FACTS AND FIGURES
One day, during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, President Kennedy and his advisers were discussing the pros and cons of mounting an invasion of Cuba. They had as good as decided to go ahead, at which point they called into the room a senior officer of military intelligence to ask for his informed appreciation. He had come prepared, and produced a large map of the United States, which he pinned up on a board. 'Mr President, gentlemen,' he said, if I were to place the eastern tip of Cuba on New York City, would you like to say how far the island would stretch across this map?. Various estimates were offered, the most generous reckoning that it might reach about as far as to Philadelphia. The officer said nothing, but took out a cut-out of Cuba to the same scale and placed it over the larger map. It reached from Manhattan Island to Chicago. There were gasps of surprise; but there was more to come. The officer proceeded to place a minute black spot onto the map. 'Is that Havana?', asked the President. 'No, sir, that is Iwo Jima to the same scale. You will recall that Iwo Jima cost us over twenty thousand casualties.' The invasion idea was shelved for further consideration.
Whether that story is true, or true in every detail, is of no great consequence: se non è vero è ben trovato, and it serves to underline how important it is to get our sense of scale right. It is easy to misjudge areas and distances if we do not know them well, or to lose a true sense of the passage of time if things happened long ago. So it is necessary to begin an account of the classical Athenian democracy with a discussion of a number of unexciting facts and figures.
Most of the states of classical Greece were tiny by modern standards. Although Athens was one of the largest of them, its superficial area of about 1,000 square miles was only the