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Ombres de Thucydide

 | 
Valérie Fromentin
, 
Sophie Gotteland
, 
Pascal Payen

Deuxième partie. Prégnance et valeur du témoignage thucydidéen

Thucydides and Civic religion

Nick Fisher

Texte intégral

1It is now universally accepted that stasis, its causes, patterns, extension and effects, is fundamental to Thucydides’ conception of why his war was the most significant and the most socially destructive the Greeks had ever experienced. The theme is explored in great detail in an excellent recent book, Jonathan Price’s Thucydides and Internal War, which demonstrates how the perception that stasis caused a massive dissolution of social values, practices and language throughout the Greek poleis is central to the History. But the question of how far Thucydides was concerned to bring out a connection between the increase in destructive stasis and a serious disruption of the socially valuable institutions and practices of civic religion has not so far produced agreement.

  • 1 See also Pind. frr. 52k, 94, 109.
  • 2 The best known case where festival changes come at the start of new regimes and tribal reorganizat (...)
  • 3 Xen., Mem., 3.3.11-12, 3.4, 3.5.6, 3.5.18-19, Oik., 8.3-5, Hipp., 1.26.
  • 4 Azoulay 2004, 284, 332 also pays more attention to ideals of kinship here and does not bring out t (...)
  • 5 Phoitetai, like phoitan indicates those who go regularly to educational or training sessions, and (...)

2Among a good many Greek poets, historians and political theorists it became a common place that ‘civic religion’ was an effective mechanism deployed by many states for the avoidance of stasis, with its the fostering of polis-sponsored festivals for its gods, lavishly adorned with sacrifices and choral and athletic contests, involving members of the community often organised in broad and gendered age-classes–adults, youths and boys, women and girls. In regimes of all political complexions such contexts supposedly promoted civic homonoia. Lyric poetry performed at civic, regional or Panhellenic festivals explored such ideas in self-reflexive justification: a good example is Pindar’s dithyramb (fr. 70c, probably for Corinth) well interpreted by Wilson (2003)1. Such a connection was often asserted at the moment when communities attempted to rebuild cohesion after war, stasis or régime change: in addition to a new constitution and/or a division of the citizen body into new ‘tribes’ (or whatever), or arrangements for the redistribution of disputed land, the polis may celebrate renewal and hopes for the future by the (re)institution of festivals and dances, many celebrated by choruses from these new tribes2. The most dramatic and famous statement of such a connection is Polybius 4.20-21, where it is applied to Arcadian cities in the Hellenistic period. In most Arcadian cities the love of choreia was such that boys’ and young men’s choruses were observed ‘with great philotimia singing and dancing every year to the pipes-players of the Dionysiac guilds in the theatres’, and men’s and women’s choruses took place at festivals and at private parties throughout the year: this moderated the effects of the harsher climate and created a more civilized and softer national character. The counter-example which proves the rule was of Kinaitha whose neglect of these activities was directly connected to its extremes of lawlessness and stasis culminating in a serious massacre at the hands of the Aetolians in 220BC: they ‘turned instead to mutual frictions (paratribai) and rivalries (philotimiai) and become so brutalized that the greatest acts of impiety occurred only among them’. Comparable treatments of the connection between festival choreia and civic harmony may be found in Plato’s Laws, books 1-2, Aristotle, Politics Book 8, and historiographic uses of the topos occur in Diodorus 3.64.7, Plegon of Tralles (FGrH 257 F 1) and Aelius Aristides (24.52). Arguably the most interesting deployments of such themes by a historian come from one of Thucydides’ continuators, Xenophon. In the Socratic works he repeatedly adduced the social value of trained discipline and the collective philotimia of choroi under the leadership of their choregoi3; the conclusion of the Poroi (6.1), places splendid festivals, the repair of sanctuaries and the restoration to the priests of their ancestral practices at the head of the advantages which will accrue if Athens improves its revenues through peace and sensible economic measures. Most strikingly, at a crucial moment of stasis in the Hellenika, is the appeal of the herald Kleokritos at the fighting in the Piraeus to those fighting for the 30 (2.4.20-2). For Nicole Loraux (1997; 2002), in her discussion of the Athenian stasis and its resolution in 404-3, this was a key contemporary text illustrating the distinction between the city of the historians, the male world of political decisions, stasis, warfare, of le politique and histoire éventuelle, and the anthropologists’ city, where the longue durée holds sway. Whereas Herodotus oscillated between these worlds, in ways related to whether he was handling the worlds of barbarians (or briefly Sparta) or those of the poleis, Thucydides is the prototype of the concentrated military and political historian. Loraux’ two starting points, which remained central to her analysis, were Xenophon’s versions of the recriminations against the Thirty made by Thrasyboulos’ and Kleokritos’ and their appeals for unity, both at dramatic moments of the stasis. Loraux summarised the focus of Kleokritos’ appeal, a little vaguely, as ‘shared community of social activities, military dangers and above all kinship’ (Loraux 2002, Engl. tr., 30; see also 9-10, 39, 198,258, 263)4; this fails fully to bring out what most interests me here, the appeal, through the gods, to the moral sense of reciprocity, uniting different classes, based on the shared practices of Athenians both in military service and in the area of collective polis sacrifices, rituals and festivals: the appeal to Athenians on both sides as synchoreutai and symphoitetai5, those who shared in the performances and training for the singing and dancing choruses (dithyrambs, drama, other songs in Athenian festivals and on foreign theoriai). Thanks to the Kleisthenic and subsequent developments, these activities were mostly delivered through the tribal organizations, and partly financed by liturgies of the rich, and thus the social bonds so formed would have tended to unite those citizens who split in 404-3 into the two parties of the stasis, that is, across the wealth/class divide which for the most part was reflected in the 30 and their supporters (the 3000) and the returning ‘democrats’.

3In the ancient world’s greatest historian of stasis, however, we find–as Loraux suggested–surprisingly little explicit recognition of the importance of such shared citizen activities bonding the social classes together, and forming an impediment–but not of course an unbreakable one–to the readiness of political groups to exile or kill fellow-citizens in a civil war. Given his concern with the spread of stasis it seems prima facie odd that this opposing force for social consensus is not more explicitly appealed to by the historian or by his speakers. Did he expect his readers to understand the point from such hints as are present, without labouring them? Or did he choose for some reason not to foreground such issues? This is the focus of this paper: secure answers to the questions are not easily forthcoming.

4It will be helpful to discuss the issue by distinguishing the two central elements of the festivals, the religious and the social. By these I mean first, the collective service to the appropriate gods performed by members of the community through contests in the harmonious displays of movements, music and words, affording visual, aural and mental pleasures, and often exploring the relations between gods and men; and second, the relations between sponsors, performers and audiences, all involved in shared collective activities, though belonging to differing economic and social classes. Hence the issue will demand consideration of Thucydidean attitudes both to ‘polis religion’ and to internal class politics.

  • 6 Cf. e.g. Hornblower 1987, Hussey 1985, Low 2007, 222-223, Thomas 2007.
  • 7 As shown above all by the sardonic tone of 5.26, critical of all the many oracles people believed (...)

5Thucydides’ use of religion in his History has been much debated. In the chapter on Thucydides in my Hybris book (1992, Ch. 10), I adopted the following positions: first, that Thucydides was keenly aware of the full range of opinions and arguments current in that period of highly sophisticated intellectual enquiry6; second, that while his own religious views are not precisely recoverable, his belief in human reason, and in the enormous unpredictability of human and natural events, rendered him temperamentally reluctant to believe in the general truth of oracles7 or in the influence of the gods on specific events; and third, that he could as a result be critical of those in the history who allowed beliefs in divine patterns, oracles or signs to influence their decisions: for example the Melians in 416, the Athenians in their decision to attack Syracuse in 415, or Nikias’ insistence on taking the eclipse seriously in 413. Specifically, I argued that Thucydides would have wished to avoid the suggestion that a striking event such as the Athenian disaster in Sicily might be interpreted as divine punishment for collective human offences. In this, I agreed with scholars such as Crane (1996, 1998), Dover (1968, in the HCT vol. IV), Hornblower (1992), Rutherford (1994, 63-4); as against e.g. Marinatos (1981), Dover in his later article (1988) and Jordan (1986), or the most convincing and ingenious presentation of this position by Lisa Kallet in this volume.

  • 8 See also the clarification of his position in Hornblower Commentary, Vol. II 62ff.
  • 9 See also Lewis 1997, 13-15.
  • 10 Hornblower 1992; on Delos, see also now Kowalzig 2007, 56-128.

6Thucydides’ apparent reluctance to explore or analyze in detail the religious aspects of political decisions or events has attracted attention. Hornblower (1992) argued effectively that Thucydides took a great deal about religious practices for granted, and while he was often aware of religious factors as motives, he rarely foregrounded them and systematically downplayed or suppressed significant political activities at religious festivals and sanctuaries8. Among his examples the following four stand out. Thucydides demonstrated great selectivity in the discussion of Panhellenic festivals, noting just two Olympic games, those of 428, where the Mytilenaeans made a powerful speech (3.9-14), and of 420, from which the Spartans were excluded (5.40-50); second, during his admittedly brief and very selective account of the Pentakontatea, at the time of what we call the ‘First Peloponnesian War’, he omits what seems to have been a serious dispute over the control of the Nemean games, pays scant attention to the ‘Second Sacred War’ and Sparta’s interest in Doris and Delphi, and totally ignores the Amphiktiony (1.107)9; third, he fails to elucidate the ideological and religious aspects of Sparta’s interest in Thessaly, above all her foundation of Heraklea Trachinia (3.92-3); and fourth he does not bring out significant cases of religious propaganda in defence of Athenian imperialism, for example the canvassing of offerings of first fruits for Eleusis, despite its relevance for Athenian responses to the profanations of the mysteries in 415. Even in the one case which seems an exception to this pattern of neglect, the lavishly elaborate account of the various purifications of Delos and the reinstitution of the Delia festival (1.6.1, 3.104-5), his account leaves many areas of religious activity and motivation unexplored10.

  • 11 E.g. 1.24, 1.121.3; 1.143, 1.126-35, 139-41, 3.3.3, 3.70, 3.81-2, 4.76; 4.90-98, 4.118.3, cf. 5.18 (...)
  • 12 E.g. 1.25, 1.28, 1.103, 1.118, 1.123, 2.17, 2.54, 2.102, 3.92, 3.96.1, 5.16, 5.26, 7.49-50.
  • 13 See above all Crane 1998, 22, where Crane cites the marginalisation of religion, as of women, as c (...)
  • 14 Cf. also Greenwood 2006, 1-4.

7On the other hand, some scholars (most strongly Marinatos and Jordan) have pointed to a large number of references to religious practices and activities at sanctuaries11, and to the consultation and interpretation of the Delphic and other oracles and other signs12, and concluded from their interpretations of Thucydidean comments on oracles (often in my view mistaken), that the historian was in fact very interested in religious issues, and did at times suggest religious explanations of the outcome of events; these explanations of his interests in these case have been contested. A more cautious and sophisticated interpretation of the presences and absences of religious matters is offered by Crane in his two books (1996, 1998), who supports the view of a Thucydides generally reticent in matters of cult and religion. He explores his infrequent and visually undramatic descriptions of sanctuaries and their votives and wealth, and he explains, plausibly, those occurrences where Thucydides does mention sanctuaries by the supposition that in the vast majority of cases they serve either or both of two of his central purposes, his interest in finance and the war and his desire to highlight instances of abuse and sacrilege as telling examples of the disastrous effects of war13. In particular in his second book, Crane expanded this treatment of the historian’s ‘wilful selectivity’ to take in other aspects central to most Greeks’ thoughts about life and their society which Thucydides deliberately chose not to emphasise; his list includes the family and women, kinship ties and social bonds14. Similarly Price avoids speculation about Thucydides’ religious views or interest in religion per se, but argues that the vast majority of these references are there because a religious idea of practice is compromised or abused, as a sign of the disintegration of society through plague, war or stasis.

  • 15 See Gomme and Hornblower on 3.71, 3.82.8. Note also that the texts of both the truce and the treat (...)
  • 16 The crucial case here, emphasised by Marinatos Kopff & Rawlings 1980, is the very end of book 7 (7 (...)

8It is above all significant that among the most powerful statements of the horrors both of the plague and of the stasis which spread throughout Greece following the Corcyrean model are the claims that political trials were manipulated using trumped-up religious charges, and that considerations of proper burial, supplication rituals and the sanctity of shrines and temples all came to carry no weight. Such breakdowns of the religious practices and feelings which reinforced co-operative moral behaviour inside the community are seen as highly significant signs of social breakdown and helped to explain the activists’ preparedness to commit these appalling acts (2.52.3-4, 53; 3.70-1, 3.81)15. Thus it seems clear that Thucydides does mention religious sanctions, events and practices with some frequency, and also these are mostly included because they serve his main purpose of demonstrating the repeated cynical manipulation of religious motifs. That they can carry considerable moral weight does not necessarily demonstrate that the weight comes from the historian’s own belief in divine forces, which on some occasions at least ensured punishment to those states which displayed contempt for these practices16.

9There seem to be none the less significant themes which remain almost completely absent from the History. First, as demonstrated by Hornblower 1992, acknowledgments of positive religious or cultic motivations in the formation of policy are largely lacking; negative ones exist, for example where they point out disastrous misjudgements, as with the Melians (5.103) or Nicias and the eclipse (7.51). Second, and of greater relevance to this paper, there is little or no positive recognition–whether in ironic anticipation of reversals or in comments on outrages–of the social and political contributions of the civic festivals to social cohesion; nor are there comments on any developments in the organisation of and expenditure on festivals and sanctuary buildings or of contemporary debates on the nature of the gods and the justification of cult. I would wish to argue that it is not quite adequate to say that all these matters seemed obvious to Thucydides and not worth reminding his readers of, or too far removed from his primary concern to document the changes brought about by the war. One may then ask what cost to our understanding of his war has resulted from this austere selectivity, and enquire what the reasons may have been for this reticence.

  • 17 The actual ceremony in the Kerameikos also has its religious significance underplayed, as pointed (...)
  • 18 Cf. Rusten ad loc, comparing Plato, Laws 653d.
  • 19 This phrasing seems to echo the Herodotean Solon’s claim that while no man can have it everything (...)
  • 20 On this phrase, cf. Wohl 2002, 58.
  • 21 At 8.69 Thucydides dates the start of the democracy to the end of the tyranny (for us, in 510/509) (...)

10Positive statements of the ‘religious’ value of shared sacrifices, cults and contests might have occurred when political systems and cultures were being praised. Of the two contexts where speakers praise the advantages of democracy (Perikles’ and Athenagoras’ speeches), it is not surprising that the second, brief, statement of democratic principle has no room for the cohesive aspects of festivals. With Perikles’ epitaphios, however, delivered at a solemn expression of collective and mournful honouring of the dead and the city’s gods17, one might have had some recognition of the religious and social importance of general participation in polis festivals and collective choral and athletic performances as promoters of homonoia. The speech as a whole proclaims Athens as a cohesive society; indeed it hides ideas of tension and conflict through over-easy assumptions of upward social and political mobility. But recognition of the value of festivals and contests towards this aim is severely limited and unemphatic. The most important statement is at 2.38.1: “We have established for our minds very many recreations from labours, making use of competitions and year-round sacrifices and attractive private house decorations, whose daily pleasure drives away cares”. This brief sentence combines contests and sacrifices with private expenditure on house adornment, does not specifically mention any religious purpose18, fails to bring out any positive effect of enhancing social cohesion, and concentrates instead on the individual enjoyment of leisured relaxation. Three chapters on, Perikles claims that the whole polis is a ‘cultural model (paideia) for Greece’, and that every Athenian is able ‘to adapt his self-sufficient body (autarkes soma) to the most varied forms of activity with the graces (charites or Charites?) and with versatility (eutrapelos)’ (2.41.1)19. Finally he calls on these possessors of self-sufficient, versatile and graceful bodies not just to listen repeatedly to the words of praise, but to gaze on the power of the city and become its passionate lovers (erastai) (2.43.1)20. First place among the institutions which have helped to create this rounded and cultivated citizen and encouraged his quasi-erotic love for the city, one would suppose, would be taken by the festivals with their unusually high levels of citizen participation in choral, musical, dramatic, athletic events, and still wider participation as audiences and sharers in the mass processions and sacrifices. So we may be able to discern, faintly, that such practices played a part among the forces which gave some consensus to the democratic system, one which Thucydides later described as unusually stable, not at all easy for even very intelligent oligarchs to overturn after 100 years or so, and that only for a very brief period (8.67-8)21; but we have to work very hard to reach this conclusion, and the cohesive nature of the festivals receive svastly less explicit recognition than it gets in Kleokritos’ speech in Xenophon.

  • 22 There are a few mentions of Athenian festivals, often surrising in their details (1.126, the Diasi (...)
  • 23 Cf. e.g. Loraux 1981, Gotteland 2001, 73, 78, 319-321.
  • 24 One could compare his treatment of certain forms of moralising. Low 2007, 222-248 argues convincin (...)

11It seems likely then that while Thucydides is often prepared to describe the activities of those who gratuitously mocked the religious sensitivities of the majority of their fellow-members of a community and hint at his own feelings of distaste at them, he is reluctant to include positive statements of the social value of the cities’ rituals, either in his own voice or those of his speakers proposing moderation and social cohesion, and the maintenance of good relations with the gods through traditional sacrifices and contests22. This seems surprising, given the sympathy he can display for those speakers like Perikles, Diodotos or Nikias who stood for cohesion and the mitigation of class tensions. Those who believe (as I do) that Thucydides was a sceptic about the efficacy of religious practices might think this scepticism contributed to his reluctance. Another reason would be that he preferred to avoid well-worn arguments characteristic of speeches on formal occasions which tended to be exaggerated and to gloss over genuine conflicts. One might compare the way in which Perikles’ Funeral Speech, unlike all our other examples, also refused to expatiate on Athens’ glorious mythical history23. One representation of praise of Athens’ harmonious political and social system was enough for Thucydides, and even in that practically nothing of Athenian pride in their mythological past or their civic rituals was allowed to peep through24. But this seems less than a complete explanation of his reticence.

  • 25 E.g. Derenne 1930, Dover 1998, 24-54, Parker 1996, 199-214.
  • 26 Cf above p. 404 on the failure to mention other aspects of Athenian policy towards Eleusis. Powerf (...)
  • 27 See e.g. Rood 1998, 159-182, Gribble 1999, 178; for a persuasive argument that he had also in mind (...)
  • 28 Dover in HCT V 328-9.
  • 29 See Osborne 1985, Quinn 2007.
  • 30 See especially Wohl 2002, 23-7, 144-158.

12Thucydides has equally little to offer on the impact on policy making of the heated debates in this period on the relations between science, philosophy and traditional religious beliefs. I share the sceptical view that many of the later accounts of prosecutions for impiety in late fifth-century Athens cannot be trusted. But one cannot deny the reality of Diopeithes’ decree, the price put on the head of Diagoras of Melos or the prosecution and execution of Socrates25. It is also evident that revisionist views of the gods were treated or alluded to in both contemporary comedy and tragedy (e.g. in Ar. Clouds, Eur. Trojan Women; and Bacchae). Thucydides does offer detailed analysis (6.27-9, 60-61) of the outcry over the Hermai and the profanations of the Eleusinian mysteries. But he pays considerably more attention to the political aims-overthrow of the democracy-surmised by the Athenians than to any sense of religious outrage and fear of divine reprisals: he summarises the motives of the mysteries-profaners, according to those making the allegations, as ‘in hybris’ (eph’hybrei). This phrase might be said to cover at once the profaners’ confidence in their own freedom from conventional religious beliefs, and their enjoyment in displaying contempt for ordinary citizens’ desire to honour the gods, and to respect each others’practices and beliefs. No explanation is offered here for the particular importance of the Eleusinian mysteries26. There are no prosecution, defence or other speeches elaborating on these charges and deploying religious rhetoric of the sort we can see used in the later trials of Andokides (Lysias 6 and Andokides 1) or Kinesias (Lysias fr. LXXXV = 195 Carey), which were surely exhibited with even greater virulence in the assembly and law court speeches of 415. There is no interest in exploring the intellectual background of the profaners, beyond perhaps what he has already allowed us to see in the opinions of the anonymous Athenians who briskly dismissed claims of gods’ justice in the Melian debate–where the representativeness or not of such views among Athenians at large is left unexplored. This contrasts with e.g. the presentation of the manipulation of arguments concerned with e.g. the Delion sanctuary (4.90-98); this may suggest that Thucydides felt the religious aspects of the sacrilege less interesting to explore than the ambiguous and sophisticated disputes over illegitimate use of a sanctuary during a campaign. Yet this is surely rather odd. It is a plausible interpretation of the controversial sentence at 2.65.11 that when Thucydides claims that the reason for the total disaster at Sicily was the Athenians’ at home failure to make advantageous decisions for those overseas he has partly at least in mind the damage done to relations between the city and the expedition by the prolonged dispute over the 415 scandals and the recall of Alkibiades27. If so, it seems characteristic and notable that he chose to expand the pursuit of charges against Alkibiades and others by means of correcting popular misapprehensions about the assassination of Hipparchos and the end of the tyranny of the Peisistratids (6.53-60), while not exploring (apart form the hint in the term hybris) the contribution to the anger of the demos made by a sense of outrage to civic religion, even where they had profound political and military consequences. He seems instead more interested in correcting some popular Athenian misconceptions about their past28, observing their paranoia about the danger of a new tyranny, and perhaps hinting at thematic connections between their fondness for the Herms, familiar statues which expressed the phallic confidence of the ordinary male citizen29, the homoerotic elements of the tyrannicides’ motivations, and popular ambivalence towards Alkibiades and his tyrannical lifestyle30.

  • 31 See also Hornblower ad loc. It is possible (cf. Rood 1998, 288-289) that there is a hint at Nicias (...)
  • 32 His kakourgia is presumably above all the alleged venality attacked above all in Ar. Knights, Wasp (...)
  • 33 Biaiotatos here does admittedly denote rhetorical force, not physical violence, but Hornblower ad (...)

13We may also see in this debate a significant silence in relation to Nicias’ rhetorical strategy. In his earlier speech he admitted that he too was properly concerned with his honour (time), but claims, implicitly contrasting himself with Alkibiades, that he never adopted views contrary to his own judgement in order to increase his popularity and honour. But he does not deploy here (nor does the historian mention them anywhere else), his own extremely substantial claims to honour derived from his liturgies and his lavish archetheoria to Delos, which Plutarch thought was vital to the explanation of his popularity (Nik. 3). This is perhaps the more surprising, given that Thucydides shows great interest in, and was perhaps even personally involved in, the Delian theoriai and choruses31. Thucydides does often show–especially in relation to the Sicilian expedition–a keen interest in how individuals–both elite politicians and the mass of the soldiers–sought extra wealth from politics and warfare, at times to the detriment of the better interests of the city, for example at 6.12. 2, 6.15 (Alkibiades); 6.24 (Athenian soldiery); 5.16 (Kleon)32; but apart from Alkibiades’ indebtedness through horse breeding and other extravagances he shows less interest in their political use of their existing wealth. One could argue however that Plutarch was right to feel that Nicias’ liturgical and theoric lavishness was extremely relevant to his popularity and repeated election for important military posts, in view of his lesser rhetorical effectiveness in contrast to that of Kleon or Alkibiades. Thucydides’ interest in issues of finance has been splendidly elucidated by Kallet (1993, 2001); but he does not seem, despite many opportunities, to have commented on how the economic, political and social pressures of the war and the mutual rivalries of the politicians affected (as it must have done) the liturgical processes and the atmosphere of the contests. There is nothing for example on how the brutal forcefulness of Kleon’s politics (signalled famously at 3.36)33 could be specifically targeted at the rich eisphora-payers and trierarchs, as illuminated by Aristophanes (Knights 912-17, 924-7), or on the less effective fight back of Nikias; there is no detail given on the grievances expressed in 411, by those rich Athenians whom he suggests were working to change the system to a more oligarchic one, at the financial demands on them, for which they felt they got scanty direct rewards (8.48.1, 8.63.4). Nor does he bring out how determinedly the people fought against these pressures and kept the liturgical system of funding the festivals going.

  • 34 Steiner’s account also brings out the importance of this scene as a critical representation of rel (...)

14Thucydides’ relative indifference to the politics of liturgies seems confirmed if we consider briefly his treatment of the military liturgy, the trierarchy. Only two of the seventeen passages which mention trierarchs are concerned with their attitudes to mutual relations with the democracy at home, rather than their military activities at sea. At 6.31-2, there may seem a hint of some cohesion between trierarchs and their crews and fruitful competition between themselves, but it is made in a predominantly negative way. In this dramatic portrayal of the grand display of the preparations for the Sicilian expedition, Thucydides’ emphasis is concentrated on the vast amounts of money, public and private, being taken out of the city, without anyone at the time reckoning the totals or apparently worrying that much of it went on show (such as ship figureheads), rather than on valuable military needs; all the Athenian groups involved are criticised in different ways in this passage (see above all Kallet 2001, 48-64; with some exaggerations, as pointed out by Hornblower on 6.31.4). The trierarchs’ contribution to this excessive draining of wealth by engaging in informal contests, paying extra pay to their crews, spending much on ships’ figureheads and other equipment, and pouring libations from gold and silver ware, is described in terms of mutual competition (eris); but instead of the suggestion that this competitiveness contributed to greater cohesion and loyalty among their crews (and especially the citizen rowers, those most likely to be the lead rowers on the top row, the thranitai), we find rather the idea that this eris (an ambiguous term from Hesiod onwards) produced unnecessarily wasted expenditure. As Steiner (2005) argues, the representation of this elaborate display and contest may suggest a comparison with the boat-race to Sounion, which was probably introduced to the Panathenaia during the fifth century; here too the implications seem rather to be that this extravagance suggested a lack of understanding of the serious nature of the campaign, as well as providing a deeply ironic contrast with the later highly visual pictures of the disasters at the end in Sicily34.

  • 35 Cf. Christ 1998, 163-164.

15Secondly, in the oligarchic revolution in 411, Thucydides analyses the political attitudes and activities of trierarchs and other powerful Athenians. In the early stages (8.47-48) the trierarchs at Samos seem among those prepared to work with Alkibiades to set up an oligarchy and win Persian support, and still hope to win the war; one motive was their belief that they were severely ‘burdened’ by the war–presumably in part by the greatly increased eisphorai and liturgies (cf. also 8.63.4)35. Later on (8.76) the picture has become more complicated, as the mood of the fleet switched back towards democracy. Some trierarchs were dismissed, and others led by Thrasyboulos and Thrasyllos controlled the move back to democratic restoration, and evidently did not feel so burdened. Thucydides seems rather misleadingly to have implied that a greater unity existed initially among all the trierarchs for anti-democratic regime-change, in part motivated by irritation at the financial burdens imposed on the rich by the democracy’s war.

  • 36 Contrast e.g. the supposed inheritance dispute between the Athenian proxenos at Mitylene and other (...)

16Thucydides displays, then, a comparably strict reluctance to suggest cohesive relations between the trierarchs and the marines and sailors or to report more of contested debates where the positive benefits for cohesion were set against the dangers of divisiveness in the institutions of the liturgies. He prefers to suggest on the one hand that contests for philotimia between rival trierarchs and their ships wasted money and created a misleading impression of power, and on the other that, when military conditions were worse, the trierarchs generally resented the forced expenditure. Partly this may constitute another example of his general reluctance to discuss much of the internal political disputes between individuals, to avoid seeming unduly gossipy or ‘Herodotean’ 36. Once more, he may be disinclined to give his versions of traditional and familiar themes of political rhetoric. He does at times give a clear indication of how much more significant in winning wars is public than private wealth (1.80.4, 2.62.2-3; Kallet 2001, 39). But all this seems less than a satisfactory explanation. As we have seen, Thucydides can be interested in private resources when they are the object of damaging greed, and he does at least once hint at some of the critical arguments about liturgies, as they led some trierarchs to support regime change. In my view, a strong argument can be made that this avoidance is unfortunate and leads to a significantly incomplete picture. The complex issues of the operations of festivals and contests, the intense rivalries between elite liturgists, and the mutual attacks in the courts on grounds of shirking liturgies, were all relevant to what was undeniably a major Thucydidean theme, the progressively worsening relations between the Athenian demos and the wealthy. Fuller and more nuanced presentations of varied arguments over the appropriate levels of liturgical performances would have added depth to this theme. It could have revealed populist measures, on the encouragement of ‘demagogues’ like Kleon, to squeeze more money from the rich as from the allies, which would have reinforced the presentation of how the intensity of the ambitions (philotimia) of those striving to succeed to a Periklean position of prostasia encouraged the demos’ readiness to over-extend themselves in dangerous military adventures, or to chase the herms-mutilators and Mysteries-profaners.

  • 37 Fisher 2003.

17His use of the language of philotimia is especially revealing. There is just one positive usage of a philotim word, the appeal in Perikles’ funeral speech to to philotimon as the undying desire felt throughout a community to win lasting honour for great deeds (2.44.4). The other uses all denote the dangerous and destructive power of individual ambition: generally in the stasis-ridden cities (3.82), of the competing politicians at democratic Athens (2.65 and 6.27-8) and the oligarchs of 411 (8.89). In the post-Corcyra analysis (3.82-3) of stasis, philotimia does not appear in the remarkably intense and packed analysis of the changing uses of words; the only use of it in this passage as a whole finds it in association with pleonexia as the two primary motivations driving individuals to acts of political violence and illegality. Hence if one tries, as I did some years ago37, to reconstruct a narrative of how more positive usages of the value term, above all in the contexts of reciprocal exchanges of expenditure on liturgies from the rich and the return of honours from the people, may have been progressively weakened during the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides is very little help (this help is essentially limited to Alkibiades’ self-representation). One has to rely largely on non-Thucydidean sources such as comedy, Lysias and Plutarch.

  • 38 Cf e.g. Gomme, HCT III, 584-586; viewed as not probable by MacDowell on Wasps 288. But his objecti (...)
  • 39 He was probably born between 460-454: see e.g. Davies 1971, 234, Hornblower on 5.26.5.
  • 40 As has been often suspected, cf. e. g. Gomme, HCT III, 584-6. It is notable that by contrast he di (...)

18It looks plausible then that Thucydides may have been temperamentally inclined to share the rather one-sidedly negative view of the compulsory burdens of liturgical obligations expressed by some trierarchs and oligarchs in 412-11, as by Ischomachos and Socrates in the Oikonomikos. One cannot doubt that he had personal experience of such public rhetoric and more private argumentation. As a aner pachys himself (in the language of Ar. Wasps 288-91, of someone likely to be tried in Athens for military failure in the Thraceward district, conceivably referring to Thucydides himself)38, and an owner of mines in Thrace, Thucydides might have been invited, challenged or have volunteered to perform liturgies in the period between the outset of his political career and his election as general and exile in 42439; or he would have been anticipating such a invitation. That we have no record of one is not surprising, given his calculated personal abstinence and the absence of evidence about him available to later writers. As a youthful politician and potential general, one who may well have indicated in public a preference for Pericles’ policies and approach over those of Kleon and his friends, liturgyavoidance would have been in general inadvisable. He may then have become conscious of the pressures felt by liturgists, and the sense among some of them of under-valuation; this may have led him not to give more than the briefest hints in the Funeral Speech about the positive social value of successful festival participation in choruses and dramas, of the sort which impressed even Xenophon. On the other hand if he wished to avoid giving the impression of personal bitterness against Kleon, if he or his friends were primarily responsible for his own exile40, Thucydides may equally have preferred to say little directly hostile to him beyond the single abusive hint (biaiotatos) about his attacks on rich Athenians in the courts.

  • 41 Osborne 1994, 19-20.
  • 42 Xen, Hell., 1.7.8-9; see also Rood 2004, 374-380 on the Thucydidean nature of Xenophon’s treatment (...)
  • 43 On Xenophon’s original approaches to processions led by military leaders, Dillery 2004, 259-276.
  • 44 It is also notable that in the Anabasis he presents himself as a leading character in the action w (...)

19Robin Osborne, in his introduction to the festschrift for David Lewis, justifying the collocation ‘ritual, finance, politics’ as the connected themes of a book designed to honour David Lewis41, observed this strong reticence in Thucydides towards detailed acknowledgment of the value of what Osborne calls the ritualization of life at Athens, which would include above all the collective performances and participation at the great festivals; his suggestion is that the primary reason may have been the distrust for easy rhetoric which indulged in too much ‘misrecognition’ (using Bourdieu’s language) and obscured the harder motives of greed, fear, and the cravings for honour and power. My argument is that this, while an important part, is not the whole of the story, and other motivations were involved. Osborne, like Loraux, generalises from Thucydides to many other political historians ancient and modern. But I end by returning to Xenophon, to confirm that he may be seen as significantly different, and (as we saw) was followed by many other ancient writers in his appreciation of the social value of festivals. Had Thucydides completed his task, he too might have observed with relish how the atmosphere of the trial of the generals after Arginusai was affected by political manipulation of rituals of mourning and burial at and after the Apatouria42, but perhaps he would have been less inclined to bring out as Xenophon does the two (contrasting) festival connections of the return of Alkibiades, the ill-omened coincidence with the Plynteria (1.4.12), and the triumphant procession to Eleusis (1.4.20-21). At the end of the war, again Thucydides would probably have been less likely to mention the playing of the flute girls as the democracy was destroyed (2.2.33), and the armed procession to offer sacrifice to Athena at the reconciliation, evidently in imitation of the Panathenaiac pompe (2.4.39)43. Further, despite Bowden’s recent attempt (2004) to reduce the difference between Thucydides and Xenophon in relation to the involvement of the gods in their historiography, by emphasising the importance of the uncertainty principle in Xenophon as well as his predecessor, it remains the case that Xenophon does assert more than once that divine action assisted in punishing impious actions such as oath-breaking (the seizure of Thebes., Hell., 5.4.1) or sacrilegious violence (Spartan revenge over the Corinthians, Hell., 4.4.12), actions easily paralleled by the stasis in Thucydides’ Corcyra where no such explanation is offered44. In all the areas considered by this paper, Xenophon characteristically takes different lines, with his more welcoming attitude to divine intervention, his readiness to acknowledge the value of civic religion for Greek societies and his repeated admiration for the discipline and good order of well-trained Athenian choruses and athletic teams. While in general Thucydides’ hard-nosed realism in assessing motives and ruthless sophistication in analysing significant social change and decay continues rightly to excite admiration, his ruthless selectivity, his disdain towards easy rhetoric and hence his reluctance to explore more fully those institutions, rituals and practices which were designed to keep stasis at bay by fostering social cohesion can legitimately be seen to impoverish his representation of the political and social developments of Athens and other cities during his war.

Annexes

REFERENCES

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Bowden, H. (2004): “Xenophon and the Scientific Study of Religion”, in: Tuplin 2004, 229-246.

Cairns, D. (2003): “The Politics of Envy”, in: Konstan & Rutter 2003, 235-252.

Cartledge, P. A. and F. D. Harvey (1985): Crux: Essays in Greek History presented to G. E. M. de Ste Croix, London.

Christ, M. (1998): The Litigious Athenian, Baltimore-London.

Crane, G. (1996): The Blinded Eye: Thucydides and the New Written Word, London.

– (1998): Thucydides and the Ancient Simplicity, Berkeley.

Davies, J. K. (1971): Athenian Propertied Families, Oxford.

Derenne, E. (1930): Les procès d’impiété intentés aux philosophes à Athènes au Ve et IVe siècle av. J.-C., Liège.

Dillery, J. (2004): Xenophon, the Military Review, and Hellenistic Pompai, Xenophon and his World, in: Tuplin 2004, 259-76.

Dover, K. J. (1988): The Greeks and their Legacy, Oxford.

Fisher, N. R. E. (1992): Hybris, Warminster.

Fisher, N. (2003): “Let envy be absent”: Envy, Liturgies and Reciprocity in Athens”, in: Konstan & Rutter 2003, 181-215.

Greenwood, E. (2006): Thucydides and the shaping of history, London.

Goldhill, S. and R. Osborne (2006): Rethinking Revolutions through Ancient Greece, Cambridge.

Gotteland, S. (2001): Mythe et rhetorique: Les exemples mythiques dans le discours politique d’Athènes classique, Paris.

Gribble, D. (1999): Alcibiades and Athens, Oxford.

Hornblower, S (1987): Thucydides, London.

– (1992): “The Religious Dimension in the Peloponnesxian War, or, what Thucydides does not tell us”, HSCP, 94, 169-197.

– (1991, 1996, 2008): A Commentary on Thucydides, I-III, Oxford.

Hussey, E. (1985): “Thucydidean History and Democritean theory”, 1985, 118-138.

Jordan, B. (1986): “Religion in Thucydides”, TAPA, 116, 119-147.

Kallet-Marx, L. (1993): Money, Expense and Naval Power in Thucydides’ History 1-5.24, California.

Kallet, L. (2001): Money and the Corrosion of Power in Thucydides’ History: The Sicilian Expedition and its Aftermath, Berkeley.

Konstan, D. and N. K. Rutter (2003): Envy, Spite and Jealousy. The Rivalrous Emotions in Ancient Greece, Edimbourg.

Kowalzig, B. (2007): Singing for the Gods, Oxford.

Lewis, D. M. (1997): Selected Papers, Cambridge.

Loraux, N. (1981): L’invention d’Athènes: histoire de l’oraison funèbre dans la “cité classique”, Paris.

– (1997): La Cité Divisée, Paris (engl. trans., The Divided City, New York, 2002).

Low, P. (2006): Interstate Relations in Classical Greece: Morality and Power, Cambridge.

Macleod, C. (1983): Collected Essays, Oxford.

Marinatos, N. (1981): Thucydides and Religion, Königstein.

Marinanos Kopff, N. and H. R. Rawlings (1980): “Panolethria and Divine Punishment”, PdP, 33, 331-37.

Osborne, R. (1985): “The Erection and Mutilation of the Hermai”, PCPhS, 25, 45-73.

– (1994): “Introduction”, 1994, 1-21.

– (2006): “When was the Athenian Democratic Revolution?”, in: Goldhill & Osborne 2006, 10-28.

Osborne, R. and S. Hornblower (1994): Ritual, Finance, Politics: Athenian Democratic Accounts presented to David Lewis, Oxford.

Parker, R (1996): Athenian Religion: a History, Oxford.

Phillips, D. and D. Pritchard (2003): Sport and Festival in the Ancient Greek World, London.

Price, J. (2001): Thucydides and Internal War, Cambridge.

Quinn, J. C. (2007): “Herms, Kouroi and the Political Anatomy of Athens”, Greece & Rome, 54, 82-105.

Rengakos, A. and A. Tsakmakis (2006): Brill’s Companion to Thucydides, Leiden.

Rood, T. (1998): Thucydides: Narrative and Explanation, Oxford.

– (2004): “Xenophon and Diodorus: Continuing Thucydides”, Xenophon and his World, in: Tuplin 2004, 341-96.

Rutherford, R. (1994): “Learning from History: Categories and Case-Histories”, in: Osborne & Hornblower 1994, 53-68.

Steiner, D.(2005): “For Want of a Horse: Thucydides 6.30-2 and Reversals in the Athen ian Civic Ideal”, CQ, 55, 407-422.

Thomas, R. (2006): “Thucydides” Intellectual Milieu and the Plague”, in: Rengakos & Tsakmakis 2006, 87-108.

Tuplin, Chr. (2003): Xenophon and his World, Papers from a Conference hel in Liverpool (July 1999), Stuttgart.

Wohl, V. (2002): Love among the Ruins, Princeton.

Wilson, P. (2000): The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia: The Chorus, the City and the Stage, Cambridge.

– (2003): “The politics of dance: Dithyrambic contest and social order in ancient Greece”, in: Phillips & Pritchard 2003, 163-196.

Notes

1 See also Pind. frr. 52k, 94, 109.

2 The best known case where festival changes come at the start of new regimes and tribal reorganizations is of course Kleisthenes of Athens: other cases would include Hdt. 5.67-69 (Sikyon); Hdt 4.161-162, Arist., Pol., 1319b. 19-27 (Kyrene); IG XII. 9.189 = Rhodes/Osborne 73 (Eretria).

3 Xen., Mem., 3.3.11-12, 3.4, 3.5.6, 3.5.18-19, Oik., 8.3-5, Hipp., 1.26.

4 Azoulay 2004, 284, 332 also pays more attention to ideals of kinship here and does not bring out the community solidarity in the passage.

5 Phoitetai, like phoitan indicates those who go regularly to educational or training sessions, and is applied both to school children and dithyrambic choreutai. See e.g. Dem. 39.23-4, 29.

6 Cf. e.g. Hornblower 1987, Hussey 1985, Low 2007, 222-223, Thomas 2007.

7 As shown above all by the sardonic tone of 5.26, critical of all the many oracles people believed in, only one of which turned out to be right, the one predicting a 27 year war.

8 See also the clarification of his position in Hornblower Commentary, Vol. II 62ff.

9 See also Lewis 1997, 13-15.

10 Hornblower 1992; on Delos, see also now Kowalzig 2007, 56-128.

11 E.g. 1.24, 1.121.3; 1.143, 1.126-35, 139-41, 3.3.3, 3.70, 3.81-2, 4.76; 4.90-98, 4.118.3, cf. 5.18.1-2, 5.16, 5.53-5, 6.27ff, 6.44, 6.64-75, 6.99.3, 7.29.

12 E.g. 1.25, 1.28, 1.103, 1.118, 1.123, 2.17, 2.54, 2.102, 3.92, 3.96.1, 5.16, 5.26, 7.49-50.

13 See above all Crane 1998, 22, where Crane cites the marginalisation of religion, as of women, as central components of his ‘wilfully selective and obstinately biased history’.

14 Cf. also Greenwood 2006, 1-4.

15 See Gomme and Hornblower on 3.71, 3.82.8. Note also that the texts of both the truce and the treaty of the Peace of Nicias (4.118, 5.18) start with establishing principles of guaranteed access to Delphi, and the freedom from interference for Delphi and the sanctuaries.

16 The crucial case here, emphasised by Marinatos Kopff & Rawlings 1980, is the very end of book 7 (7.75-87), with its possible hints of a comparison to the sack of Troy: in particular the use of the term panolethria and its probable intertextual reference to the passage where Herodotos endorses an explicit theodicy of the Trojan War (2.120). Despite Dover ad loc, it seems likely that Thucydides does not discourage readers from making the Herodotean connection; but in my view he allows them, if they choose, to agree with Nikias and many of the Athenians on the final retreat (7.77.3, 7.79.2) that some divine force was at work against them, while expecting them also to realise that the absence here of an explicit endorsement of such a view maintains his detachment from such an easy conclusion. See now Hornblower on 7.87.6.

17 The actual ceremony in the Kerameikos also has its religious significance underplayed, as pointed out by Hornblower on 2.34.

18 Cf. Rusten ad loc, comparing Plato, Laws 653d.

19 This phrasing seems to echo the Herodotean Solon’s claim that while no man can have it everything desirable in life, or can have a completely autarkes soma, the most blessed man is he who lives with most advantages and dies eucharistos (Hdt. 1.32.8-9). It is then picked up again ironically in Thucydides’ description of the plague (2.51.2), where an autarkes soma was no more use against the disease than any other, and the Athenians in general did not die eucharistos. This pattern of ironic overturns replaces the idealized optimism with an equally exaggerated tragic pessimism applied to the whole city (cf. Macleod 1983, 150-151).

20 On this phrase, cf. Wohl 2002, 58.

21 At 8.69 Thucydides dates the start of the democracy to the end of the tyranny (for us, in 510/509). Osborne 2006 suggests that Thucydides’ dating of the democracy to almost 100 years after the expulsion of the tyrants ties the start significantly to the expulsion rather than the reforms of Kleisthenes; but Thucydides might well have seen the end of the tyranny and the reforms as a single process to all of which the people contributed much.

22 There are a few mentions of Athenian festivals, often surrising in their details (1.126, the Diasia; 2.15.4, the older Dionysia: see Hornblower ad locc., and also on 8.53.2.

23 Cf. e.g. Loraux 1981, Gotteland 2001, 73, 78, 319-321.

24 One could compare his treatment of certain forms of moralising. Low 2007, 222-248 argues convincingly that Thucydides systematically marginalises the normative, morality-based arguments in explaining state decisions in favour of issues of real politik, and that his hard-line representation of some public arguments (most strikingly in the Melian dialogue) was less likely to have been an accurate representation of the tone of such debates, than his interpretation of the agents’real motives. She adds that one reason for this mode of presentation was the nature of the Empire, specifically, the insistence on tribute and the one-sided nature of the benefaction-decrees between Athens and ‘subject-allies’.

25 E.g. Derenne 1930, Dover 1998, 24-54, Parker 1996, 199-214.

26 Cf above p. 404 on the failure to mention other aspects of Athenian policy towards Eleusis. Powerful lobbying against Alkibiades from the Eumolpidai and Kerykes, in support of his enemies, is recorded at the time of his proposed return (8.53.2); see Hornblower ad loc. and Parker 1996, 296-297.

27 See e.g. Rood 1998, 159-182, Gribble 1999, 178; for a persuasive argument that he had also in mind a failure to commit the really substantial financial resources which would have been needed, see Kallet 2001, 115-118.

28 Dover in HCT V 328-9.

29 See Osborne 1985, Quinn 2007.

30 See especially Wohl 2002, 23-7, 144-158.

31 See also Hornblower ad loc. It is possible (cf. Rood 1998, 288-289) that there is a hint at Nicias’ lavishness as part of his general scrupulous observance of what is due to gods, which he mentions himself in his last prayers before to the final retreat (7.77), and Thucydides recalls with the obituary notice highlighting his constant attempt to be good (7.86); but the festival or civic aspect of these acts are not mentioned.

32 His kakourgia is presumably above all the alleged venality attacked above all in Ar. Knights, Wasps etc. Cf. Kallet 2001, 31-34.

33 Biaiotatos here does admittedly denote rhetorical force, not physical violence, but Hornblower ad loc may understate its power too much by liking it too closely to the following pithanotatos: rather it hints at the ruthlessness of Kleon’s attacks on other politicians.

34 Steiner’s account also brings out the importance of this scene as a critical representation of relationships between trierarchs and crews, in the context of Thucydides’ general ignoring of Athens’ civic festivals and their value; but she goes much further than I would in finding a significant undervaluing and occluding of the official hoplites and cavalry in the picture (as does also Kallet 2001, 54), and I doubt her argument for a thematic connnection between the essentially thetic sailors and the commercial denizens of the Peiraeus. For the sustained contrast with 7.75, see Kallet 2001, 166-172.

35 Cf. Christ 1998, 163-164.

36 Contrast e.g. the supposed inheritance dispute between the Athenian proxenos at Mitylene and other elite men at the outset of the Mytilene revolt (Arist., Pol., 1304a3-7, not mentioned in 3.2.3).

37 Fisher 2003.

38 Cf e.g. Gomme, HCT III, 584-586; viewed as not probable by MacDowell on Wasps 288. But his objection on grounds of timing can be met, as the trial could have taken time to reach the court.

39 He was probably born between 460-454: see e.g. Davies 1971, 234, Hornblower on 5.26.5.

40 As has been often suspected, cf. e. g. Gomme, HCT III, 584-6. It is notable that by contrast he did comment on the condemnations of generals who returned from Sicily in 424 (4.65.3).

41 Osborne 1994, 19-20.

42 Xen, Hell., 1.7.8-9; see also Rood 2004, 374-380 on the Thucydidean nature of Xenophon’s treatment of the trial.

43 On Xenophon’s original approaches to processions led by military leaders, Dillery 2004, 259-276.

44 It is also notable that in the Anabasis he presents himself as a leading character in the action who himself takes signs from the gods very seriously, and is mostly favoured by Zeus.

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