In his analysis of stasis at Corcyra (3.82-83) Thucydides notices how, under the pressure of civil strife, people’s use of language is transformed. Recognizing Thucydides’ intense interest in the topic scholars have found it reflected also outside the chapters on stasis (Cohen 1984, 45; Connor 1984, 100-1; Macleod 1984a, 96 and 1984b, 108-9, 114-15; Loraux 2009, 281-83; Pelling 2012, 311). Taking the same approach as these scholars I aim to show that the word σωφροσÏνη comes under pressure during the great debate at Sparta (1.67-87). I will focus the investigation on the Spartan king Archidamus who attempts to counteract what he considers to be a distorting use of σωφροσÏνη. In doing so he becomes an alter ego of Thucydides’ own authorial voice at 3.82-83. Yet at the same time the dominance of the new language forces Archidamus to make concessions.
At the debate in Sparta, the Corinthians repeatedly characterize the Spartans as hesitant (1.69.4; 1.70.4; 1.71.1) and slow (1.71.4). Archidamus tries to show that the Corinthians are changing the reference of language by using derogatory words to describe a behavior that people used to consider σá¿¶φρον. He tells the Spartans not to be ashamed of τá½¸ μÎλλον and τá½¸ βραδÏ and continues: καá½¶ δÏναται μÎ¬λιστα σωφροσÏνη á¼”μφρων τοá¿¦τ’ εá¼¶ναι (“And this mode of behavior signifies in the truest sense sensible moderation”; 1.84.1). Since τá½¸ βραδÏ and τá½¸ μÎλλον are words used by the Corinthians, Archidamus is correcting the Corinthians’ use of words. In their revised use of language the Corinthians foreshadow the revolutionaries at Corcyra, while Archidamus takes on the authorial role of Thucydides.
Unlike Archidamus, the ephor Sthenelaidas urges the Spartans to take an aggressive course of action by going to war against Athens. A σÏŽφρων-word appears also in his speech: καá½¶ τοá½ºς ξυμμÎ¬χους, á¼¢ν σωφρονá¿¶μεν, οá½ περιοψÏŒμεθα á¼€δικουμÎνους οá½δá½² μελλÎ®σομεν τιμωρεá¿–ν (“And if we are prudent, we will not allow that injustice is committed against our allies, nor will we hesitate to take revenge on their behalf”; 1.86.2). Sthenelaidas considers an aggressive policy σá¿¶φρον and thinks that deliberation is inappropriate for the Spartans (1.86.4). Archidamus senses that Sthenelaidas is promoting an inverted understanding of σωφροσÏνη by equating it with abstention from reflection. In order to oppose this view, Archidamus recalls the basic ideas inherent in σωφροσÏνη as it was traditionally understood: its opposition to á½•βρις (1.84.1), its kinship with αá¼°δÏŽς (1.84.3), and its ties with εá½βουλÎ¯α (1.84.3; cf. 1.80.2; 82.4; 84.4; 85.1; 85.2).
Thus Archidamus’ outlook mirrors the analysis that Thucydides develops in the chapters on stasis. Both Thucydides and Archidamus notice that people begin to use language in a different way than they used to, and they both recognize that this shift constitutes an attack on virtues which “might be summed up in forethought and prudence” (Edmunds 1975, 92). Therefore they agree that the new language undermines σωφροσÏνη.
Yet unlike the authorial voice of the Pathology, Archidamus is implicated in the processes he tries to curb. At one point in his speech he endorses an understanding of σωφροσÏνη as á¼€μαθÎ¯α (“ignorance”; 1.84.3). In order to win the favor of his audience he is compelled to pay lip-service to Sthenelaidas’ view. Archidamus feels the need to adopt elements of the position which he tries to oppose, but in making concessions, Archidamus comes to foreshadow Cleon in the Mytilenean Debate. When Cleon whole-heartedly equates σωφροσÏνη with ignorance and promotes rashness, his wording (3.37.3) closely resembles that of Archidamus (1.84.3). Thus Thucydides puts forward Archidamus as the paradigm of the noble figure who becomes entangled in a tragic struggle against the destructive political forces of the Peloponnesian War. Even when he speaks up against the dangerous new mode of language, he is forced to pay lip-service to it and thereby contributes to the spread of the new way of speaking.