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The Goldilocks Government Essay

1746 words - 7 pages

In Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War one sees differing interactions between the self-interest of the state and of the individual; In his account of the Greatest War of all time Thucydides attempts to define human interactions in relation to the State. Max Weber says “authority is power accepted as legitimate by those subjected to it” The three divisions of authority are the “charismatic authority”, “the traditional authority”, and “the rational legal authority”. The scope of this paper is to look at the leadership of Pericles, Cleon, and Hermocrates in respect to Weber’s three divisions of authority to explain why Hermocrates’ ability to lead won Thucydides admiration. When viewing this with respect to the form of government and leadership within that city one can see that contrary to popular belief about Thucydides being a strict realist, in fact he is only moderately so. However, when viewing the book as a whole one sees a transformation within Thucydides himself, who having been exiled actually has time to formulate his own lofty expectations for what a reasonable government would look like.
Pericles falls under the category of the Charismatic Authoritarian. According to Weber the Charismatic Domination is “power legitimized on the basis of a leader's exceptional personal qualities or the demonstration of extraordinary insight and accomplishment, which inspire loyalty and obedience from followers” .Despite his ties to the aristocratic throne of ancient Athens, he makes his name actually as one of the strategos. Strategos which were elected generals of the Athenian army held the highest of all of Athens. The most important politically as well as militarily. (Zagorin, 60). Thucydides first describes Pericles as “the most powerful man of his time and the leading Athenian statesman, he opposed the Spartans in everything,… and… ever urged the Athenians on to war” (1.126). During his first speech regarding arbitration with the Spartans he says “If you give way, you will instantly have to meet some greater demand as having been frightened into obedience in the first instance; while a firm refusal will make them clearly understand that they must treat you as equals” (1.139.5). Because they are equals in military strength, he says that they must go to war instead of arbitration to avoid being slaves. His speeches all throughout Book One are very inspiring when he talks of the “greatest glory” and how their ancestors defeated the Persians with “wisdom more than fortune… more by daring than by strength” (1.144.3). His vote for war and awe inspiring speech wins him the vote of the assembly to discontinue the discussions of arbitration. He is a man of action and is the true definition of what it means to be Athenian. He wins the admiration of the people and it is under his tenure as leader that the glorious days of Athens are realized. His funeral oration speech is unlike the speeches given by Sparta, for as much as Spartans...

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