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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


Meanwhile those who believe me need not be dismayed at the force or
daring of the enemy. They will not be able to do us more hurt than
we shall do them; nor is the greatness of their armament altogether
without advantage to us. Indeed, the greater it is the better, with
regard to the rest of the Siceliots, whom dismay will make more
ready to join us; and if we defeat or drive them away, disappointed of
the objects of their ambition (for I do not fear for a moment that
they will get what they want), it will be a most glorious exploit
for us, and in my judgment by no means an unlikely one. Few indeed
have been the large armaments, either Hellenic or barbarian, that have
gone far from home and been successful. They cannot be more numerous
than the people of the country and their neighbours, all of whom
fear leagues together; and if they miscarry for want of supplies in
a foreign land, to those against whom their plans were laid none the
less they leave renown, although they may themselves have been the
main cause of their own discomfort. Thus these very Athenians rose
by the defeat of the Mede, in a great measure due to accidental
causes, from the mere fact that Athens had been the object of his
attack; and this may very well be the case with us also.
"Let us, therefore, confidently begin preparations here; let us send
and confirm some of the Sicels, and obtain the friendship and alliance
of others, and dispatch envoys to the rest of Sicily to show that
the danger is common to all, and to Italy to get them to become our
allies, or at all events to refuse to receive the Athenians. I also
think that it would be best to send to Carthage as well; they are by
no means there without apprehension, but it is their constant fear
that the Athenians may one day attack their city, and they may perhaps
think that they might themselves suffer by letting Sicily be
sacrificed, and be willing to help us secretly if not openly, in one
way if not in another. They are the best able to do so, if they
will, of any of the present day, as they possess most gold and silver,
by which war, like everything else, flourishes. Let us also send to
Lacedaemon and Corinth, and ask them to come here and help us as
soon as possible, and to keep alive the war in Hellas. But the true
thing of all others, in my opinion, to do at the present moment, is
what you, with your constitutional love of quiet, will be slow to see,
and what I must nevertheless mention. If we Siceliots, all together,
or at least as many as possible besides ourselves, would only launch
the whole of our actual navy with two months' provisions, and meet the
Athenians at Tarentum and the Iapygian promontory, and show them
that before fighting for Sicily they must first fight for their
passage across the Ionian Sea, we should strike dismay into their
army, and set them on thinking that we have a base for our
defensive- for Tarentum is ready to receive us- while they have a wide
sea to cross with all their armament, which could with difficulty keep
its order through so long a voyage, and would be easy for us to attack
as it came on slowly and in small detachments. On the other hand, if
they were to lighten their vessels, and draw together their fast
sailers and with these attack us, we could either fall upon them
when they were wearied with rowing, or if we did not choose to do
so, we could retire to Tarentum; while they, having crossed with few
provisions just to give battle, would be hard put to it in desolate
places, and would either have to remain and be blockaded, or to try to
sail along the coast, abandoning the rest of their armament, and being
further discouraged by not knowing for certain whether the cities
would receive them. In my opinion this consideration alone would be
sufficient to deter them from putting out from Corcyra; and what
with deliberating and reconnoitring our numbers and whereabouts,
they would let the season go on until winter was upon them, or,
confounded by so unexpected a circumstance, would break up the
expedition, especially as their most experienced general has, as I
hear, taken the command against his will, and would grasp at the first
excuse offered by any serious demonstration of ours. We should also be
reported, I am certain, as more numerous than we really are, and men's

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