Micropolitan Dialogue

Through this activity, students were challenged to think critically about the rhetoric which drove the events of the Peloponnesian war. 

Activity: Micropolitan Dialogue


  • The goal of the Micropolitan Dialogue was to have students think critically about the rhetoric which drove the events of the Peloponnesian war, and to confront assumptions concerning the motivations of both the major actors (Athens and Sparta) and the minor cities and towns which were subject to the whims of these powerful city-states, in particular that the Athenian case was stronger than the Spartan case.

Class: Classical Studies 97a – Greek Culture and Civilization


In this single class activity, students were expected to have read selections from Thucydides' Peloponnesian War in preparation for a debate. The instructor purposefully modeled the structure of the debate on episodes preserved in Thucydides text, so that students would think critically about the rhetoric of the time, while also, addressing their own preconceptions.


Before Class:

  • The instructor identified relevant passages in Thucydides which would be most helpful for students' preparation for the debate, and provided references to the students in the handout.

In Class Activity:

  • Students were broken into two groups. In each group, two subgroups were formed which represented the diplomatic parties of the Peloponnesian and Delian Leagues, respectively.
  • Students were asked to get together in their groups and develop a structure for their cases (using the rhetoric preserved in Thucydides) as a foundation for their argument that Micropolis, the hypothetical neutral city, should side with their respective League.
  • Each group was allowed an opening statement, in which they would present their argument, and a rebuttal, in which they would respond to the case presented by the rival group and reiterate their own case.
  • Students engaged in the debate, and offered their arguments to the ersatz tyrants (i.e., the TFs). The TF would then pass judgment on the debate by choosing a side, and would open the discussion to all parties, addressing rhetorical pitfalls and assumptions which proved false.


  • None. The end product was the debate itself.
  • It was important to be clear from the outset how the debate contributed to and complemented what was being addressed in the course, or else the debate would have suffered from lack of motivation. It also helped to add some humor where warranted.
  • The instructor shared that debates are useful when one needs to effectively address multiple aspects of a situation, a key component displayed in Thucydides' account of the war.

Submitted by Anthony Shannon, Department of the Classics, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



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