Thursday, October 10, 2013
How did the Greek factions form and what was the effect upon the war?
Before the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians held the law as their judge. The values of family, justice, and virtue prevailed. For the Lacedaemonians, strict obedience was strongest of all Spartan culture. They valued, religious ceremonies, family and military strength. Not long after the successful battles with Persia, Athens became more powerful due to its great laws and national character. They began to flourish and to gain more ground while gradually seeking new advantages and turning away from their laws and values. According to Thucydides, the real cause of the war, other than the Thirty-Year Peace, was the “increasing Athenian greatness and the resulting fear among the Lacedaemonians” that Athens and her people might adopt the Persian model in conquering other peoples. (1.23)
Factions arose and passions ignited. Thucydides recounts the change in disposition of the two rivals thus. Both Spartans and Athenians now sought strength in acquiring allies to reinforce the factions. Cruelty occurred. The casualties of war destroyed crops and made their necessities dearer which ignited more passion. They experienced a change in their thinking. In the case of the Athenians, rather than serving the good of the people and community, they sought power and retaliations. No longer did their actions match their words. Their passions dictated irrational recklessness where once they committed themselves to reason; fear and hesitation replaced courage and conviction; circumspection, senseless anger, deliberation for security, violent temper, intrigue and plot replaced the once esteemed Athenian and Spartan virtues. Where there was law and constitution, there was now party affiliation. Thucydides wrote that this civil war was the most savage because it was their first. (3.82) I might add that it was their worse because they had lost their guiding principles and sought to overpower their own people and the peoples around them. The loss of freedom principles made way for the loss of character and factious quarrelling.
The effect was destruction of peoples, of virtue, of principles, of freedom and of unity. I have not yet read to the end, but know that because of this great loss, Phillip of Macedon was able to easily take them with Alexander finishing the acquisition.
It was because of the lessons learned in Greece that James Madison and the other founders could convince us of the “dangerous vice” of factions. He wrote in Federalist #10 “that a well constructed union…has the tendency to break and control the violence of faction.” He adds, “Instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have…been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.” He uses a metaphor to explain the difficulty of finding a balance in governments. He says, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire,” meaning that in order for a faction to form there must first exist liberty. In essence, liberty is the force that ignites faction and yet, liberty is also the force that ignites freedom. Liberty could be described as amoral since it depends upon the character of people, whether it will produce faction or freedom.