Plato, Thucydidies, and the Education of Alcibiades

Journal article

Syse, Henrik (2006) Plato, Thucydidies, and the Education of Alcibiades, Journal of Military Ethics 5 (4): 290–302.

The problem of the relationship between warmaking and the health of the city constitutes an important part of the Platonic corpus. In the Platonic dialogue Alcibiades I, considered in antiquity one of Plato's most important works, Socrates leads Alcibiades to agree that there ought to be a close link between justice and decisions about war. In light of this, Alcibiades' actual advice to the city regarding the Peace of Nicias, as portrayed by Thucydides in History of the Peloponnesian War, is put in stark relief within the dialogue. Plato's dialogue about Alcibiades can thus be seen as offering an alternative and morally critical account of how Alcibiades could have used his talents and rhetorical skills in addressing the city on the issue of war. More broadly, it reminds us of the difference between true statesmanship focused on the common good, and political or military rule engaged in for personal benefit or ambition.

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