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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


objects by instant and zealous effort: do not send heralds to
Lacedaemon, and do not betray any sign of being oppressed by your
present sufferings, since they whose minds are least sensitive to
calamity, and whose hands are most quick to meet it, are the
greatest men and the greatest communities."
Such were the arguments by which Pericles tried to cure the
Athenians of their anger against him and to divert their thoughts from
their immediate afflictions. As a community he succeeded in convincing
them; they not only gave up all idea of sending to Lacedaemon, but
applied themselves with increased energy to the war; still as
private individuals they could not help smarting under their
sufferings, the common people having been deprived of the little
that they were possessed, while the higher orders had lost fine
properties with costly establishments and buildings in the country,
and, worst of all, had war instead of peace. In fact, the public
feeling against him did not subside until he had been fined. Not
long afterwards, however, according to the way of the multitude,
they again elected him general and committed all their affairs to
his hands, having now become less sensitive to their private and
domestic afflictions, and understanding that he was the best man of
all for the public necessities. For as long as he was at the head of
the state during the peace, he pursued a moderate and conservative
policy; and in his time its greatness was at its height. When the
war broke out, here also he seems to have rightly gauged the power
of his country. He outlived its commencement two years and six months,
and the correctness of his previsions respecting it became better
known by his death. He told them to wait quietly, to pay attention
to their marine, to attempt no new conquests, and to expose the city
to no hazards during the war, and doing this, promised them a
favourable result. What they did was the very contrary, allowing
private ambitions and private interests, in matters apparently quite
foreign to the war, to lead them into projects unjust both to
themselves and to their allies- projects whose success would only
conduce to the honour and advantage of private persons, and whose
failure entailed certain disaster on the country in the war. The
causes of this are not far to seek. Pericles indeed, by his rank,
ability, and known integrity, was enabled to exercise an independent
control over the multitude- in short, to lead them instead of being
led by them; for as he never sought power by improper means, he was
never compelled to flatter them, but, on the contrary, enjoyed so high
an estimation that he could afford to anger them by contradiction.
Whenever he saw them unseasonably and insolently elated, he would with
a word reduce them to alarm; on the other hand, if they fell victims
to a panic, he could at once restore them to confidence. In short,
what was nominally a democracy became in his hands government by the
first citizen. With his successors it was different. More on a level
with one another, and each grasping at supremacy, they ended by
committing even the conduct of state affairs to the whims of the
multitude. This, as might have been expected in a great and
sovereign state, produced a host of blunders, and amongst them the
Sicilian expedition; though this failed not so much through a
miscalculation of the power of those against whom it was sent, as
through a fault in the senders in not taking the best measures
afterwards to assist those who had gone out, but choosing rather to
occupy themselves with private cabals for the leadership of the
commons, by which they not only paralysed operations in the field, but
also first introduced civil discord at home. Yet after losing most
of their fleet besides other forces in Sicily, and with faction
already dominant in the city, they could still for three years make
head against their original adversaries, joined not only by the
Sicilians, but also by their own allies nearly all in revolt, and at
last by the King's son, Cyrus, who furnished the funds for the
Peloponnesian navy. Nor did they finally succumb till they fell the
victims of their own intestine disorders. So superfluously abundant

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