Time Capsule #62
The Melian Dialogue, classical music, and the best story in the world.
Welcome to the Time Capsule — a weekly newsletter that discusses the practicalities of life and explores the wisdom, ideas, and events of the past to help you build a better future.
💭 Quote of the Week
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
✏️ The Melian Dialogue
The strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.
Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War
In the summer of 416 BC, Athens sent a sizeable military force to the island of Melos. Melos was a former Spartan colony that had initially taken a neutral stance to the war, refusing to help either side. But after the Athenians laid waste to some of their lands, they began to support the Spartan war effort.
The Athenian expeditionary force was led by Cleomedes and Tisias, who began by sending diplomatic representatives to the Melians. The Athenian emissaries laid an ultimatum: join our alliance or war. The Melians tried to reason with the Athenians: other neutral Greek states may see this and choose to align with the Spartans; it would be shameful for them to go out without a fight; because their position is morally just the gods will be on their side; the Spartans may come to their defence. The Athenians dismissed these arguments as delusion: in war, appealing to justice, morality, and uncertainties will not help the Melians. Still, the Melians would not agree to such unfavourable terms.
When the Athenian representatives returned unsuccessfully, the army besieged the city, building a wall around the city of Melos and blockading it by land and sea. The Melians fought bravely to break the siege, but to no avail. After the arrival of Athenian reinforcements, vigorous siege operations began. Melos surrendered later that winter.
The Athenians executed the adult men, sold the women and children into slavery, and settled 500 of their own men to colonize the island.
The Melian Dialogue is taught across military academies around the world as a case study in realpolitik: in times of war, selfishness and pragmatism are enough to motivate a country to war. Even if their justification is laid on unjust and immoral foundations.
📸 Photo of the Week
📖 Book of the Week — Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy
Considered the “best story in the world” by famous literature critic Harold Bloom, the Hadji Murat is a novella by Leo Tolstoy published originally in 1912. It was one of his last major literary works before his death — in the year before his death, his wife wrote in her diary: “I have done nothing but copy out Hadji Murat”.
I would love to write a biography of Leo Tolstoy one day: reading about his life and personal struggles, which provide much context for his literary works, is fascinating.
💡 Food for Thought
What do you want to learn in the next phase of your life/career?
🔭 Sunday Best
Classical music is the theme this week!
Beethoven - 2nd Movement of the Pathetique Sonata — played by Michiel Roosen
Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2 — played by Vadim Chaimovich
Beethoven's Für Elise — played by Seymour Bernstein. I love this piece, and in my prime, as a below-average 13-year-old pianist, could play the first phase.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s newsletter,