On Saturday 3rd February 2024, a special performance of Colin Murphy’s ‘The Invasion of Melos’ was performed in the very atmospheric Council Chambers of Dublin City Hall as part of the Classics Now Festival. Originally, inspired by the events of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Colin Murphy – a columnist with the Sunday Independent, and accomplished playwright and screenwriter – turned to Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue in Book 5 of the Peloponnesian War in order to explore the themes of justice and law in relation to military conquest.
Athens had laid siege to the neutral island of Melos in 416 BC and, after offering its oligarchy a chance to readily submit to becoming part of the Athenian Empire to avoid destruction, the Melian magistrates refused; the victorious Athenians subsequently killed all the men on the island and enslaved the women and children. Thucydides deliberately composed a Dialogue to reflect upon to the morality of power, and imperial justification and defence. In the discussion between the two sides, questions about self-interest, international rights, and equality are all brought to the fore.
Colin Murphy’s adaptation of the Dialogue modernises the debate between the Athenians and the Melians, with the express intention to draw attention to current geopolitical conflicts. The performance was followed by a in-depth panel discussion, which examined the cultural context of the Dialogue and traced the history of ‘realist’ school of foreign policy. The panel was chaired by Sarah Carey, a columnist with the Irish Independent, and included Naval Vice Admiral and former Defence Chief Ireland, Mark Mellett, professor of moral theology, Dr Tobias Winwright, and Hellene School Travel’s very own Classicist, Dr Kerry Phelan.
Photo credit Cormac Kinsella (@CormacKinsella on X)
From Colin Murphy’s script