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Special thanks to for permission to use this image adapted from their authentic replica of a Spartan spear.

(3.61) 'We should never have asked to speak, if the Plataeans had briefly answered the question which was put to them,50 and had not turned upon us and arraigned us while they made a long and irrelevant defence of their own doings, excusing themselves from charges which nobody brought against them, and praising what nobody blamed. We must answer their accusations of us, and look a little closely into their glorification of themselves, that neither our baseness nor their superior reputation may benefit them, and that, before you judge, you may hear the truth both about us and them. Our quarrel with them arose thus:--Some time after our first occupation of Boeotia51 we settled Plataea and other places, out of which we drove a mixed multitude. But the Plataeans refused to acknowledge our leadership according to the original agreement, and, separating themselves from the other Boeotians, deserted the traditions of their ancestors. When force was applied to them they went over to the Athenians, and, assisted by them, did us a great deal of mischief; and we retaliated.

(3.62) 'They say that when the Barbarian invaded Hellas they were the only Boeotians who did not join the Persian; and this is their great glory, and our great reproach. But we say that if they did not side with Persians, it was only because the Athenians did not; and on the same principle, they alone of all the Boeotians afterwards sided with the Athenians when the liberties of Hellas were attacked by them. But, consider how different were the circumstances in which we and they acted. In those days our state was not governed by an oligarchy which granted equal justice to all, nor yet by a democracy; the power was in the hands of a small cabal, than which nothing is more opposed to law or to true political order, or more nearly resembles a tyranny. The rulers of the state, hoping to strengthen their private interest if the Persian won, kept the people down and brought him in. The city at large, when she acted thus, was not her own mistress; and she cannot be fairly blamed for an error which she committed when she had no constitution. After the Persian departed and she obtained a constitution, you may see how we fought against the Athenians when they became aggressive and endeavoured to subjugate us as well as the rest of Hellas. Owing to our divisions they actually conquered the greater part of the country; but we defeated them at Coronea, and liberated Boeotia;52 and at this moment we are zealously co-operating in the liberation of Hellas, providing cavalry and munitions of war more largely than any of the allies. Thus much in answer to the charge respecting our Persian tendencies.

(3.63) 'And now we will proceed to show that you, and not we, have done the greater wrong to Hellas, and are deserving of every sort of punishment. You say that you became allies and citizens of Athens in order that you might be protected against us. If so, you ought to have invited their aid only against us, and not to have assisted them in their attacks upon others; such a course was certainly open to you: even if you had been in some degree constrained against your will by the Athenians, you had previously made the alliance with the Lacedaemonians against the Persians, to which you are so fond of appealing. That alliance would at any rate have restrained our hands, and above all would have secured to you freedom of deliberation. But you acted willingly, and were no longer under compulsion when you made common cause with the Athenians. Your allegation is that they were your benefactors and that you could not honourably betray them; but how far more dishonourable and wicked to betray all the Hellenes with whom you had sworn alliance, than the Athenians only, the one the liberators, the other the enslavers of Hellas! The return which you made to them is unequal, nay, infamous; you say that you invited them to assist you because you were wronged, and then you became their accomplices in wronging others. Surely ingratitude is shown in refusing to return an honourable kindness, when it can be done honourably, not in refusing to return a kindness which, however justly due, cannot be repaid without a crime.

(3.64) 'You have thus made it plain that, when you alone among the Boeotians refused to join the Persian cause, this was not out of any love for Hellas, but because the Athenians did not;53 and that you wanted to act with them and not with us; and now you claim the benefit of the virtue which others inspired in you. But this is not reasonable; having once chosen the Athenians, fight on their side, and do not at the last moment be saying that the old alliance ought to save you. For you have abandoned it, and by the violation of it, instead of striving to prevent, have aided in the enslavement of the Aeginetans and of other members of the alliance. And you were not, like us, under compulsion, but free, living under your ancient laws. Moreover, you persisted in refusing that last offer of peace and neutrality which we made to you before the siege began.54 Who more thoroughly than you deserve the hatred of the Hellenes? than you who have only displayed your virtues to their injury? You have given proof that the merit which you claim for your former actions does not properly belong to you! Your true nature and constant desire are now revealed in the light of day; for you have followed the Athenians in the path of injustice. Thus much we have to say as to our involuntary dealings with the Persians, and your voluntary dealings with the Athenians.

(3.65) 'The last offence which you lay to our charge is that we unlawfully assailed your city in time of peace, and at a holy season; even in that affair we do not think ourselves more in fault than you. We do not deny that we were wrong if of our own mere motion we went to your city, fought with you, and ravaged your land. But when certain of the noblest and richest of your citizens, who wished to withdraw you from a foreign alliance and to bring you back to the national institutions of Boeotia, came and invited us, wherein are we to blame? As you say yourselves, the leaders rather than the followers are the transgressors.55 But in our opinion, neither we nor they were really guilty. Like yourselves they were citizens, and they had a greater stake in the country than you have; they opened their own gates and received us into their native city, not as her enemies but as her friends. They desired that the bad among you should not grow worse, and that the good should have their reward. They wanted to reform the principles of your citizens, and not to banish their persons; they would have brought them back into a natural union with their kindred, that Plataea might be at peace with all and the enemy of none.

(3.66) 'And the proof that we acted in no hostile spirit is that we did no harm to any one, but made a proclamation that whoever wished to live under the national institutions of Boeotia should join us. You came to us gladly, and, entering into an agreement, for a time offered no opposition; but afterwards, when you discovered that we were few, you turned upon us. Even allowing that we did act somewhat inconsiderately in entering your town without the consent of your whole people, still how different was your conduct and ours! For if you had followed our example you would have used no violence, but thought only of getting us out by persuasion, whereas you broke the agreement and attacked us. Now we do not so much complain of the fate of those whom you slew in battle--for they indeed suffered by a kind of law --but there were others who stretched out their hands to you; and although you gave them quarter, and then promised to us that you would spare them, in utter defiance of law you took their lives--was not that a cruel act? Here are three crimes which you committed within a few hours; the breach of the agreement, the slaughter of the prisoners which followed, and the lying promise which you made to us that you would not slay them if we did no injury to your property in the fields; and yet you insist that we are the criminals, and that you ought to be acquitted. Not so; if the Lacedaemonians give just judgment: but for all these offences you shall suffer.

(3.67) 'We have entered into particulars, Lacedaemonians, both for your sakes and for our own, that you may know the sentence which you are going to pass on them to be just, and still more righteous the vengeance which we have taken. Do not let your hearts be softened by tales about their ancient virtues, if they had any; such virtues might plead for the injured, but should bring a double penalty56 on the authors of a base deed, because they are false to their own character. Let them gain nothing by their pitiful lamentations, or by appealing to your fathers' tombs and their own desolate condition. We tell you that a far sadder fate was inflicted by them on our murdered youth, of whose fathers some fell at Coronea in the act of bringing Boeotia to join you, while others are left in their old age by their solitary hearths, and entreat you, with far better reason, to punish the Plataeans. Men who suffer an unworthy fate are indeed to be pitied, but there should be joy over those who suffer justly, as these do. For their present desolation they may thank themselves; they might have chosen the worthier alliance, but they wilfully renounced it. They sinned against us though we had never injured them; the spirit of hatred and not of justice possessed them, and even now they are not punished half enough. For they are going to suffer by a lawful sentence, not, as they pretend, stretching out their suppliant hands on the field of battle, but delivering themselves up to justice under the terms of a capitulation. Maintain then, Lacedaemonians, the common Hellenic law which they have outraged, and give to us, who have suffered contrary to law, the just recompense of our zeal in your cause. Do not be moved by their words to spurn and reject us,57 but show Hellas by example that, when a cause is tried at your tribunal, deeds and not words will prevail. If the deeds be good, a brief statement of them is enough; if they be evil, speeches full of fine sentiments do but veil them. If all persons in authority were like you, and would sum up a case in a short question, and pass sentence upon all the offenders at once, men would be less tempted to seek out fair words in order to excuse foul deeds.'

Special thanks to for permission to use this image adapted from their authentic replica of a Spartan spear.


50.(From 3.61) Cp. i. 37 init. 73; vi. 82.

51.(From 3.61) Cp. i. 12.

52.(From 3.62) Cp. iv. 92 fin.

53.(From 3.64) Or reading oti oud Athênaioi, hêmeis de, but because the Athenians did not and we did.'

54.(From 3.64) Cp. ii. 72, 73.

55.(From 3.65) Cp. iii. 55 fin.

56.(From 3.67) Cp. i. 86 init.

57.(From 3.67) Cp. iii. 57 fin.

From Thucydides, translated into English, to which is prefixed an essay on inscriptions and a note on the geography of Thucydides, by Benjamin Jowett. Second edition. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1900.

Scanned and edited specially for Peithô's Web. Jowett's footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Peithô's Web accepts no liability whatsoever for errors or any other problem with the texts or their use.

Special thanks to (link) for graciously permitting images of their ancient art and replicas of armor and weapons to appear in our Thucydides pages.

Background mosaic from the Architectural Ornament collection of the Architectural Engineering Graduate Students Association of The Pennsylvania State University.