Melian negotiators, the Athenians remark that, in the event of Athens being vanquished, they would have less to fear from the vengeance of Sparta than from the vindictiveness of smaller States. The reference here is unmistakable. After the surrender of Athens in 404 B.C., a congress was held at Sparta in which the destruction of the defeated city was advocated, according to Xenophon, "by the Corinthians and Thebans chiefly, but by many other Greeks too." It was by the Spartan vote that Athens was saved.
The effect of such touches as these—suggested by a knowledge of occurrences subsequent to the dramatic date—may be compared with that produced in a Greek tragedy when one of the persons unconsciously utters a word or phrase which foreshadows the catastrophe. The spectator who knows the destined end of the drama is affected in the same manner as the reader who knows the sequel of the history. In using such touches, however, Thucydides was probably thinking more of logical than of artistic effect. His mind, with its strong concentration, grasped the whole series of arguments or illustrations which the experiences of the war could yield; and he brought the most forcible of these to bear on his point without caring whether the facts which suggested them were earlier or later than the supposed date.
§ 7. It has already been remarked that the ad-
- Thuc. v. 91.
- Xen. Hellen. ii. 2, §§ 19—20.