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Answered 2007-10-09 06:43:23

I'm not 100%sure, but here goes...

During the Melian Dialogue, Thucydides describes the events of the discussion that takes place between the Greeks of Athens and the inhabitants of the island of Melo, Spartan allies. During the Peloponnesian war, Athens and Sparta created an entire net of allied cities from which they attained men and war funds (in fact, the war lasted circa thirty years, from 431 to 404 bC). Forgoing his usual objectiveness, Thucydides narrates with theatrical pathos how he believes the dialogue might have taken place, and demonstrates how the Athenians reacted to diplomatical refusal.

According to Thucydides' reconstruction, before waging war against the Melians, the Athenians proposed for them to submit willingly to their control, seeing as they wouldn't be getting any help from Sparta, their ally, which was too involved in keeping the homefront protected. Because the Melians refused, the Athenians then subjected the city to a long and devastating battle, killing all young men and enslaving all women, children and seniors.

The powerful empire of Athens imposes an impossible chioce to the inhabitants of Melo, submission or distruction. The Melians try to subtract themselves from this decision by quoting the classical arguments of Greek ethics: they invoke universal justice, and they stress their belief that the Gods will always help those who are just in the end.

The Athenian response is ruthless. Justice exists only where there is equality of strenght, otherwise the stronger act in favour of their greater strength, and the weaker MUST submit to the violence.

There is only ONE eternal law of nature, for men and divinity alike: "wherever there be strength, there be power".

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