I know I shouldn't really revisit things, but - at the risk of tipping you all over the edge so early in the
New Year - I've been taking another look at a passage which caused us considerable angst a while ago, viz. 1.122.4:
καὶ οὐκ ἴσμεν ὅπως τάδε τριῶν τῶν μεγίστων ξυμφορῶν ἀπήλλακται, ἀξυνεσίας ἢ μαλακίας ἢ ἀμελείας. οὐ γὰρ δὴ πεφευγότες αὐτὰ ἐπὶ τὴν πλείστους δὴ βλάψασαν καταφρόνησιν κεχωρήκατε, ἣ ἐκ τοῦ πολλοὺς σφάλλειν τὸ ἐναντίον ὄνομα ἀφροσύνη μετωνόμασται.
After various exchanges I identified two principal interpretations of this:
‘We do not know how this policy can be free from the three greatest disasters: stupidity, weakness and ignorance. For
(a) you certainly have not avoided these disasters by adopting a contemptuous attitude towards the Athenians ...’
(b) surely you have not managed to avoid these disasters, only to fall into the trap of regarding the Athenians with contempt ...’
My inclination at the time was towards (b), in response to which Michael commented:
mwh wrote:No John, not (b), please! It implies they have managed to avoid these disasters. I agree with everything you say, apart from this preference. "Rhetorical incredulity" just doesn't work here; the Melian Dialogue passage is simpler, and has the ge to mark the sarcasm. We surely have to go with (a).
Having given it a bit more thought, I'm nonetheless inclining towards (b) again. Perhaps what the Corinthians are saying is that the allies are certainly making a mistake by allowing Athens to expand its empire; they then argue that this inaction can only be motivated by some serious failing. They mention three specifically - stupidity, weakness and ignorance - and then add that, if the cause isn't one of these, it must be contempt for their opponents. I don't think that the Corinthians are specifying which of these apply (separately or in combination) to the allies; they are just rhetorically (and not necessarily sarcastically) piling on the pressure by saying that however it is viewed, or under whatever heading it is classified, their current conduct is wrong.
At least, that's my latest take on it - though I should probably leave well alone! I'm not trying to embroil everyone in this debate again, but I just wanted to set down my latest thinking on what is, by any reckoning, a highly problematic passage.