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‘To the List of Their Enemies’
Red-Face-Island War #9
© 2020 James LaFond
BOOK III: CHAPTER IX: Fourth and Fifth Years of the War—Revolt of Mitylene
Mitylene was the chief city of the island of Lesbos and had a long history of enmity with Athens. The general war was a chance for them to throw off the Athenian yoke. In the section below one can see how easily a democratic power—unlike the conservative monarchial Spartans—finds it in the hollow of its collective heart to violate the sacred.
“However, the Athenians, distressed by the plague, and by the war that had recently broken out and was now raging, thought it a serious matter to add Lesbos with its fleet and untouched resources to the list of their enemies; and at first would not believe the charge, giving too much weight to their wish that it might not be true. But when an embassy which they sent had failed to persuade the Mitylenians to give up the union and preparations complained of, they became alarmed, and resolved to strike the first blow. They accordingly suddenly sent off forty ships that had been got ready to sail round Peloponnese, under the command of Cleippides, son of Deinias, and two others; word having been brought them of a festival in honour of the Malean Apollo outside the town, which is kept by the whole people of Mitylene, and at which, if haste were made, they might hope to take them by surprise. If this plan succeeded, well and good; if not, they were to order the Mitylenians to deliver up their ships and to pull down their walls, and if they did not obey, to declare war. The ships accordingly set out; the ten galleys, forming the contingent of the Mitylenians present with the fleet according to the terms of the alliance, being detained by the Athenians, and their crews placed in custody. However, the Mitylenians were informed of the expedition by a man who crossed from Athens to Euboea, and going overland to Geraestus, sailed from thence by a merchantman which he found on the point of putting to sea, and so arrived at Mitylene the third day after leaving Athens. The Mitylenians accordingly refrained from going out to the temple at Malea, and moreover barricaded and kept guard round the half-finished parts of their walls and harbours.”
The Athenians might have called this The War against Apollo and his many cults.
Below is a mention of the use of Olympia as a place of parlay, with mention of the famous boxer and pankratiast Dorieus [Spear-lord] of Rhodes, whose brother and father were famous athletes. Dorieus would successfully command three galleys in a battle later in the war and be captured on the way to and from sacred agons by both Athenian and Spartan enemies. The Athenians released him due to his fame and the Spartans would slay him, this being towards the end of the war when the total aspect if the conflict had trampled the sacred to a large degree and the athlete’s fame among the Athenians would serve him better than his sacred immunity among the degraded Spartans.
“Meanwhile the envoys of the Mitylenians sent out in the first ship were told by the Lacedaemonians to come to Olympia, in order that the rest of the allies might hear them and decide upon their matter, and so they journeyed thither. It was the Olympiad in which the Rhodian Dorieus gained his second victory, and the envoys having been introduced to make their speech after the festival, spoke as follows:”
Only the last small portion is related below to give the reader a flavor for the Aryan ethos within which the plea was made:
“…only show yourselves as liberators, and you may count upon having the advantage in the war.
"Respect, therefore, the hopes placed in you by the Hellenes, and that Olympian Zeus, in whose temple we stand as very suppliants; become the allies and defenders of the Mitylenians, and do not sacrifice us, who put our lives upon the hazard, in a cause in which general good will result to all from our success, and still more general harm if we fail through your refusing to help us; but be the men that the Hellenes think you, and our fears desire."
In all of the speeches the Athenian Thucydides has related this far, only the democratic Athenians appealed to a pure and feral sense of advantage and the other nationalities all stress high ideals. This equated neatly to the postmodern American situation in which only conservatives stress freedom of speech and liberal democrats advocate restrictions on that most basic of liberties. It seems a symptom of mob gravity that the wider the decision-making base the lower the ethical standards of conduct are.
The economic stress on the Athenian Empire involved payment to heavy infantry to cover the feeding and purchase and equipping of their war slaves, which carried their armor and even served as dart throwers and slingers. Despite the plague, Athens sent unprecedented forces into battle, suggesting that the master class and slave class bore the brunt of the losses to the epidemic.
Telling in detail the tale of the escape of the Plataean and Athenian garrison the author mentions a sacred place, many of which have been erased by time, but were once regular features of the metaphysic landscape:
“… the chapel of the hero Androcrates…”
A Spartan commander begins this next year “butchering” prisoners taken from Athenian allies, beginning the moral slide of the conservative antagonist down into the degraded abyss of the democratic antagonist. At the same time the Athenians were butchering prisoners and slaying men who had surrendered under promises of safe conduct. Here, the Athenians, like the modern American imperialists, immediately seek to install puppet regimes under Athenian laws in order to divorce indigenous allies from their own folk and bind them ideologically to their alien overlords.
“Upon the arrival of the prisoners with Salaethus, the Athenians at once put the latter to death, although he offered, among other things, to procure the withdrawal of the Peloponnesians from Plataea, which was still under siege; and after deliberating as to what they should do with the former, in the fury of the moment determined to put to death not only the prisoners at Athens, but the whole adult male population of Mitylene, and to make slaves of the women and children.”
As usual, slavery is the currency issued by the banks of ancient conquest. In this one case the population of Mitylene was spared from slaughter by a slim margin of the Athenian vote, with only 1,000 men executed and the city dispossessed of its fleet, walls and treasure with the survivors placed in servitude to Athenian overlords, described as “share-holders” much as the Irish would be at the hands of the English in a later age.
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