Cleon Questions

InF_headerKeep your answers brief for easy reference.

  1. In his first sentence, Cleon asserts that citizens of  a democracy are unprepared to govern an empire. What reason does he give for thinking Athenians are not as good at governing as anybody else?
  2. Unlike Pericles, Cleon is skeptical about the value of extended debates on public issues. Quote a sentence in section 38 that shows why, in his opinion, audiences cannot be trusted to reach valid conclusions after listening to a debate.
  3. Looking at section 39, first paragraph, explain why Cleon sees the Mytilene uprising as much worse than an ordinary revolt.
  4. In section 39, final paragraph, Cleon explains why a light punishment results in a win-win situation for an ally that revolts. Quote a sentence that explains why a revolt is always a lose-lose situation for Athens.
  5. In section 40, first paragraph, Cleon says rulers of an empire must be careful about feelings of compassion and acts of mercy. In his view, when is it right to exercise compassion and mercy?

PnC_headerIn any controversy, both sides are likely to make one or two good points. It is your job as a voter to decide whether these points are decisive or secondary.

  1. In section 38, second paragraph, Cleon wonders aloud who will stand up to oppose his views. Without knowing yet who this person will be, he attacks the opponent as arrogant and corrupt. This is a “poisoning the well” tactic, making it harder for the audience to hear the other side objectively. How often does he resort to this prejudicial tactic, pretending to know the minds and motives of other people? Review his speech section by section, and make a list of where and how Cleon pigeonholes the way others think and feel.
  2. In section 39, third paragraph, Cleon says it is human nature to despise a kindly master but admire a harsh one. A useful way to test a generalization like this is to look for examples and counter-examples. First, in your observations of teachers and other adults in authority, do the strict ones gain respect? Do the friendly ones merely get taken advantage of? Write a short summary of your findings, including a score for how much weight you give to Cleon’s generalization (5 = always true, 1 = never true).
  3. The error to watch for in “if-then” and “either/or” claims is oversimplification. In section 39, the final paragraph, Cleon says IF the Assembly fails to impose a harsh penalty on the Mytilenes, THEN other allies will think they should also try to rebel. To weigh the validity of this argument, put yourself in the role of an Athenian ally and make a list of five factors that would influence your decision to rebel or not. For guidance, think about factors that led up to America’s War of Independence.

RnW_headerLook for answers to questions raised in your reading.

  1. In section 37, second paragraph, Cleon makes the extraordinary claim that leaders who think in simple terms do better than leaders who are highly intelligent. Write a 500-word paper that 1) explains Cleon’s reasoning and 2) supports his argument with two or more examples of US presidents before 2000 who were highly intelligent but ineffective in office. Or write a paper refuting Cleon’s premise, citing two or more presidents whose analytical approach made them more effective than a leader of average intelligence could have been. Note: For reference, the highest-IQ presidents were: J. Q. Adams (165), Jefferson (145), Kennedy (138), Clinton (135), T. Roosevelt (130), Wilson (133), Carter (130), Garfield (129), Arthur (129), F. Roosevelt (127), Washington (125), and Lincoln (125). The IQ scores are from a 2006 study by D.K. Simonton of the University of California, Davis: (
  2. In section 40, second paragraph, Cleon says that holding an empire necessarily means committing injustices from time to time. How does a government know when these injustices have reached a level that is morally repugnant? In a 500-word paper, describe the social and legal safeguards that would prevent the United States from carrying out a policy like the death sentence against all Mytilene men — which by today’s standards would be considered a war crime.
  3. Why do empires fall apart? Read summary articles about three famous empires to find the long-term as well as near-term causes for their demise. Would harsh dictatorship have saved any of them? Consider empires in the following list or others  you may know about: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), British Empire, Ottoman Empire, Byzantine Empire, and Roman Empire.

What Happened Next

After Cleon finished his speech, Diodotus rose to speak in opposition.

Next up, Diodotus:

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: