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Athenian resilience after the epidemic

The epidemic thus hurt the Athenians materially by devastating their population, politically by removing their foremost leader, Pericles1, and psychologically by damaging their self-confidence. Nevertheless, they fought on resiliently. Despite the loss of manpower inflicted by the epidemic, the Athenian military forces proved effective. Potidaea, the ally whose rebellion had exacerbated the hostile relations between Athens and Corinth, was compelled to surrender in 430.2 The Athenian navy won two major victories in 429 off Naupactus3 in the western Gulf of Corinth under the general Phormio. A serious revolt in 428-427 on the island of Lesbos, led by the city-state of Mytilene,4 was forcefully put down. One of the most famous passages in Thucydides is the set of vivid speeches on the fate of the Mytilenians presented by Cleon and Diodotus. The opposing speeches respectively argue for capital punishment based on justice and clemency based on expediency. Their arguments represent stirring and provocative positions that bear on larger political and ethical questions than the immediate issue of what to do about the rebels of Mytilene.5

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