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‘Words had to Change their Ordinary Meaning’
Red-Face-Island War #10
CHAPTER X: Fifth Year of the War—Trial and Execution of the Plataeans— Corcyraean Revolution
Traditional Aryan use of heralds in confrontational style—a means of assuming moral justification for lethal action—is demonstrated in its best form in this year, a from that will not hold in conflict with the avaricious democratic mob of Athenian pirates and under the corrosive internal pressure of the conservative Spartan need to control. It is, however, an ideal that continually reemerged in Western warfare up until 1865. Below we see it fail on contact with extended economic, cultural and operational warfare:
“…this summer, the Plataeans, being now without provisions and unable to support the siege, surrendered to the Peloponnesians in the following manner. An assault had been made upon the wall, which the Plataeans were unable to repel. The Lacedaemonian commander, perceiving their weakness, wished to avoid taking the place by storm; his instructions from Lacedaemon having been so conceived, in order that if at any future time peace should be made with Athens, and they should agree each to restore the places that they had taken in the war, Plataea might be held to have come over voluntarily, and not be included in the list. He accordingly sent a herald to them to ask if they were willing voluntarily to surrender the town to the Lacedaemonians, and accept them as their judges, upon the understanding that the guilty should be punished, but no one without form of law. The Plataeans were now in the last state of weakness, and the herald had no sooner delivered his message than they surrendered the town. The Peloponnesians fed them for some days until the judges from Lacedaemon, who were five in number, arrived. Upon their arrival no charge was preferred; they simply called up the Plataeans, and asked them whether they had done the Lacedaemonians and allies any service in the war then raging.’
The Plataeans, having been granted a trial by their submission, were then done dirty:
“The Lacedaemonian judges decided that the question whether they had received any service from the Plataeans in the war, was a fair one for them to put; as they had always invited them to be neutral, agreeably to the original covenant of Pausanias after the defeat of the Mede, and had again definitely offered them the same conditions before the blockade. This offer having been refused, they were now, they conceived, by the loyalty of their intention released from their covenant; and having, as they considered, suffered evil at the hands of the Plataeans, they brought them in again one by one and asked each of them the same question, that is to say, whether they had done the Lacedaemonians and allies any service in the war; and upon their saying that they had not, took them out and slew them, all without exception. The number of Plataeans thus massacred was not less than two hundred, with twenty-five Athenians who had shared in the siege. The women were taken as slaves.”
So, the Athenians argue with each other over the murder of honorably taken captives, and decide to slay and enslave and the Spartans conduct a trial under judgment and come to the same conclusion, both forms of government bending to the will of the naked feud. As in the 100 Years War and Thirty Years War, honor is the first casualty of extended conflict. With no existing honor code remaining in Western Civilization at its nadir, I would predict that any such conflict in America’s future would see similar treatment of antagonistic captives.
The following passage comes from an account of social unrest and sectarian slaughter in Corcyra worthy of Plantation America, in which free men would promise slaves freedom if they joined in alliance:
“The next day passed in skirmishes of little importance, each party sending into the country to offer freedom to the slaves and to invite them to join them. The mass of the slaves answered the appeal of the commons; their antagonists being reinforced by eight hundred mercenaries from the continent.
“After a day's interval hostilities recommenced, victory remaining with the commons, who had the advantage in numbers and position, the women also valiantly assisting them, pelting with tiles from the houses, and supporting the melee with a fortitude beyond their sex. Towards dusk, the oligarchs in full rout, fearing that the victorious commons might assault and carry the arsenal and put them to the sword, fired the houses round the marketplace and the lodging-houses, in order to bar their advance; sparing neither their own, nor those of their neighbours; by which much stuff of the merchants was consumed and the city risked total destruction, if a wind had come to help the flame by blowing on it.”
The merchants are ever the enemies of the commons and which side emerges victorious often hinges on who gains the alliance of the slave [criminal] class.
Below the nature of revolution as being dependent on outside allies for its success is addressed as part of a larger passage:
“So bloody was the march of the revolution, and the impression which it made was the greater as it was one of the first to occur. Later on, one may say, the whole Hellenic world was convulsed; struggles being every, where made by the popular chiefs to bring in the Athenians, and by the oligarchs to introduce the Lacedaemonians. In peace there would have been neither the pretext nor the wish to make such an invitation; but in war, with an alliance always at the command of either faction for the hurt of their adversaries and their own corresponding advantage, opportunities for bringing in the foreigner were never wanting to the revolutionary parties…”
The devolution of ethics in the revolutionary setting is a subject of sharp comment against both alliances that should be familiar to the postmodern student of social discord:
“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected…”
“…Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles. The ancient simplicity into which honour so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow…”
The last line there reminds me that most dissident folk are afraid of their friends and correspondents and are feign to even use their real name.
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