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We could have told them that!

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We could have told them that!

Postby pster » Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:41 pm

"I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen of Athens of 1,000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions," Crabtree wrote in a study that appeared in Trends in Genetics. "I would also guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/1 ... 21823.html
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Re: We could have told them that!

Postby daivid » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:14 pm

pster wrote:"I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen of Athens of 1,000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions,"


"wager" = "I have no evidence but I'll say this anyway"

Don't assume that he admires Athens. The date suggests that Classical Athens was, in his opinion, where the rot set in with a softy civilisation that didn't have humans being culled in massive numbers through starvation.
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Re: We could have told them that!

Postby Jeff Tirey » Tue Mar 12, 2013 2:01 pm

These topics are always fun to debate and I agree that the date of 1000 BC is so far back in Athenian history that it was chosen to make a cleaner argument. For one thing it avoids entirely the Peloponnesian War where the Athenian populace in majority thought it was a splendid idea to invade Syracuse.
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Re: We could have told them that!

Postby daivid » Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:59 pm

Jeff Tirey wrote:These topics are always fun to debate and I agree that the date of 1000 BC is so far back in Athenian history that it was chosen to make a cleaner argument. For one thing it avoids entirely the Peloponnesian War where the Athenian populace in majority thought it was a splendid idea to invade Syracuse.


The original article was arguing that the genetic pool of humanity require a lot of weeding out - hence the Homeric world of 1000 was to his taste because life was nasty brutish and short and so the weak got weeded out. If we rely on Homer (and what other source have we?) the aristocrats of 1000 BC went to war for much sillier reasons. But if Crabtree (the author the study) considers that the gene pool needs cleaning out he might well consider going to war for silly reasons a good thing - it kills off some of the "unfit".


But was going to war for Sicily so stupid. I have heard it argued that the Sicilian expedition was a good idea messed up by putting an opponent in charge.

The original idea, according to this thesis, was to send a small force that would head an anti-Syracuse coalition that would all who feared Syracuse would join.
Along comes Nikias who says the proposed force is too small to do the job. He gets his way and the expedition ends up being far larger than envisaged. Hence when Athens arrives in Sicily almost all those who fear Syracuse take one look at the size of the expedition and decide they fear Athens more.

And the Athenian populace no doubt quite sensibly reasoned that if it all went pear shaped the expedition could get back on their boats and sail home. And guess who messed up that calculation?

So I don't agree that the Sicilian expedition showed the Athenian populace to be stupid.
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Re: We could have told them that!

Postby Jeff Tirey » Thu Mar 14, 2013 2:12 pm

Hi Daivid, it's good to speak with you.

I didn't read the full article, so it looks like I'm commenting out of context. But to the point of the Athenian invasion of Sicily, I didn't say Athenians were stupid, but I am saying that they made a horrible decision that at the outset, the majority thought was the right course of action.

On the facts, history tells us it was a colossal failure. It was a conflict started in the middle of the Peloponnesian War and all in the expedition were lost. To you're point, maybe it could have gone better if the leaders held a different course, but I think that can be said in any conflict. The whole lesson of the Peloponnesian war is that wars start off in small places for small things and have a way of getting bigger, deadlier and more out of control than anyone could have imagined at the start.

But for the Athenians who votes yes at the outset, I don't believe they fully appreciated the land size of Sicily, the dynamics of the region, nor how the conflict was a land conflict despite Syracuse being on the coast. I could be wrong about this, my memory of this subject is not as sharp and I have never studied this conflict in detail.
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Re: We could have told them that!

Postby daivid » Sat Mar 16, 2013 4:01 pm

Jeff Tirey wrote:Hi Daivid, it's good to speak with you.

And good to speak to you.

Jeff Tirey wrote:I didn't read the full article, so it looks like I'm commenting out of context.

Well the focus of the article was on stuff not relevant to these forums so its a probably a good thing that you have drawn us away from that.

Jeff Tirey wrote:But to the point of the Athenian invasion of Sicily, I didn't say Athenians were stupid,

Not in so many words ... :-)

Jeff Tirey wrote:... but I am saying that they made a horrible decision that at the outset, the majority thought was the right course of action.

On the facts, history tells us it was a colossal failure. It was a conflict started in the middle of the Peloponnesian War and all in the expedition were lost. To you're point, maybe it could have gone better if the leaders held a different course, but I think that can be said in any conflict. The whole lesson of the Peloponnesian war is that wars start off in small places for small things and have a way of getting bigger, deadlier and more out of control than anyone could have imagined at the start.

But for the Athenians who votes yes at the outset, I don't believe they fully appreciated the land size of Sicily, the dynamics of the region, nor how the conflict was a land conflict despite Syracuse being on the coast. I could be wrong about this, my memory of this subject is not as sharp and I have never studied this conflict in detail.


Thukydides does indeed say that the people did not appreciate the size of the island but we don't need to take his words at face value. They may initially have thought this but Nikias convinced them otherwise. Why else would they have agreed to enlarge the expedition when he asked them to do?

Nikias' motive in demanding an enlarged force was scare the people off the idea. That failed. However the original plan depended on there being a small force to be the core of an anti Syracuse alliance. The larger force was unambiguously an army of conquest and so destroyed hope of gaining allies.

But essentially the problem was not the people being rash but them playing safe. They wanted to have Nikias in charge because they thought they could rely on him to withdraw if there was any danger of a disaster. Everything up to that point suggested that that was exactly how Nikias would react.

No one could have anticipated that it would be Nikias' caution - that is his reaction to the eclipse - that would make the disaster total.

They made sensible calculations on the basis of the information available to them.
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