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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   

consideration to a matter of such moment, or let ourselves be
persuaded by foreigners into undertaking a war with which we have
nothing to do. And yet, individually, I gain in honour by such a
course, and fear as little as other men for my person- not that I
think a man need be any the worse citizen for taking some thought for
his person and estate; on the contrary, such a man would for his own
sake desire the prosperity of his country more than others-
nevertheless, as I have never spoken against my convictions to gain
honour, I shall not begin to do so now, but shall say what I
think best. Against your character any words of mine would be weak
enough, if I were to advise your keeping what you have got and not
risking what is actually yours for advantages which are dubious in
themselves, and which you may or may not attain. I will, therefore,
content myself with showing that your ardour is out of season, and
your ambition not easy of accomplishment.
"I affirm, then, that you leave many enemies behind you here to go
yonder and bring more back with you. You imagine, perhaps, that the
treaty which you have made can be trusted; a treaty that will continue
to exist nominally, as long as you keep quiet- for nominal it has
become, owing to the practices of certain men here and at Sparta- but
which in the event of a serious reverse in any quarter would not delay
our enemies a moment in attacking us; first, because the convention
was forced upon them by disaster and was less honourable to them
than to us; and secondly, because in this very convention there are
many points that are still disputed. Again, some of the most
powerful states have never yet accepted the arrangement at all. Some
of these are at open war with us; others (as the Lacedaemonians do not
yet move) are restrained by truces renewed every ten days, and it is
only too probable that if they found our power divided, as we are
hurrying to divide it, they would attack us vigorously with the
Siceliots, whose alliance they would have in the past valued as they
would that of few others. A man ought, therefore, to consider these
points, and not to think of running risks with a country placed so
critically, or of grasping at another empire before we have secured
the one we have already; for in fact the Thracian Chalcidians have
been all these years in revolt from us without being yet subdued,
and others on the continents yield us but a doubtful obedience.
Meanwhile the Egestaeans, our allies, have been wronged, and we run to
help them, while the rebels who have so long wronged us still wait for
"And yet the latter, if brought under, might be kept under; while
the Sicilians, even if conquered, are too far off and too numerous
to be ruled without difficulty. Now it is folly to go against men
who could not be kept under even if conquered, while failure would
leave us in a very different position from that which we occupied
before the enterprise. The Siceliots, again, to take them as they
are at present, in the event of a Syracusan conquest (the favourite
bugbear of the Egestaeans), would to my thinking be even less
dangerous to us than before. At present they might possibly come
here as separate states for love of Lacedaemon; in the other case
one empire would scarcely attack another; for after joining the
Peloponnesians to overthrow ours, they could only expect to see the
same hands overthrow their own in the same way. The Hellenes in Sicily
would fear us most if we never went there at all, and next to this, if
after displaying our power we went away again as soon as possible.
We all know that that which is farthest off, and the reputation of
which can least be tested, is the object of admiration; at the least
reverse they would at once begin to look down upon us, and would
join our enemies here against us. You have yourselves experienced this
with regard to the Lacedaemonians and their allies, whom your
unexpected success, as compared with what you feared at first, has
made you suddenly despise, tempting you further to aspire to the
conquest of Sicily. Instead, however, of being puffed up by the
misfortunes of your adversaries, you ought to think of breaking

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