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(4.59) 'Sicilians, the city to which I belong is not the least in Sicily, nor am I about to speak because Syracuse suffers more than other cities in the war, but because I want to lay before you the policy which seems to me best fitted to promote the common good of the whole country. You well know, and therefore I shall not rehearse to you at length, all the misery of war. Nobody is driven into war by ignorance, and no one who thinks that he will gain anything from it is deterred by fear. The truth is that the aggressor deems the advantage to be greater than the suffering; and the side which is attacked would sooner run any risk than suffer the smallest immediate loss. But when such feelings on the part of either operate unseasonably, the time for offering counsels of peace has arrived, and such counsels, if we will only listen to them, will be at this moment invaluable to us. Why did we go to war? Simply from a consideration of our own individual interests, and with a view to our interests we are now trying by means of discussion to obtain peace; and if, after all, we do not before we separate succeed in getting our respective rights, we shall go to war again.

(4.60) 'But at the same time we should have the sense to see that this conference is not solely concerned with our private interests, but with those of the whole country. Sicily is in my opinion at this moment imperilled by the designs of the Athenians, and we must try, if not too late, to save her. The Athenians are a much more convincing argument of peace than any words of mine can be. They are the greatest power in Hellas; they come hither with a few ships to spy out our mistakes; though we are their natural enemies, they assume the honourable name of allies, and under this flimsy pretence turn our enmity to good account. For when we go to war and invite their assistance (and they are fond of coming whether they are invited or not) we are taxing ourselves for our own destruction, and at the same time paving the way for the advance of their empire. And at some future day, when they see that we are exhausted, they are sure to come again with a larger armament, and attempt to bring all Sicily under their yoke.39

(4.61) 'And yet if we must call in allies and involve ourselves in dangers, as men of sense, looking to the interest of our several states, we should set before us the prospect of gaining an increase of dominion, not of losing what we already have. We should consider that internal quarrels more than anything else are the ruin of Sicily and her cities; we Sicilians are fighting against one another at the very time when we are threatened by a common enemy. Knowing this, we should be reconciled man to man, city to city, and make an united effort for the preservation of all Sicily. Let no one say to himself, "The Dorians among us may be enemies to the Athenians, but the Chalcidians, being Ionians, are safe because they are their kinsmen." For the Athenians do not attack us because we are divided into two races, of which one is their enemy and the other their friend, but because they covet the good things of Sicily which we all share alike.40 Is not their reception of the Chalcidian appeal a proof of this?41 They have actually gone out of their way to grant the full privileges of their old treaty to those who up to this hour have never aided them as required by the terms of that treaty. The ambition and craft of the Athenians are pardonable enough. I blame not those who wish to rule, but those who are willing to serve. The same human nature which is always ready to domineer over the subservient, bids us defend ourselves against the aggressor. And if, knowing all these things, we continue to take no thought for the future, and have not, every one of us, made up our minds already that first and foremost we must all deal wisely with the danger which threatens all, we are grievously in error.

'Now a mutual reconciliation would be the speediest way of deliverance from this danger; for the Athenians do not come direct from their own country, but first plant themselves in that of the Sicilians who have invited them. Instead of finishing one war only to begin another, we should then quietly end our differences by peace. And those who came at our call and had so good a reason for doing wrong will have a still better reason for going away and doing nothing.

(4.62) 'Such is the great advantage which we obtain by sound policy as against the Athenians. And why, if peace is acknowledged by all to be the greatest of blessings, should we not make peace among ourselves? Whatever good or evil is the portion of any of us, is not peace more likely than war to preserve the one and to alleviate the other? And has not peace honours and glories of her own unattended by the dangers of war? (But it is unnecessary to dilate on the blessings of peace any more than on the miseries of war.) Consider what I am saying, and instead of despising my words, may every man seek his own safety in them! And should there be some one here present who was hoping to gain a permanent advantage either by right or by force, let him not take his disappointment to heart. For he knows that many a man before now who has sought a righteous revenge, far from obtaining it, has not even escaped himself; and many an one who in the consciousness of power has grasped at what was another's, has ended by losing what was his own. The revenge of a wrong is not always successful merely because it is just; nor is strength most assured of victory when it is most full of hope. The inscrutable future is the controller of events, and, being the most treacherous of all things, is also the most beneficent; for when there is mutual fear, men think twice before they make aggressions upon one another.

(4.63) 'And now, because we know not what this hidden future may bring forth, and because the Athenians, who are dangerous enemies, are already at our gates,--having these two valid reasons for alarm, let us acquiesce in our disappointment, deeming that the obstacles to the fulfilment of our individual hopes42 are really insuperable. Let us send out of the country the enemies who threaten us, and make peace among ourselves, if possible for ever; but if not, for as long as we can, and let our private enmities bide their time. If you take my advice, rest assured that you will maintain the freedom of your several cities; from which you will go forth your own masters, and recompense, like true men, the good or evil which is done to you. But if you will not believe me, and we are enslaved by others, the punishment of our enemies will be out of the question. Even supposing we succeed in obtaining vengeance to our hearts' content, we may perhaps become the friends of our greatest enemies, we certainly become the enemies of our real friends.

(4.64) 'As I said at first, I am the representative of a great city which is more likely to act on the aggressive than on the defensive; and yet with the prospect of these dangers before me I am willing to come to terms, and not to injure my enemies in such a way that I shall doubly injure myself. Nor am I so obstinate and foolish as to imagine that, because I am master of my own will, I can control fortune, of whom I am not master; but I am disposed to make reasonable concessions. And I would ask the other Sicilians to do the same of their own accord, and not to wait until the enemy compels them. There is no disgrace in kinsmen yielding to kinsmen, whether Dorians to Dorians, or Chalcidians to the other Ionians. Let us remember too that we are all neighbours, inhabitants of one island home, and called by the common name of Sicilians. When we see occasion we will fight among ourselves, and will negotiate and come to terms among ourselves. But we shall always, if we are wise, unite as one man against the invader; for when a single state suffers, all are imperilled. We will never again introduce allies from abroad, no, nor pretended mediators. This policy will immediately secure to Sicily two great blessings; she will get rid of the Athenians, and of civil war. And for the future we shall keep the island free and our own, and none will be tempted to attack us.'

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

(6.33) 'I dare say that, like others, I shall not be believed when I tell you that the expedition is really coming; and I am well aware that those who are either the authors or reporters of tidings which seem incredible not only fail to convince others, but are thought fools for their pains. Yet, when the city is in danger, fear shall not stop my mouth; for I am convinced in my own mind that I have better information than anybody. The Athenians, wonder as you may, are coming against us with a great fleet and army; they profess to be assisting their Egestaean allies and to be restoring the Leontines. But the truth is that they covet Sicily, and especially our city. They think that, if they can conquer us, they will easily conquer the rest. They will soon be here, and you must consider how with your present resources you can make the most successful defence. You should not let them take you by surprise because you despise them, or neglect the whole matter because you will not believe that they are coming at all. But to him who is not of this unbelieving temper I say- And do not you be dismayed at their audacity and power. They cannot do more harm to us than we can do to them; the very greatness of their armament may be an advantage to us; it will have a good effect on the other Sicilian cities, who will be alarmed, and in their terror will be the more ready to assist us. Then, again, if in the end we overpower them, or at any rate drive them away baffled, for I have not the slightest fear of their accomplishing their purpose, we shall have achieved a noble triumph. And of this I have a good hope. Rarely have great expeditions, whether Hellenic or Barbarian, when sent far from home, met with success. They are not more numerous than the inhabitants and their neighbours, who all combine through fear; and if owing to scarcity of supplies in a foreign land they miscarry, although their ruin may be chiefly due to themselves, they confer glory on those whom they meant to overthrow. The greatness of these very Athenians was based on the utter and unexpected ruin of the Persians,31 who were always supposed to have directed their expedition against Athens. And I think that such a destiny may very likely be reserved for us.

(6.34) 'Let us take courage then, and put ourselves into a state of defence; let us also send envoys to the Sicels, and, while we make sure of our old allies, endeavour to gain new ones. We will despatch envoys to the rest of Sicily, and point out that the danger is common to all; we will also send to the Italian cities in the hope that they may either join us, or at any rate refuse to receive the Athenians. And I think that we should send to the Carthaginians; the idea of an Athenian attack is no novelty to them; they are always living in apprehension of it. They will probably feel that if they leave us to our fate, the trouble may reach themselves, and therefore they may be inclined in some way or other, secretly, if not openly, to assist us. If willing to help, of all existing states they are the best able; for they have abundance of gold and silver, and these make war, like other things, go smoothly. Let us also send to the Lacedaemonians and Corinthians and entreat them to come to our aid speedily, and at the same time to revive the war in Hellas. I have a plan which in my judgment is the best suited to the present emergency, although it is the last which you in your habitual indolence will readily embrace.32 Let me tell you what it is. If all the Sicilian Greeks, or at least if we and as many as will join us, taking two months' provisions, would put out to sea with all our available ships and prepare to meet the Athenians at Tarentum and the promontory of Iapygia, thereby proving to them that before they fight for Sicily they must fight for the passage of the Ionian Sea, we should strike a panic into them. They would then reflect that at Tarentum (which receives us), we, the advanced guard of Sicily, are among friends, and go forth from a friendly country, and that the sea is a large place not easy to traverse with so great an armament as theirs. They would know that after a long voyage their ships will be unable to keep in line, and coming up slowly and few at a time will be at our mercy. On the other hand, if they lighten their vessels and meet us in a compact body with the swifter part of their fleet, they may have to use oars, and then we shall attack them when they are exhausted. Or if we prefer not to fight, we can retire again to Tarentum. Having come over with slender supplies and prepared for a naval engagement, they will not know what to do on these desolate coasts. If they remain they will find themselves blockaded; if they attempt to sail onwards they will cut themselves off from the rest of their armament, and will be discouraged; for they will be far from certain whether the cities of Italy and Sicily will receive them. In my opinion the anticipation of these difficulties will hamper them to such a degree, that they will never leave Corcyra. While they are holding consultations, and sending out spies to discover our number and exact position, they will find themselves driven into winter; or in dismay at the unexpected opposition, they may very likely break up the expedition; especially if, as I am informed, the most experienced of their generals has taken the command against his will, and would gladly make any considerable demonstration on our part an excuse for retreating. I am quite sure that rumour will exaggerate our strength. The minds of men are apt to be swayed by what they hear; and they are most afraid of those who commence an attack, or who at any rate show to the aggressor betimes that he will meet with resistance; for then they reflect that the risk is equally divided. And so it will be with the Athenians. They are now attacking us because they do not believe that we shall defend ourselves, and in this opinion they are justified by our neglect to join with the Lacedaemonians in putting them down. But, if they see that they were mistaken, and that we boldly venture,33 they will be more dismayed at our unexpected resistance than at our real power. Take my advice; if possible, resolve on this bold step, but if not, adopt other measures of defence as quickly as possible. Remember each and all of you that the true contempt of an invader is shown by deeds of valour in the field, and that meanwhile the greatest service which you can render to the state is to act as if you were in the presence of danger, considering that safety depends on anxious preparation.34 The Athenians are coming; I am certain that they are already on the sea and will soon be here.'

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

(6.76) 'We are not here, Camarinaeans, because we suppose that the presence of the Athenian army will dismay you; we are more afraid of their as yet unuttered words, to which you may too readily lend an ear if you hear them without first hearing us. You know the pretext on which they have come to Sicily, but we can all guess their real intentions. If I am not mistaken they want, not to restore the Leontines to their city, but to drive us out of ours. Who can believe that they who desolate the cities of Hellas mean to restore those of Sicily, or that the enslavers and oppressors of the Chalcidians in Euboea have any feeling of kindred towards the colonists of these Chalcidians in Leontini? In their conquests at home, and in their attempt to conquer Sicily, is not the principle upon which they act one and the same? The Ionians and other colonists of theirs who were their allies, wanting to be revenged on the Persian, freely invited them to be their leaders; and they accepted the invitation. But soon they charged them, some with desertion, and some with making war upon each other;73 any plausible accusation which they could bring against any of them became an excuse for their overthrow. It was not for the liberties of Hellas that Athens, or for her own liberty that Hellas, fought against the Persian; they fought, the Athenians that they might enslave Hellas to themselves instead of him, the rest of the Hellenes that they might get a new master, who may be cleverer, but certainly makes a more dishonest use of his wits.

(6.77) 'However, the character of the Athenians is known to you already, and we do not come here to set forth their enormities, which would be an easy task, but rather to accuse ourselves. We have had a warning in the fate of the Hellenes elsewhere; we know that they were reduced to slavery because they would not stand by one another. And when the same tricks are practised upon us,74 and we hear the old tale once more about the restoration of "our kinsmen the Leontines," and the succour of "our allies the Egestaeans," why do we not all rise as one man and show them that here they will find, not Ionians, nor yet Hellespontians, nor islanders, who must always be the slaves, if not of the Persian, of some other master; but Dorians75 and free inhabitants of Sicily, sprung from the independent soil of Peloponnesus? Are we waiting till our cities are taken one by one, when we know that this is the only way in which we can be conquered? We see what their policy is: how in some cases their cunning words sow ill-feeling; in others they stir up war by the offer of alliance; or again, by some well-invented phrase specially agreeable to an individual state they do it all the mischief which they can. And does any one suppose that, if his countryman at a distance perishes, the danger will not reach him, or that he who suffers first will have no companions in ruin?

(6.78) 'If any one fancies that not he, but the Syracusan, is the enemy of the Athenian, and asks indignantly "Why should I risk myself for you?" let him consider that in fighting for my country he will be at the same time fighting in mine for his own.76 And he will fight with less danger, because I shall still be in existence; he will not carry on the struggle alone, for he will have me for an ally.77 Let him consider that the Athenian is not really seeking to chastise the enmity of the Syracusan, but under pretence of attacking me may be quite as desirous of drawing hard and fast the bonds of friendship with him. And if any one from envy, or possibly from fear (for greatness is exposed to both), would have Syracuse suffer that we may receive a lesson, but survive for his own security, he is asking to have a thing which human power cannot compass. For a man may regulate his own desires, but he is not the dispenser of fortune;78 the time may come when he will find himself mistaken, and while mourning over his own ruin he may possibly wish that he could still have my prosperity to envy. But he cannot bring me back again when he has once abandoned me and has refused to take his share in the common danger, which, far from being imaginary, is only too real. For though in name you may be saving me, in reality you will be saving yourselves. And you especially, Camarinaeans, who are our next neighbours, and on whom the danger will fall next, should have anticipated all this, and not be so slack in your alliance. Instead of our coming to you, you should have come to us. Suppose the Athenians had gone to Camarina first, would you not at this moment be begging and praying for assistance? Then why did not you present yourselves at Syracuse, and say to us in our time of danger, "Never yield to the enemy"? But, hitherto, neither you nor any of the Sicilians have shown a spirit like this.

(6.79) 'You may perhaps disguise your cowardice under the pretence of impartiality; you may balance between us and the invaders, and plead that you have an alliance with the Athenians. But that alliance was made on the supposition that you were invaded by an enemy, not against a friend; and you promised to assist the Athenians if they were wronged by others, not when, as now, they are doing wrong themselves. Are the Rhegians who are Chalcidians so very anxious to join in the restoration of their Leontine kinsmen?79 And yet how monstrous that they, suspecting the real meaning of this plausible claim, should display a prudence for which they can give no reason; and that you, who have every reason for a like prudence, should be eager to assist your natural enemies, and to conspire with them for the destruction of those who by a higher law are your still more natural kinsmen. This should not be. You must make a stand against them. And do not be afraid of their armament. There is no danger if we hold together; the danger is in disunion, and they want to disunite us. Even when they engaged with our unaided forces,80 and defeated us in battle, they failed in their main purpose, and quickly retired.

(6.80) 'If then we can once unite, there is no reason for discouragement. But there is every reason why you, who are our allies, should meet us more cordially. We may be sure that help will come to us from Peloponnesus, and the Peloponnesians are far better soldiers than the Athenians. Let no one think that the caution which professes to be in league with both, and therefore gives aid to neither, is just to us or safe for you. Such a policy, though it may pretend to impartiality, is really unjust. For if through your absence the victor overcomes and the vanquished falls, have you not abandoned the one to his fate, and allowed the other to commit a crime? How much nobler would it be to join your injured kinsmen, and thereby maintain the common interest of Sicily and save the Athenians, whom you call your friends, from doing wrong!

'To sum up: We Syracusans are quite aware that there is no use in our dilating to you or to any one else on matters which you know as well as ourselves. But we prefer a prayer to you; and solemnly adjure you to consider, that, if you reject us, we, who are Dorians like yourselves, are betrayed by you to Ionians, our inveterate enemies, who are seeking our ruin. If the Athenians subdue us, your decision will have gained them the day; but the honour will be all their own, and the authors of their victory will be the prize of their victory. If on the other hand we conquer, you who have brought the peril upon us will have to suffer the penalty. Reflect then, and take your choice: will you have present safety and slavery, or the hope of delivering yourselves and us, and thereby escaping the dishonour of submitting to the Athenian yoke, and the danger of our enmity, which will not be short-lived?'

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


39.(From 4.60) Cp. iv. 1 med.

40.(From 4.61) Cp. vi. 77, 79.

41.(From 4.61) Cp. iii. 86.

42.(From 4.63) Or, reading ekastos ti: 'to the accomplishment of those things which each of us in whatever degree was hoping to effect.'

31. (From 6.33) Cp. i. 69 fin.

32. (From 6.34) Cp. i. 143 fin.

33. (From 6.34) Cp. ii. 89 med.

34. (From 6.34) Cp. ii. 11 med.

73. (From 6.76) Cp. i. 99.

74. (From 6.77) Cp. iv. 61 med.

75. (From 6.77) Cp. i. 124 init.; v. 9 init.; vii. 5 fin.; viii. 25 med.

76. (From 6.78) Cp. iii. 13 med.

77. (From 6.78) Reading erêmos.

78. (From 6.78) Cp. iv. 64 init.

79. (From 6.79) Cp. vi. 44 fin., 46 init.

80. (From 6.79) But cp. vi. 65 init., 67 med.

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.