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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


know are looking after their possessions at home, while persons here
invent stories that neither are true nor ever will be. Nor is this the
first time that I see these persons, when they cannot resort to deeds,
trying by such stories and by others even more abominable to
frighten your people and get into their hands the government: it is
what I see always. And I cannot help fearing that trying so often they
may one day succeed, and that we, as long as we do not feel the smart,
may prove too weak for the task of prevention, or, when the
offenders are known, of pursuit. The result is that our city is rarely
at rest, but is subject to constant troubles and to contests as
frequent against herself as against the enemy, not to speak of
occasional tyrannies and infamous cabals. However, I will try, if
you will support me, to let nothing of this happen in our time, by
gaining you, the many, and by chastising the authors of such
machinations, not merely when they are caught in the act- a difficult
feat to accomplish- but also for what they have the wish though not
the power to do; as it is necessary to punish an enemy not only for
what he does, but also beforehand for what he intends to do, if the
first to relax precaution would not be also the first to suffer. I
shall also reprove, watch, and on occasion warn the few- the most
effectual way, in my opinion, of turning them from their evil courses.
And after all, as I have often asked, what would you have, young men?
Would you hold office at once? The law forbids it, a law enacted
rather because you are not competent than to disgrace you when
competent. Meanwhile you would not be on a legal equality with the
many! But how can it be right that citizens of the same state should
be held unworthy of the same privileges?
"It will be said, perhaps, that democracy is neither wise nor
equitable, but that the holders of property are also the best fitted
to rule. I say, on the contrary, first, that the word demos, or
people, includes the whole state, oligarchy only a part; next, that if
the best guardians of property are the rich, and the best
counsellors the wise, none can hear and decide so well as the many;
and that all these talents, severally and collectively, have their
just place in a democracy. But an oligarchy gives the many their share
of the danger, and not content with the largest part takes and keeps
the whole of the profit; and this is what the powerful and young among
you aspire to, but in a great city cannot possibly obtain.
"But even now, foolish men, most senseless of all the Hellenes
that I know, if you have no sense of the wickedness of your designs,
or most criminal if you have that sense and still dare to pursue
them- even now, if it is not a case for repentance, you may still
learn wisdom, and thus advance the interest of the country, the common
interest of us all. Reflect that in the country's prosperity the men
of merit in your ranks will have a share and a larger share than the
great mass of your fellow countrymen, but that if you have other
designs you run a risk of being deprived of all; and desist from
reports like these, as the people know your object and will not put up
with it. If the Athenians arrive, this city will repulse them in a
manner worthy of itself; we have moreover, generals who will see to
this matter. And if nothing of this be true, as I incline to
believe, the city will not be thrown into a panic by your
intelligence, or impose upon itself a self-chosen servitude by
choosing you for its rulers; the city itself will look into the
matter, and will judge your words as if they were acts, and, instead
of allowing itself to be deprived of its liberty by listening to
you, will strive to preserve that liberty, by taking care to have
always at hand the means of making itself respected."
Such were the words of Athenagoras. One of the generals now stood up
and stopped any other speakers coming forward, adding these words of
his own with reference to the matter in hand: "It is not well for
speakers to utter calumnies against one another, or for their
hearers to entertain them; we ought rather to look to the intelligence
that we have received, and see how each man by himself and the city as

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