to find a way to condense the absolutely massive amount of influential material written on the Melian Dialogue starting from two thousand years ago.
This week I really put time into different translations and Greek analysis. I explored translations by Crawley, Hornblower, and Hobbes. As each translator presents a slightly different product I plan on trying to use an amalgam of all three. It should be noted that Hobbes’ translation was done in 1629 and the first published anglification of Thucydides. Due to its revolutionary nature and time period the language is extremely adventurous. This makes it both my favorite translation to read and the most dangerous to rely on academically. Luckily analysts such as Hornblower and Macleod are able to contain and discuss Hobbes’ translation without falling for his expressive writing. The two aforementioned authors have really been the backbone of my research this week. I have been continually working through Hornblower’s analysis (which also presents an amazing collection of secondary sources) of both the Melian Dialogue, and its historiography. I am utilizing Macleods’ essays regarding ancient Greek rhetoric among the Sophists and Athenian culture. He presents a strong argument that the Melian Dialogue should be read as an example of Greek rhetorical writing. He cites similarities between the text and other ancient Greek sources such as Gorgias’ argument on Helen and certain writings by Plato.
Although my research is going well my original thesis seems to be getting weaker and weaker. I have to find a way to phrase a question to myself that brings out some sort of spark or excitement. It’s quite frustrating to feel so passionately about my subject, but not be able to focus that feeling. The basic gist of what I want to pursue is the intent of Thucydides within the Melian Dialogue. Such as what is he trying to say? And what are the subtleties he uses in which to communicate? Yet, I just can’t manage to find the right wording to these sentiments. In conclusion, it’s been a fantastic week for research, but not so much for drafting my paper.
In my studies this week I have observed the developing historiography of the Thucydides and the Melian Dialogue. I started by reading works by A.W. Gomme, A. Andrews, and K.J Dovers, all of which experts by all accounts. Then I moved onto Simon Hornblower’s expert analysis of Thucydides, which as of now is my favorite source. Although I have not even scratched the surface of these author’s works, it is my initial impression that Hornblower writes for a less specialized audience. In other words, one which does not have years of high level classic studies under their belt.
Hornblower’s analysis of Thucydides Book V, paints a fantastically complicated political world which sets the scene for the Melian Dialogue. More often than not my sources are focused on the movement of Athens in its political and military positioning. Hornblower discusses the lesser known activities of Sparta during the time. While Sparta played no direct role in the Melian Dialogue, their presence in the background of the dialogue is unavoidable. The Dorians who inhabited the island of Melos had familial connections with the people of Sparta, and mention their hope that they will receive aid. He also discusses the experimental literary form Thucydides writes this section with. How its structure and focus narrow the relations of spartans with Melos, while back-grounded by the looming imperialistic expansion of Athens. Hornblower even includes a note on the topography of Melos and how this plays a crucial part in the Dialogue.
As Hornblower’s work is so immensely dense it is the only source I had time to study this week, but I hope to expand my bibliography in the next week. In particular I will certainly be exploring the sources recommended to me through peer review of my paper proposal. I don’t doubt they will bring interesting findings. As always I am amazed at the depth of understanding someone can dive into in studying historical events. These sources provide such advanced analysis, I just hope I can incorporate it into a decent paper.
Although I love the subject of my topic, producing objective historical analysis with even a hint of originality is truly a challenge. With every hour of research I’m reminded just how painfully deep I’ll have to dive in order to produce something worth reading. To fully understand the Melian Dialogue, it is necessary to grasp the time period and the people involved. These understandings constitute the careers and lifework of so many intelligent people. Thoroughly analyzing the historiography of this event alone would develop into an encyclopedic work. Yet my process so far has not been all gloom and doom. There are major benefits of such a studied and discussed event, one of course being the plethora of resources.
This first resource is probably my favorite for several reasons. While I can bumble my way through some ancient Greek, Thucydides is challenging even to those with a substantial proficiency for the language. Therefore, Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue: Commentary, Text, and Vocabulary by Paul Debnar is a godsend. The book is specifically designed for undergraduate and graduate scholar analysis of the Melian Dialogue’s intricate Greek subtleties. There are issues involved in my sole use of one translation, but for now this will certainly do. Debnar accompanies his line for line translation with expert analysis on the importance and underlying messages only someone with a life in classics can identify.
Debnar is amazingly useful for analysis on the original text, but leaves something to be desired for discussion of the historiography and other secondary sources. This hole is certainly filled by the excellent work of Simon Hornblower’s A Commentary on Thucydides. In what might be the most important benefit of this source, Hornblower places the Melian Dialogue in its context throughout all of Thucydides account of the Peloponnesian War. As of now I have only tackled his lengthy description of Book 5 (in which the Melian Dialogue occurs), but if one thing is certain, I have a lot of reading to do.
Last I’ll mention how the quality of these two sources has even enriched my accumulation of primary sources around the Melian Dialogue. When I began the project I did not expect a large amount of primary sources to work with, as Thucydides account is dubbed the “birth of scientific history”. However, Hornblower discusses quite fantastic parallels between the staging of the Melian Dialogue and other impactful ancient Greek writings. Most notably within Hesiod’s Theogany in which a story is told of a conversation between a hawk and a nightingale. As the hawk catches the nightingale in its claws the bird gives a cry of pain. The hawk notices this and asks “Miserable ting, why do you cry out? One far stronger than you now holds you fast, and you must go wherever I take you… He is a fool who tries to withstand the stronger, for he does not get the mastery and suffers pain besides his shame”( As translated by Evelyn White in Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica).
My Name is Michael Chukinas and I am pursuing a double major in History and Philosophy. I graduated from Lower Merion high school in 2014 and began my undergraduate degree at Penn State before transferring to Temple. Upon graduating Temple I will pursue a Master’s program in Ancient Philosophy before applying to law school. As for career goals that’s a tricky question. One day I want one thing and then the next something different. Hopefully I’ve managed to commit myself to a path that allows for a degree of flexibility. My academic interest falls within the time period considered the genesis of western thought. The ancient Greco-Roman world reveals roots to an incredible amount of intellectual schools. Upon peeling away thousands of years of scholarly discourse and development one is given access to crucial intellectual foundations.
For a research topic I plan to explore the Siege of Melos, otherwise known as the “Melian Dialogue”. The Siege of Melos took place during the Peloponnesian war in 416 BCE. This war, between Athens and Sparta, spread throughout all of mainland Greece and the surrounding island chains of the Aegean Sea. A short summary of this complex event; unfortunately the neutral island of Melos found itself in the Athenian cross-hair. The Dorians, who populated the island, refused to surrender or pay tribute to the Athenian empire and payed for it through massacre. The Athenians captured and destroyed their city, killed all of the men, and enslaved the women and children.
Although a travesty for those involved the sweet apathetic arm of time makes this an incredibly fascinating event. While on the surface it displays a textbook “barbaric” massacre common in human history, there are an incredible amount of dynamics beneath the surface. Before all of the bloodshed there is a legendary argument known as the “Melian Dialogue”. Athens presents reasons as to why they make take as they wish, and the Dorians defend their right to keep what they have. Themes such as imperialism, pragmatism, and political realism make very strong appearances. The cherry on top is that this whole incredible saga is told through the voice of Thucydides, who is nothing if not an entertainer.