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“Notes on Thucydides”

The dialogue between the Athenians and the Melians in Thucydides’ famous essay “The Peloponnesian War” remains important and current for several reasons:

1.  Society Based on Horrible Crimes:

Montinari interprets Nietzsche’s “blond beast” as revealing that human society is founded on terrible acts. This is reflected in Thucydides’ history, where the Athenians, despite being seen as educators and lovers of beauty and wisdom, exert brutality against the Melians. Thus, both Nietzsche and Thucydides do not glorify violence but acknowledge it as an inescapable reality in power relations.
2. Justice among Equal Powers:
Nietzsche perceives justice to emerge when powers of similar strength interact, as highlighted by Thucydides in the Melian-Athenian dialogue. Here, justice arises from a balance of power where negotiation and fair treatment are possible. This contrasts the notion of universal or moral justice with a justice that emerges from power relations.
3. War as a Human Phenomenon:
Thucydides treats war not as an event governed by chance but as a human, calculable, and predictable phenomenon. This viewpoint is shared by Sun Tzu, who sees war as an art dependent on human factors such as morale, climate, terrain, command, and logistics. War thus becomes a domain of scientific study, not left to chance.
4. Rejection of Fortune as a Determinant in War:
Both Thucydides and Sun Tzu, like Nietzsche, view fortune as a secondary factor in war. Strategic planning, human understanding, and analysis are deemed more crucial, opposing the view of war governed by unpredictable or random elements.
5. Cultural and Philosophical Influence:
The reflections of Thucydides and Nietzsche on war and justice are rooted in a broader cultural and philosophical context. For example, Indian military philosophy by Kautilya and Chinese literature show parallels with their ideas, emphasizing the importance of intelligence and strategy in warfare.

In summary, Nietzsche and Thucydides, through their works, present a pragmatic and realistic view of war, justice, and power relations. They recognize violence and conflict as fundamental elements of human nature and social structures, emphasizing the importance of strategy, planning, and the balance of forces rather than chance or fortune.

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