Weekly Journal #4: Alicibiades and His People

Tuesday September 15, 2015

9:40–11:01 PM (One Hour and Twenty-One Minutes)

In Tuesday’s, we began to discuss the merits of Alicibades’ leadership. Is he effective? How well does he communicate with his constituency? Before delving into this topic in depth, however, we learned about the political climate during the majority of Alicbiades’ life: the Peloponnesian War. Similar to children, like myself, who grew up and remain to grow up Post 9/11, Alicibiades lived the majority of his adult life as a general during the war. It shaped his culture and understanding of his surroudings.

The majority of the class’ efforts went toward understanding the Athenian governing system. This is central to understanding several of the recorded speeches of Alcibiades; for, the Athenians governed themselves with a democracy with the agent of an assembly, the Ekklesia. This is important to understand because appealing to the Ekklesia, is not as “intimate” a conversational speech in relation to the Senate floor, for example. While there are only a total of one hundred U.S. Senators, there maybe 5 times — or more — that amount of Athenian citizens sitting in the Ekklesia. Because of this, Alicibiades would have had to have impeccable speaking and relatability skills in order to move such a large number of voters.

We discussed the pros and cons of adopting a democracy as a governmental structure. It is quite different from the democratic-republic the United States was modeled after. In a democracy, the citizens of a nations are wholly in charge of their votes. Due to the educational and behavioral dynamics of the laymen, many nations have chosen to adopt characteristics of a democracy, instead of implementing a system where citizens can directly vote. In politics, there is always the responsibility to ensure that people are heard, however, most nations choose to hear from the “right people.” In other words, a representative democracy allows the citizens to elect figures who they believe will cast a vote that most aligns with their own beliefs.

We compared and contrasted the characteristics of the Ekklesia to a meeting area in American politics that is most similar. Dr. Sandridge chose the Lincoln Memorial, and I agree with his proposition. Though the U.S. government has the Capital, where various congressmen and congress woman go about legislating, that area is rarely open to the average American for proposing a political deicsion. The Lincoln Memorial, or maybe the entirety of the monuments on the National Mall, are more apporpriate because droves of Americans may walk and commune freely in this place every day. Often important political figures choose to speak at the Lincoln Memorial or near the Washington Monument to appeal to the social climate of the nation. Interestingly, the topics of many of my classmates’ speechs at the Lincoln Memorial were centered on social change. I believe the Lincoln Memorial, or the like, is the most appropriate venue for American politicians because the open area and sense of owernship can easily inspire others to listen and aspire to do more.

Wednesday September 16, 2015

3:02–5:34 PM (Two Hours and Thirty-Two Minutes)

Plutarch records the extent of Alcibiades’ charm extensively. It has aided him in many areas of his leadership, including his speaking abilities. Though Alicibiades is known to have natural speaking abilities in his attractiveness of his voice, Plutarch also detailed the work that Alicibiades put in to his speeches in order to appeal to the greatest number of his audience members.

It can also be said that Alcibiades is also gifted in foreign policy (at least, on the surface). To his credit, he is easily able to manipulate the leaders of other cities to do his will. This is mostly likely due to one of the most influential qualities of psychopathic leadership: charm. Under his guide, Athens is able to acheive many of their goals. In combination with war alliances and treaties, he is able to manipulate cities, like Sparta, to turn against each other. In fact, Alcibiades is able to entrance Sparta on the basis of his actions alone. During a large passage in which Plutarch describes Alcibiades’ chameleon-like abilities, the Spartans are intrigued by every one of his actions. He was put on a high pedastal. This also plays into the true meanining of “chameleon” that Dr. Sandridge gave us in class: ground-lion. In this sense, Alcibiades is able to lay low, and play along with the Spartans by entertaining them with his grades actions; however, through this and other tactics he iable to manipulate their leaders to do his will. The satrap, Tissaphernes, was a long-time victim to the manipulative charm of Alicibiades. Though this worked in Athens’ favor for a time, eventually Alcibiades had to take repurcussions for his actions. After accusation from the Spartans, Tissaphernes finally turned is back on Alcibiades and arrests him. Unfortunately for Tissaphernes, Alicibiades has the innate desire to always, without fail, come out of any problem victorious and eventually ruins Tissaphernes’ credibility once again.

I am quite impressed with Alcibiades’ wicked diplomacy. Though I do not agree with manipulating others for personal gain, I am sure that America’s foreign policy would not suffer from Alcibiades’ help (I am also sure that his secretive and slippery tactics would be exposed, maybe sometime after his death). My only concern with this aspect of leadership is his stubborness and inability to listen to others. If Alcibiades were a part of our government’s forces overseas, I would not want him to become enamored with the idea of having his bloodline on another nation’s throne, so much so that he cannot help but to impregnante its queen. Though the majority of repurcissions of consequences from these incidents would fall on Alcibiades himself, it would paint America in a very negative light. It is easy to understand the Athenians simultaneous distate and reverance for Alicibiades.

If I were a U.S. Senator I would feel a responsibility to:

  1. Represent my consituents to the ability
  2. My internal moral code
  3. My family
  4. My city
  5. My state
  6. The integrity of holding office
  7. Respect my colleageous no matter their political affiliation
  8. Uphold the integrity of the Constitution
  9. The law
  10. Adequately represent and protect the safety of the American people, and possible citizens of foreign nations who my laws and votes may affect
  11. Represent myself as one who works soley in the interests of others

These are the most responsbilities that I can think of at the moment. The job of a U. S. Senator, in my opinion, is to balance representing both your home state and your nation. If I were imagining the life of a U.S. Representative, my devotions might be a little more skewed to my districts and my state. I see the House of Representatives as an attempt to represent the individual American people in the best way people. Because there are only two senators per state, the purpose of their votes are not necessarily in proportion to the number of American citizens who are concerned about the law at hand. A Senator most think in terms of the nation as a whole, and who his or her State fits into that decision. As a Senator, I believe that I would absolutely need to act in the interests of both Americans and those of other nations. As a member of the governing body that ratifies treaties and declares war, I should always keep in mind the nations who these laws would affect. I would never want to impose malpractices onto civilians who cannot speak for their government. As a Senator, I represent the United States, which as a whole has the ability and resources to help those in need. I would want to see the United States represented as a welcoming and generous country who thinks in everyone’s interests, not just the voices of the loudest majorities.

Thursday September 17, 2015

9:40–11:00 PM (One Hour and Twenty Minutes)

In today’s lecture, we took a deeper at the passages in which Plutarch mentions Alcibiades speaking to large number of people. It was interesting to note the effect that Alicbiades had in Greek history. I did not know about Demosthenes and his title as the “most powerful of orators.” His mentioning the power of Alicibiades’ speach more than a century after his death, shows his influence on Greek culture; he revereance has a significant permanence.

Sunday September 20, 2015

10:57–2:22 PM (Three Hours and Twenty Five Minutes)

I spent this day reviewing the week and updating my blog post. I also delved once again into the world of Alcibiades in search of his general responses to an authoritative voice. Most often, Alicbiades is obedient; however, when he feels some sense of injustice or incompetency will surely will not hesistate to not only speak out against the wrongdoing, but also reprimand his teacher for wronging him. This behavior is unsurprising due to Alcibiades’ unwavering self-confidence and stubborness. He is never slow to tout his own accomplishments and ensure that his surroundings, peers, and activities are up to par.

Interestingly enough, this inclination to only experience “the best,” is just a strong, if not stronger, than his weakness exhibited in his relationship with Socrates. At least during Alcibiades’ younger years, Socrates is an extremely strong influence, and can be said to be the force behind him; he also sought to humble him. This dynamic is so unique because Alcibiades is only so forthcoming with Socrates. So much so, that he willingly expresses his flaws in the presence of his teacher. The attraction is also not only on the side of Alcibiades’, for Socrates seeks to separate him from his numerous other lovers. However unsual this extreme mentor — mentee relationship, Alcibiades and Socrates treat each other with reverence and respect. They also will gor thorough any obstacle to keep each other safe in battle. In short, the only authoritative figure from whom Alcibiades is willing to accept adversity is Socrates.

I would say that Alcibiades enjoys being the “trickster” of the party, or, at least, this is possible effect that alcohol has on his behavior. There are few examples of Alcibiades at parties; however, I think they relate to his self-portrayal to the people Athens — and beyond — of his love for lavishness. It contributes to his patterned behavior of enthralling his people with his lovely and charming image; while also angering them for being so boisterous in his appearance.

This paradoxic dynamic relates to political figures, and other leaders of today. There is a fine line that, say, the president must walk in order to entertain the citizens of America, while also appearing humbled by his or her position. There are often criticisms from American taxpayers because the president “frivously” spends their hard-earned money on vacations, and lavish additions to Air Force One. Maybe they have a point (though I must point out that this criticism is only directed toward the current POTUS and FLOTUS in office); however, would they prefer the absolution of the President’s personal plane or helicopter? These are well known status symbols of the American presidency, much like the White House, and they are mostly spoken about in reverence and endearment. Just like a high school principal must keep his or her composure and appear charming while chatting with students’ parents at school function, there is also a certain composure that a leader must maintain. I have mentioned before how Alcibiades is able to keep the respect of his people for his many successes as a general, this is why he is able to flounce around in his lavish robes and maintain his mighty stature.

Monday September 21, 2015

4:00–5:27 PM (One Hour and Twenty-Seven Minutes)

I found Nepos’ biography of Alcibiades to be very interesting. He mention in very short detail several events and descriptions at also occur in Plutarch’s version: his lineage, his sporadic behavior, his relationship with Socrates, his co-generals, his lavishness, his impeachment, his manipulation of the Persian satrap, the Athenians’ gracious welcoming, and his deaf. I think this brevity is related to the time period in which this biography was written. It is possible the Plutarch chose to (or was forced to) focus on Alcibiades’ appearance, personality, and personal relationships because these aspects were upheld better with time. It reasonable to assume that Nepos to access to knowledge about Alcibiades’ battles. Instead of mentioning them briefly, or in passing, like Plutarch, Nepos expounds upon many of the battles in the Peloponnesian War. He may have felt that these stories expressed Alcibiades’ character more strongly as opposed to having a strong focus on his lineage, lovers, and childhood, like Plutarch. I think a recent example for America would be the contrast between the Civil War and the Revolutionary War; or even, the Civil War and World War II. As time goes on, history tends to focus overall characteristics (Who, What, When, Where, Why) of the war, rather than going into the logistics and details of the individual. There is also a stronger emphasis of the individual leaders and solidiers that are involved in the war, as it is easier to recount their vague experiences and their personalities.