The Voice of the Melian: the City Begins where the City Ends, Part I
In the latest comments on “Remember Melos”, itself a comment on a dialogue to which comment can only be late, Finny tries to read the voices of Athens and Melos. This reading begs the question: where is it that these voices can be heard? In what forum, what agora, what city can Athens and Melos have anything to say to each other? What assembly, and what sort of speech begins with the recognition that the conversation has been closed? An assembly in which the voices of the haunted campaigner Thucydides, the wildered rainscape, the decapitated schoolmaster, the dread pirate Roberts, Wesley, John Donne, and the sad-smile call of Socrates are irresistably drawn to make their too late comment.
Finny: “The voice of the Melians is a little harder to read. You could read a sly, knowing smile and a sort of wild eye into their response (something like Wesley’s “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.” in the Princess Bride) . . . In any event, his response is exactly the kind that should’ve halted Athens in its tracks. You might read it once again in the voice of Wesley saying ‘Please’ to the Dread Pirate Roberts, the tone of which was enough to startle and intrigue Roberts. “Please…I need to live.” Maybe there is too much hope in that voice. Or maybe not- the tone of Wesley’s voice might be altered in the telling, since he knew how it would work out- he knew he would live. The Melian’s voice, as it appears in my head, is a little bit more sorrowfully resolute. The kind of voice you use when you’ve passed a point of no return and are therefore no longer hampered by protocol, and can simply speak the truth. It is not the voice of International Relations. It is the voice of one man speaking to another. It is a voice to which Athens is no longer accustomed. And it is a voice, like the voice of Socrates, that is calling them, simply to be Athenians.”
What city begins where the city ends?