melian dialogue summary

Melian Dialogue: Mastery Summary  Athenians:  Let’s not make long speeches, let’s get straight to the point. Melians: You are already preparing for war, and it doesn’t really seem to matter what we say because you are the judges. Athenians: Stop guessing about the future and talk facts.  If you are ready to talk about the safety of your city then we are ready to speak. Melians: We came here to talk about security, so let’s begin. Athenians: Let’s not make long speeches trying to convince one another.  “the question of justice arises only between parties equal in strength”.  We are strong and you are weak. Melians: Let’s not talk about justice, but instead self-interest.  It is in your interest that anyone who needs help should be able to ask for it. Pg. 197 Athenians: Don’t worry about us, we’ll worry about our own empire.  We want you to become a part of our empire with the least amount of trouble. Melians: If we are speaking of interest, how can it be our interest to be slaves?   Athenians: By giving up you won’t suffer a terrible fate and we won’t destroy you. Melians: Why can’t we be friends?  Or at least neutral?  Athenians:  No.  Being friends would be worse than being enemies.  Our subjects will think we are weak if we become friends. Melians: Do your people not distinguish (tell the difference) between neutral, conquered, and native people? Athenians: They think the only nations we do not attack we do not attack because they are strong.  We will gain security by conquering you; it will set an example for other small island nations. Pg. 198 Melians: Shouldn’t anyone threatened with slavery fight against it? Athenians: This is a question of survival, not finding honor in a fight between equals Melians: If we give up right now there is no chance, if we fight there is a slim chance, but a chance. Athenians: If you are strong and you gamble on hope you can’t lose much, but if you are weak and you gamble everything there is a higher chance of losing.  So give up now and avoid suffering. Melians: “We are right and you are wrong”.  Fortune will help us, and it is reasonable to believe this because Lacedaemon, our kinsmen, will come to our aid.  They have a high sense of honor. Athenians:  Fortune might help us because fortune usually helps the strong beat the weak.  The Lacedaemonians don’t usually fight hard battles and are usually content to stay home and find honor the easy way. Melians: It is in the Lacedaemonians interest to help us because we use to be their colony. Athenians: Safety and self-interest are the same thing, and justice and honor are dangerous.  (bottom 199) Aristotle: “Justice is giving each [person] their due”.   Melians: we think they still might come Athenians: “An intending ally” will usually help someone only if there is a great chance of success. Melians: You are opening up a can of worms and you might lose control of the sea. Athenians: You have failed to say anything realistic about the safety of your city.  Words like “hope” and “justice” will only lead to your ruin.  Athens has never before given up a siege.  Don’t be fools, it is better to be a tributary ally then conquered slaves.