This year (424 BC) the Athenians chose as general Nicias, the son of Niceratus, and assigning to him sixty triremes and three thousand hoplites, they ordered him to plunder the allies of the Lacedaemonians. He sailed to Melos as the first place, where he ravaged their territory and for a number of days laid siege to the city.
(Perseus Project - Diodorus Siculus, Library 12.65.1) The Athenians under the command of Nicias seized two cities, Cythera and Nisaea ; and they reduced Melos (416 BC) by siege, slew all the males from the youth upward, and sold into slavery the children and women.
(Perseus Project - Diodorus Siculus, Library 12.80.5)
In 416 an Athenian force beseiged the tiny city-state on the island of Melos situated in the Mediterranean south of the Peloponnese, a community sympathetic to Sparta that had taken no active part in the war, although it may have made a monetary contribution to the Spartan war effort. In any case, that Athens considered Melos an enemy had been made clear earlier when Nicias had led an unsuccessful attack on the island in 426. Now once again Athens in 416 demanded that Melos support its alliance voluntarily or face destruction, but the Melians refused to submit despite the overwhelming superiority of Athenian force. When Melos eventually had to surrender to the beseiging army, its men were killed and its women and children sold into slavery. An Athenian community was then established on the island. Thucydides portrays Athenian motives in the affair of Melos as concerned exclusively with the amoral politics of the use of force, while the Melians he shows as relying on a concept of justice to govern relations between states. He represents the leaders of the opposing sides as participating in a private meeting to discuss their views of what issues are at stake. This passage in his history, called the Melian Dialogue, offers a chillingly realistic insight into the clash between ethics and power in international politics.
This text is from: Thomas Martin's An Overview of Classical Greek History from Homer to Alexander, Yale University Press. Cited Sep 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
On the right of the pedestal are inscribed the cities which took part in the engagement: first the Lacedaemonians, after them the Athenians, third the Corinthians, fourth the Sicyonians,fifth the Aeginetans; after the Aeginetans, the Megarians and Epidaurians, of the Arcadians the people of Tegea and Orchomenus, after them the dwellers in Phlius, Troezen and Hermion, the Tirynthians from the Argolid, the Plataeans alone of the Boeotians, the Argives of Mycenae, the islanders of Ceos and Melos, Ambraciots of the Thesprotian mainland, the Tenians and the Lepreans, who were the only people from Triphylia, but from the Aegean and the Cyclades there came not only the Tenians but also the Naxians and Cythnians, Styrians too from Euboea, after them Eleans, Potidaeans, Anactorians, and lastly the Chalcidians on the Euripus.
The Seriphians, Siphnians, and Melians also took part, since they were the only islanders who had not given earth and water to the barbarian. . .
All of these came to the war providing triremes, except the Melians and Siphnians and Seriphians, who brought fifty-oared boats. The Melians (who are of Lacedaemonian stock) provided two; the Siphnians and Seriphians, who are Ionians from Athens, one each. The total number of ships, besides the fifty-oared boats, was three hundred and seventy-eight. . .
Dialogus (dialogos). A dialogue. As a form of literary composition, apart from its purely dramatic use, the dialogue plays an important part in the history of Greek and Roman letters. The vividness and pungency of rapid question and reply were fully appreciated by the earliest writers. The Homeric poems abound in passages whose great dramatic force is due to the use of this form. Herodotus continually employs it to give picturesqueness and life to his narrative; and this is true even of Thucydides, in whose history the so-called Melian dialogue at the close of the fifth book
The next summer Alcibiades sailed with twenty ships to Argos and seized the suspected persons still left of the Lacedaemonian faction to the number of three hundred, whom the Athenians forthwith lodged in the neighboring islands of their empire. The Athenians also made an expedition against the isle of Melos with thirty ships of their own, six Chian, and two Lesbian vessels, sixteen hundred heavy infantry, three hundred archers, and twenty mounted archers from Athens, and about fifteen hundred heavy infantry from the allies and the islanders. The Melians are a colony of Lacedaemon that would not submit to the Athenians like the other islanders, and at first remained neutral and took no part in the struggle, but afterwards upon the Athenians using violence and plundering their territory, assumed an attitude of open hostility. Cleomedes, son of Lycomedes, and Tisias, son of Tisimachus, the generals, encamping in their territory with the above armament, before doing any harm to their land, sent envoys to negotiate. These the Melians did not bring before the people, but bade them state the object of their mission to the magistrates and the few; upon which the Athenian envoys spoke as follows:--
The Melian Dialogue
This extract is from: Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War (ed. Richard Crawley, 1910). Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.
Thucydides and the Ancient Simplicity: the Limits of Political Realism, by Gregory Crane, Department of Classics, Tufts University
In ancient times, "Melos" prospered because of its great mineral wealth.
It has been inhabited since the Neolithic age (7000 B.C.) and developed more rapidly
than the neighbouring islands because of the black glass-like volcanic rock called
obsidian, which was used by the "Melians" to make tools and weapons. Since obsidian
from Melos has also been located in the Peloponnese, Crete, Cyprus and even in
Egypt, it is believed that there was a flourishing export trade too.
From the beginning of the bronze age (2800-1100 B.C.), the island played an extremely important part in the Cycladic world, centred at the ancient city of Philakopi, which in fact gave its name to an entire archaeological period.
With the coming of the Hellenic peoples, the Dorians settled in Melos around 1000 B.C. During the same period, a new settlement was being built in the area of modern Klima. This new town developed rapidly particularly in the field of art and craft. The so called "Melian Vases" of that period are greatly renowned.
Very little is known of Melos before the 5th century B.C. It is known however, that the Melians refused to surrender to the Persians and fought with the rest of the Greeks at the battles of Salamis and Plataea. In their attempt to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian war, they were punished by the Athenians who, in 415 B.C. put all the old people to death and sold the young men, women and children into slavery.
The history of the island, throughout the following centuries, was similar to that of the rest of the Cyclades Islands. Until 311 B.C., Melos was ruled by Macedonia and then by Egypt. The powerful fleet of the Ptolemaids ensured the freedom and safety of the seas. As a result, the island of Melos saw a phase of renewed economic growth which was also reflected culturally. Examples of this creative era are the famous statue of Venus, (at the Louvre Museum in Paris), and the imposing 2.50 metre tall statue of Poseidon (displayed in the National Museum in Athens).
During the Roman Conquest, a number of new buildings were constructed, and Christianity made its appearance, probably during the 1st century. The Catacombs of the island - the most extensive in Greece and among the most significant in the whole Roman Empire are undeniable proof of this.
The most important event in the Byzantine era was the destruction of the Ancient City of Klima (5th - 6th century), possibly as a result of an earthquake.
Finally, during the Venetian and Turkish rule, the inhabitants fought relentlessly for their freedom.
This text is cited May 2003 from the Rented Rooms Owners' Union of Milos tourist pamphlet
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