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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


minds are affected by what they hear, and besides the first to attack,
or to show that they mean to defend themselves against an attack,
inspire greater fear because men see that they are ready for the
emergency. This would just be the case with the Athenians at
present. They are now attacking us in the belief that we shall not
resist, having a right to judge us severely because we did not help
the Lacedaemonians in crushing them; but if they were to see us
showing a courage for which they are not prepared, they would be
more dismayed by the surprise than they could ever be by our actual
power. I could wish to persuade you to show this courage; but if
this cannot be, at all events lose not a moment in preparing generally
for the war; and remember all of you that contempt for an assailant is
best shown by bravery in action, but that for the present the best
course is to accept the preparations which fear inspires as giving the
surest promise of safety, and to act as if the danger was real. That
the Athenians are coming to attack us, and are already upon the
voyage, and all but here- this is what I am sure of."
Thus far spoke Hermocrates. Meanwhile the people of Syracuse were at
great strife among themselves; some contending that the Athenians
had no idea of coming and that there was no truth in what he said;
some asking if they did come what harm they could do that would not be
repaid them tenfold in return; while others made light of the whole
affair and turned it into ridicule. In short, there were few that
believed Hermocrates and feared for the future. Meanwhile Athenagoras,
the leader of the people and very powerful at that time with the
masses, came forward and spoke as follows:
"For the Athenians, he who does not wish that they may be as
misguided as they are supposed to be, and that they may come here to
become our subjects, is either a coward or a traitor to his country;
while as for those who carry such tidings and fill you with so much
alarm, I wonder less at their audacity than at their folly if they
flatter themselves that we do not see through them. The fact is that
they have their private reasons to be afraid, and wish to throw the
city into consternation to have their own terrors cast into the
shade by the public alarm. In short, this is what these reports are
worth; they do not arise of themselves, but are concocted by men who
are always causing agitation here in Sicily. However, if you are
well advised, you will not be guided in your calculation of
probabilities by what these persons tell you, but by what shrewd men
and of large experience, as I esteem the Athenians to be, would be
likely to do. Now it is not likely that they would leave the
Peloponnesians behind them, and before they have well ended the war in
Hellas wantonly come in quest of a new war quite as arduous in Sicily;
indeed, in my judgment, they are only too glad that we do not go and
attack them, being so many and so great cities as we are.
"However, if they should come as is reported, I consider Sicily
better able to go through with the war than Peloponnese, as being at
all points better prepared, and our city by itself far more than a
match for this pretended army of invasion, even were it twice as large
again. I know that they will not have horses with them, or get any
here, except a few perhaps from the Egestaeans; or be able to bring
a force of heavy infantry equal in number to our own, in ships which
will already have enough to do to come all this distance, however
lightly laden, not to speak of the transport of the other stores
required against a city of this magnitude, which will be no slight
quantity. In fact, so strong is my opinion upon the subject, that I do
not well see how they could avoid annihilation if they brought with
them another city as large as Syracuse, and settled down and carried
on war from our frontier; much less can they hope to succeed with
all Sicily hostile to them, as all Sicily will be, and with only a
camp pitched from the ships, and composed of tents and bare
necessaries, from which they would not be able to stir far for fear of
our cavalry.
"But the Athenians see this as I tell you, and as I have reason to

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