Ancient & Modern

By Jones, Peter | The Spectator, February 17, 2007 | Go to article overview

Ancient & Modern


Jones, Peter, The Spectator


Cooked turkey is perfectly safe to eat, but no one is buying it because of a scare which has nothing to do with cooked meat.

Parents refuse to give their children the MMR vaccine when there is no evidence that it will harm them. Officials close schools because there is snow on the ground. Is the population of this country preternaturally thick, or what? The contrast with the classical Athenians is telling.

In 431 BC , Athens and Sparta locked horns in war. Since Athens' strength lay in the sea but Sparta's on land, Sparta immediately launched a land assault.

Many gung-ho Athenians were all for taking Sparta on, especially the farmers, since livelihood would be destroyed by Spartan ravaging of Attica. Debate was fiercely engaged by Athenian citizens in the Assembly -- in those unique times of real democracy, citizens in Assembly made all the decisions -- and it says much for their ability to understand the heart of the problem and then act on it that they reached the following astonishing conclusion: far from confronting the formidable Spartan army on land, they decided that the entire population of Attica should abandon the countryside and retreat within Athens' Long Walls that encircled the city and its harbour, Piraeus. …

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