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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Satsis At Corcyra - 1398 words
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Stasis at Corcyra The French Revolution, the American Civil War, the constant civil conflicts in certain parts of Africa in recent history and even today; these are all historical clashes of countrymen. They all also contain stories of immense atrocities. The violence, bloodshed, and ruthlessness that were seen throughout these events were appalling. They were made perhaps even more so by the fact that theses horrors were inflicted upon one another by countrymen, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. The civil war or stasis at Corcyra during the Peloponnesian War was no different.
This paper will detail the events surrounding the conflict and attempt to give scope to it as a mirror into the rest of the conflict. The initial trouble at Corcyra was the same as that of the entire war. It was a clash of ideologies. The city was split into two factions: the Democrats and the Oligarchs. The city already had a pact of peace with the Athenians but were also friendly with the Peloponnesians. The trouble started when prisoners were returned by the Peloponnesians with the mission of splitting the city from Athens (Thucydides, Book III.71)
Soon afterwards ships arrived from both Athens and Corinth bearing delegations for discussions of treaties. The city took up the matter before its Assembly and voted to remain allies with Athens but to keep up their good, peaceful ties with the Peloponnesians. This was not good enough for some, however. The spies were still bent on depriving Athens of another ally and turning the city over to the oligarchs. They went about this in a manner that caused trouble: they resorted to mudslinging. They accused Peithias , the leader of the democrats, of selling the city into Athenian slavery.
Their accusations were soon batted down and Peithias struck back. He brought up five of his richest opponents on charges that broke them monetarily. They became suppliants in the temples in the hopes that their fines might lessened. However, Peithias was a member of the Council and persuaded his peers to exact the full penalty. When the five heard that their fates had been decided thusly and also that Peithias planned to make a full military alliance with Athens they acted quickly on their own behalf. They gathered the members of their own oligarchic party and marched straight into the council and murdered Peithias and about sixty other democrats (III.71). However, a few democrats escaped and made it to the Athenian ship which sailed to Athens straightaway. The oligarchs then immediately called an assembly and rationalized what they had done.
They proposed that the city basically cut itself off from both sides of the greater conflict. They proposed that delegations from either side only be accepted if they came with just one ship, any more and they would all be treated as enemies. The motion was then promptly forced through the assembly and in fear the oligarchs sent delegates to Athens wit their own version of the story that the democrats had by now been telling. The Athenians responded by not only refusing the delegates but by arresting them and all who listened to them (III.72). While all of this took place in Athens a ship with a delegation of Spartans arrived at Corcyra and this heartened the oligarchs.
They saw an opportunity to seize total control of the community. They armed themselves and attacked the democrats defeating them that first day. They pushed the democrats back to the high grounds of the city near the Hyllaic port and the acropolis. There the democrats built defensive walls and settled in for a siege (III.72). The oligarchs took up opposing positions in the own square and prepared for the same.
The next day there was just a little fighting as the sides eagerly recruited more men, the democrats from among the ranks of the slaves and the oligarchs hired 800 mercenaries from just across the straight (III.73). On the fourth day the fighting broke out in full, even the women participated. The democrats used both their better strategic positioning and their weight of numbers to push the oligarchs back. By the end of the day the oligarchs were retreating back to the town square and were in fear for their lives. They set fire to the buildings around them so that there would be no way to approach them that night (III.74).
The next day the fighting ceased as an Athenian force arrived and forced a settlement (which included a full treaty with the Athenians). Through an agreement between the Athenians and the democrats many of the oligarchic forces were drafted for service on Athenian ships. They refused and took refuge in the temple of Hera as suppliants. The democrats were afraid of them and supplanted them to an island in front of the temple (III.75). At this point things turned messy. A fleet of Peloponnesian ships arrived and the Corcyran democrats responded brashly.
They sent ships against them in a totally disorganized fashion against the advice of their Athenian friends. They were soundly defeated. They retreated to the city in disarray (III.79). In great fear of the city being attacked by the enemy they brokered a settlement with the oligarchs and talked some of them into manning ships to meet the enemy fleet in case they attacked (III.80). However, the Peloponnesians had no intentions of attacking the city and in fact fled when they received word of an approaching Athenian fleet. When the democrats realized that the Athenians were coming they responded quickly in their own interest. The democrats ordered the fleet around the island to the Hyllaic port and immediately seized all the oligarchic supporters they could find and murdered them.
They did the same to those aboard the ships as they landed (III.81). They even talked some of the suppliants into a trial in which every one was condemned and murdered. When the rest of the suppliants saw what had happened to their fellows they committed suicide (III.81). It was this frenzy of action and reaction that led to the greatest atrocities. When the Athenians arrived the democratic Corcyrans were basically guaranteed free reign. They began campaign of genocide and personal vengeance both on the oligarchs and those that they simply disliked.
If a man felt wronged by another he could simply denounce the other as a conspirator to overthrow the democracy and have him massacred in the streets. The extremes to which such wanton bloodbaths attained were like none that had ever been seen among countrymen in Greece before. It was reported to us by Thucydides that fathers murdered their own sons. Men were dragged from the temples where they were taking refuge and killed in the streets or even inside on the altars they sheltered under (III.81). The merciless carnage was shocking because it was new.
However, it became almost commonplace in later days. The revolt at Corcyra became a template for nearly every state in Greece. Such rebellions broke out everywhere with each side attempting to recruit the Athenians and the Peloponnesians as their aims required (III.82, 83). Such atrocities were far surpassed as the man and women succumbed to greed, hate, and fear. The entire character of Greece was changed and even debased through these events. While each city certainly had its own sets of conditions and flow of events, we can surely trace the start of such vainglorious butchery directly to the events at Corcyra.
The Corcyran democrats responded in envy and greed and hate when they had finally won out over those who had oppressed them for so long. They simply allowed their animal passions to rule their minds. Much like the Bacchae in the famous tragedy they released reason to follow their base emotions. They struck back without thinking, beyond reason. Just as Thucydides tells us they forgot the laws of humanity that exist "to give a hope of salvation to all who are in distress, instead of leaving those laws in existence, remembering that there may come a time when they, too, will be in danger and will need their protection (III.84)." Sadly this soon became a common state of affairs throughout the whole of Greece.
Perhaps the war would have ended sooner and with much less loss of life if only we as men were not so weak.Works CitedThucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Tr. Rick Warner. Penguin Books: USA, 1954.
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