Saturday, May 23, 2020
This weekend, the frivolity is a bit different. Please share in the comments your recommendations for materials on contagion and confinement well-suited for reading while in isolation. Extra credit if there is a contracts law hook!
We'll get things started with Thucydides' account of the plague that hit Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides' account is notable for its placement directly after Pericles' Funeral oration. Having given space for a speech that encapsulates all that was best in Athenian society, Thucydides then artfully demonstrates the precarity of refined existences. This paragraph sums up the psychology of terror that serves as the midwife of social collapse:
So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day. Perseverance in what men called honor was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honorable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them.
Thucydides is silent on the matter, but it is to be presumed that even contractual obligations gave way, with or without force majeure clauses, in the chaotic climax of the plague