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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


their resources for the war.
Immediately after the affair at Plataea, Lacedaemon sent round
orders to the cities in Peloponnese and the rest of her confederacy to
prepare troops and the provisions requisite for a foreign campaign, in
order to invade Attica. The several states were ready at the time
appointed and assembled at the Isthmus: the contingent of each city
being two-thirds of its whole force. After the whole army had
mustered, the Lacedaemonian king, Archidamus, the leader of the
expedition, called together the generals of all the states and the
principal persons and officers, and exhorted them as follows:
"Peloponnesians and allies, our fathers made many campaigns both
within and without Peloponnese, and the elder men among us here are
not without experience in war. Yet we have never set out with a larger
force than the present; and if our numbers and efficiency are
remarkable, so also is the power of the state against which we
march. We ought not then to show ourselves inferior to our
ancestors, or unequal to our own reputation. For the hopes and
attention of all Hellas are bent upon the present effort, and its
sympathy is with the enemy of the hated Athens. Therefore, numerous as
the invading army may appear to be, and certain as some may think it
that our adversary will not meet us in the field, this is no sort of
justification for the least negligence upon the march; but the
officers and men of each particular city should always be prepared for
the advent of danger in their own quarters. The course of war cannot
be foreseen, and its attacks are generally dictated by the impulse
of the moment; and where overweening self-confidence has despised
preparation, a wise apprehension often been able to make head
against superior numbers. Not that confidence is out of place in an
army of invasion, but in an enemy's country it should also be
accompanied by the precautions of apprehension: troops will by this
combination be best inspired for dealing a blow, and best secured
against receiving one. In the present instance, the city against which
we are going, far from being so impotent for defence, is on the
contrary most excellently equipped at all points; so that we have
every reason to expect that they will take the field against us, and
that if they have not set out already before we are there, they will
certainly do so when they see us in their territory wasting and
destroying their property. For men are always exasperated at suffering
injuries to which they are not accustomed, and on seeing them
inflicted before their very eyes; and where least inclined for
reflection, rush with the greatest heat to action. The Athenians are
the very people of all others to do this, as they aspire to rule the
rest of the world, and are more in the habit of invading and
ravaging their neighbours' territory, than of seeing their own treated
in the like fashion. Considering, therefore, the power of the state
against which we are marching, and the greatness of the reputation
which, according to the event, we shall win or lose for our
ancestors and ourselves, remember as you follow where you may be led
to regard discipline and vigilance as of the first importance, and
to obey with alacrity the orders transmitted to you; as nothing
contributes so much to the credit and safety of an army as the union
of large bodies by a single discipline."
With this brief speech dismissing the assembly, Archidamus first
sent off Melesippus, son of Diacritus, a Spartan, to Athens, in case
she should be more inclined to submit on seeing the Peloponnesians
actually on the march. But the Athenians did not admit into the city
or to their assembly, Pericles having already carried a motion against
admitting either herald or embassy from the Lacedaemonians after
they had once marched out.
The herald was accordingly sent away without an audience, and
ordered to be beyond the frontier that same day; in future, if those
who sent him had a proposition to make, they must retire to their
own territory before they dispatched embassies to Athens. An escort
was sent with Melesippus to prevent his holding communication with any

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