Corinth Questions

InF_headerKeep your answers brief for easy reference.

  1. In a sentence or two, explain why being located in the far west would help Corcyra take advantage of merchant ships from other Greek cities.
  2. In section 38, it says Corcyra should have given in to Corinth even if Corinth was in the wrong.  What was the reasoning behind this suggestion?
  3. How does Corinth answer the claim that the Athens-Peloponnesian League treaty allows a neutral city to join whichever side it pleases? See section 40.
  4. The Corinthian speech makes two references to Samos. In section 41, Samos represents a past favor that should be repaid by Athens. In section 40, Samos illustrates a different reason for siding with Corinth. What is the reason?
  5. Some people see “real-world interests” as something separate from “fine things to say in speeches.” What does Corinth say in section 42 about conflict between noble principles and real-world interests?

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. Fold a sheet of paper to form two columns. In the right column, make a list of your top five priorities as a voter in Athens (examples: Survival of Athens, Doing the Right Thing, Prosperity, etc.). On the left, list the reasons given in the Corinth speech for siding with Corinth. Draw lines from each reason to the relevant priorities on the right. Example: “Threat of war” would relate to both Survival and Prosperity. Based on the lines you’ve drawn, which of the pro-Corinth arguments are the most important to consider?
  2. Are you dissatisfied with the answers obtained by matching up reasons to priorities? Write a paragraph with an example of how this list-oriented method may oversimplify a complex decision. Or write a paragraph illustrating how this method will always work if priorities are clearly stated.
  3. Duty, virtue, honor, and reputation are abstract values, but they have observable consequences — over the long term or in a crisis. Identify the abstract ideals in section 41 and briefly describe the observable consequences of sticking to one’s values.

RnW_headerLook for answers to questions raised in your reading.

  1. Section 38 says all of Corinth’s other colonies honor their mother country and therefore Corcyra’s motives and behavior must be dishonorable. In one page or more, describe at least two scenarios that would put Corcyra in a better light than Corinth allows. Use at least one example other than the American Revolution.
  2. All wars were border wars as long as minor kings ruled in Greece. Wars of conquest came later, as Sparta and Athens rose to dominance. Read sections 15 and 17-18 in Book I of Thucydides and describe in two pages each city’s secret of success. Feel free to consult other resources.
  3. In section 42, Corinth says removing causes of mistrust is a better policy than building up greater military forces. Is that true — always, never, under certain circumstances? Write a three-page outline (not a formal paper but a plan for a paper) analyzing how trust factored in three historic confrontations: for example, World War I and II and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What Happened Next

After hearing from Corcyra and from Corinth, most Athenians were inclined to support Corinth. However, at a later meeting of the Assembly, Athens voted to support Corcyra with a limited alliance. That is, Athens would help defend Corcyra but would not be involved in attacks on Corinth, which was still an ally under the existing treaty with the Peloponnesian cities.

The reasons for siding with Corcyra were:

  1. War with the Peloponnesian League was bound to come sooner or later. When it did come, Athens wanted to make sure Corinth did not have Corcyra’s ships.
  2. With defensive help from Athens, Corcyra could continue its fight against Corinth. Fighting between those two cities would weaken them both, leaving Athens in a stronger position.
  3. Then at the peak of its power, Athens was interested in gaining allies and colonies in Sicily. Corcyra’s ability to control the western sea lanes was a strategic advantage.

Sea Battle near Sybota

A Corinthian fleet of 150 ships fought 100 ships from Corcyra near the Corcyran island of Sybota. Ten ships from Athens maneuvered in and out of the fray to assist Corcyran ships in trouble, but their instructions were to avoid ramming Corinthian ships if possible. Eventually, the Athenians ended up in direct fighting against the Corinthians.

Both sides claimed victory. In the first round of battle, the Corinthians scattered Corcyra’s ships and took about 1,000 prisoners. Getting ready for a second round, the Corinthians retreated when they saw the sails of additional ships coming from Athens. Taking a longer view, Thucydides notes that this encounter gave Corinth grounds to accuse Athens of breaking its treaty with the Peloponnesian League. The Peloponnesian War began soon afterward.

Next up, Archidamus:

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