Thucydides wrote about the desire for power by the human beings as one of the human natures that has existed among the Greeks. This human nature existed even in the ancient Greek especially among the Athens. His arguments have however supported in Plato’s argument has they appear in the Plato’s Apology (Farrar, 1988). Some of the other aspects of human nature that have formed the backbone of Thucydides’ quest to give an explanation as well as interpretation about human desire for power include judgment, passion, chance and desire for security (Connor, 1984). The Athenians appeal to these in many different ways under several different circumstances, and does Thucydides as he categorizes the trajectory and sources of Athenians according to their characteristics. It is, however, no true to say that the attitude to power is inexorable and fundamental force in human affairs, rather than the attitude towards power results in the greatness for people’s security (Crane, 1998).
In his book, Plato talks about power and undemocracy by describing how superficial leadership misleads the Athenians. He describes that leaders in democracy aspire not to statesmanship but popularity. The superficial leaders tend to support the wishes of the voters instead of having a clear stand on what is right about the democracy (Connor, 1984). These leaders spend much compare to what they take in because to them it is not an issue to provide people with things than to seek for sacrifices which are likely to be thrown out of office, even when they are required. At this point we can see that democracy was young and wholly font of blunders. Many Athenians died because of undemocracy (Farrar, 1988). In Plato’s Athens, and Greco-Roman civilization in general, the political state uneasily coexists with spiritual organizations. Such dual politico-religious structure itself can be an implication of the two worlds of man’s consciousness. The rivalry between spiritual and political functions is the major theme in Plato (for example in thoughtless prosecution classical writers and the thinker Socrates by state).
Similarly, Oedipus the King describes the undemocracy that existed in the ancient Greek. In the play, the theme of fate and fatalism best shows how undemocracy dominated Athens (Connor, 1984). The play compels us to have a tendency to perceive Oedipus as just a puppet controlled by greater forces, a person crashed by the fates and gods for no any good reason (Farrar, 1988). However, this is not the enough to conclude that the Oedipus himself is a victim of fate and has got no free will. The oracle gave Oedipus what is usually referred to as ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ in that prophecy sets in motion activities that summarize with its own fulfillment (Crane, 1998). The oracle motivates a series of particular choices, freely created by Oedipus’s, which resulted in him killing his own father and got married to his mother (Cornford, 1907).
Plato also talks about social decay and the preoccupation with image in the ancient Greek. Democracies caused social problems in that many people lacked sense of common values (Connor, 1984). Personal values are all within the group values, resulting in disorder, social instability, rise in crime, distrust of state and authority, rise in gaps between the old and young generations (since those who are young wants to undertake their own responsibilities without considering the values of their elders), and the empty succession of fashions and fads to fill the vacant space left by the loss of common values. Also debates in the superficial politics is viewed as superficial and occupied by images instead of substantive issues, emotions rather than reasons (Farrar, 1988). The candidates outward appearance is important than what the candidate presents, and both of them are also value than what the candidate does. Democracies, therefore, are caught up with the visibility of illusions, not wisdom or realities. They use words in manipulation of public opinion and to consider private ambitions, not to develop the public good (Cornford, 1907).
Just like in Plato’ Apology, Thucydides also describes historical analysis of Athens as the most effective when he tells about political leadership. Thucydides portrays Pericles as a person who aimed at educating the Athens about the true condition, implications, and its source, in a way that could enable them to expect and consider their reply. Thucydides confirms that such kind of historical leadership was not always recommended- even when Pericles was still alive. He gave way to distortions and demagoguery of the truth after his death (Cochrane, 1965). Thucydides himself was able to acquire a reputation for the hostility to democracy since he inclined at times to the institutional substitutes for the changing cultivation of judgment done through democratic interaction (Cornford, 1907). But his categorization of weaknesses and strengths of the Spartans and Athens points to Thucydides’ perception that the most important polity, capable of understanding responding and understanding the world as it is, is a democratic polity, just like Athens that cultivates flexibility, passion, initiative, freedom, and is guided by their prudent leadership and by the history (Cochrane, 1965).
In Plato, we also find that the duality is described not only in characterization of the individual but also in the interpersonal conflicts (politicians versus Socrates). Selves are split or dissociated into private and public identities that are not related or even opposed to each other. This type of split personality is clearly seen in the sophists and Euthyphro, the inside-out persons who availed their souls for public image or political power (Farrar, 1988). In the other hand, the character of Socrates, figuring as the wisdom and inward spiritual depth is misunderstood as a political subversive by some of the superficial political leaders with dangerous ideas. Socrates is seen as a spiritual man who lives in a world of politics. At the same time Socrates portrays himself as a non-politician (Cochrane, 1965). He emphasizes that his views and ideas of a society in the republic are just fantasies. He has no wish of being a politician or to transform Athens or its form government. Socrates is, again perceived as a spiritual man in the world of disorienting politics.
According to Thucydides, the actions of Oedipus in the Oedipus the King and Socrates in the Plato’s Apology indicates that the ancient Greek developed a negative attitude towards power and force. In Plato’ Apology, the Athens are suppressed by the superficial leaders, in that leaders in democracy aspire to popularity rather than statesmanship (Crane, 1998). They even tend to support the voters’ wish without undertaking what is right the undemocratic state and the superficial leadership also resulted in social decay. Therefore, Athenian citizens gradually lose a sense of shared values.
Cochrane, C. Thucydides and the Science of History. New York: Russell & Russell, 1965.
Connor, W. Thucydides. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Cornford, F. Thucydides Mythistoricus. London: E. Arnold, 1907.
Crane, Gregory. Thucydides and the Ancient Simplicity: The Limits of Political Realism.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
Farrar, Cynthia. Origins of Democratic Thinking: The Invention of Politics in Classical Athens.
Cambridge, U.K., and New York; Cambridge University Press, 1988.