And Now For Something Completely Different! A Real Tale From History

I love me some history, I love it so much that I studied various kinds of history for pretty much my whole education. I grabbed 2 degrees in Classics and Ancient History (they were mine I promise, I didn’t steal them).

 

One of the things I love about it is all the stories that you could make from it. Maybe one day I’ll give it a go! But for now, I shall just tell you about one of my favourite episodes from Ancient History! Maybe you could make it into a story, or at the very least I hope it interests you.

 

Now we all know that people can make hasty decisions when their blood is up. You’re excited, angry or sad so maybe you’re not making the best choices?

 

There is an episode from ancient Athens that sums this up pretty perfectly.

 

At the time (427BCE) Athens’ power sprawled across the ancient world and across the oceans. There was a large hegemony of city states that bowed to the Athenian’s power, called The Delian League. Athens had a large amount of territory, but even father was their territory they controlled via their tributaries. Of course a lot of people weren’t happy about being forced to pay Athens a variety of tithes and there are several episodes of city-states trying to secede.

 

 

 

In 427BCE one of the states that tried to do so was called Mytilene. The city was on the other side of the Aegean to Athens, and were very unhappy with the Athenians. They even sent an envoy to Olympia to seek help against the Athenians with their revolt, saying that the Athenians had abused their power with the Delian League. Maybe that’s true, or maybe the oligarchy that rules Mytilene wanted to unite the power of their island of Lesbos, something the Athenians would never allow.

 

So one thing led to another and they revolted. Sorted.

 

But, alas! Someone tipped off the Athenians (one of the other powers on Lesbos, and some internal dissenters) and war broke out. That’s all well and good of course, except that Mytilene nor their allies were ready for it, and got their arses handed to them. That led to their negotiating terms which was essentially them surrendering.

 

The Athenians allowed the Mytilenians to send an envoy to Athens and plead for compassion. The envoy was summarily executed on his arrival at Athens and the Athenians began a debate to decide what to do with all the rebels.

 

Now, the Athenian Assembly consisted of every Athenian citizen (and here follows one of the dangers of a direct democracy) and so they could all vote on what to do next. The Athenians were scared of further revolt and enraged by this thought out plan to thwart their power. After all more than one of the city states on Lesbos has risen against them and had orchestrated an attack on Attica to help them out (them being the Mytilenians that is, it didn’t help the Athenians).

 

So the Athenians decide that the best defence against further revolt is a good offense. Of course that means slaughtering all the men and selling the women and children into slavery. Huzzah!

 

And there goes the Trireme to carry it all out. Not a bad day’s work, eh fellow Athenians? Phew, time to hit the sack!

 

The next day, they realised that maybe they’d been a bit harsh. I mean, did they really need to kill everyone? Maybe not. Another debate ensued. Whereas before every single Athenian had been in favour of utter annihilation, now even the most bloodthirsty from the day before were hesitant. This led to a narrow margin in favour of not killing everything.

 

Another trireme was sent out, with double the normal crew, to catch up with the first. Luckily for the Mytilenians both triremes arrived at about the same time and in what I’m sure was a crazily intense scene, the old orders were overruled.

 

So instead of death and destruction for anyone and everyone, they merely razed the walls, replaced the oligarchy and divied up the land of Lesbos.

 

Yay, democracy!

This episode I think clearly outlines the dangers of being too loose and easy with your pent up emotions. And just imagine what would have happened if the second ship hadn’t reached them in time! Could it have led to a revolt that spanned the Aegean? Does it send the Athenian people into a spiraling miasma of depression and despair?

 

I hope you enjoyed this little segment, maybe it’ll spark some ideas, maybe you just found it interesting. I hope both, and more!

 

More to be coming soon!

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