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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   


are now come the moment that we were able, prepared with your aid to
do our best to subdue them. Meanwhile I am astonished at finding
your gates shut against me, and at not meeting with a better
welcome. We Lacedaemonians thought of you as allies eager to have
us, to whom we should come in spirit even before we were with you in
body; and in this expectation undertook all the risks of a march of
many days through a strange country, so far did our zeal carry us.
It will be a terrible thing if after this you have other intentions,
and mean to stand in the way of your own and Hellenic freedom. It is
not merely that you oppose me yourselves; but wherever I may go people
will be less inclined to join me, on the score that you, to whom I
first came- an important town like Acanthus, and prudent men like the
Acanthians- refused to admit me. I shall have nothing to prove that
the reason which I advance is the true one; it will be said either
that there is something unfair in the freedom which I offer, or that
I am in insufficient force and unable to protect you against an
attack from Athens. Yet when I went with the army which I now have to
the relief of Nisaea, the Athenians did not venture to engage me
although in greater force than I; and it is not likely they will
ever send across sea against you an army as numerous as they had at
Nisaea. And for myself, I have come here not to hurt but to free the
Hellenes, witness the solemn oaths by which I have bound my government
that the allies that I may bring over shall be independent; and
besides my object in coming is not by force or fraud to obtain your
alliance, but to offer you mine to help you against your Athenian
masters. I protest, therefore, against any suspicions of my intentions
after the guarantees which I offer, and equally so against doubts of
my ability to protect you, and I invite you to join me without
hesitation.
"Some of you may hang back because they have private enemies, and
fear that I may put the city into the hands of a party: none need be
more tranquil than they. I am not come here to help this party or
that; and I do not consider that I should be bringing you freedom in
any real sense, if I should disregard your constitution, and enslave
the many to the few or the few to the many. This would be heavier than
a foreign yoke; and we Lacedaemonians, instead of being thanked for
our pains, should get neither honour nor glory, but, contrariwise,
reproaches. The charges which strengthen our hands in the war
against the Athenians would on our own showing be merited by
ourselves, and more hateful in us than in those who make no
pretensions to honesty; as it is more disgraceful for persons of
character to take what they covet by fair-seeming fraud than by open
force; the one aggression having for its justification the might which
fortune gives, the other being simply a piece of clever roguery. A
matter which concerns us thus nearly we naturally look to most
jealously; and over and above the oaths that I have mentioned, what
stronger assurance can you have, when you see that our words, compared
with the actual facts, produce the necessary conviction that it is our
interest to act as we say?
"If to these considerations of mine you put in the plea of
inability, and claim that your friendly feeling should save you from
being hurt by your refusal; if you say that freedom, in your
opinion, is not without its dangers, and that it is right to offer
it to those who can accept it, but not to force it on any against
their will, then I shall take the gods and heroes of your country to
witness that I came for your good and was rejected, and shall do my
best to compel you by laying waste your land. I shall do so without
scruple, being justified by the necessity which constrains me,
first, to prevent the Lacedaemonians from being damaged by you,
their friends, in the event of your nonadhesion, through the moneys
that you pay to the Athenians; and secondly, to prevent the Hellenes
from being hindered by you in shaking off their servitude. Otherwise
indeed we should have no right to act as we propose; except in the
name of some public interest, what call should we Lacedaemonians

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