Peithô's Web    Thucydides Home  Jowett TOC 


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

(4.85) 'Men of Acanthus, the Lacedaemonians have sent me out at the head of this army to justify the declaration which we made at the beginning of the war--that we were going to fight against the Athenians for the liberties of Hellas. If we have been long in coming, the reason is that we were disappointed in the result of the war nearer home; for we had hoped that, without involving you in danger, we might ourselves have made a speedy end of the Athenians. And therefore let no one blame us; we have come as soon as we could, and with your help will do our best to overthrow them. But how is it that you close your gates against me, and do not greet my arrival? We Lacedaemonians thought that we were coming to those who even before we came in act were our allies in spirit, and would joyfully receive us; having this hope we have braved the greatest dangers, marching for many days through a foreign country, and have shown the utmost zeal in your cause. And now, for you to be of another mind and to set yourselves against the liberties of your own city and of all Hellas would be monstrous! The evil is not only that you resist me yourselves, but wherever I go people will be less likely to join me; they will take it amiss when they hear that you to whom I first came, representing a powerful city and reputed to be men of sense, did not receive me, and I shall not be able to give a satisfactory explanation, but shall have to confess either that I offer a spurious liberty, or that I am weak55 and incapable of protecting you against the threatened attack of the Athenians. And yet when I brought assistance to Nisaea in command of the army which I have led hither, the Athenians, though more numerous, refused to engage with me; and they are not likely now, when their forces must be conveyed by sea, to send an army against you equal to that which they had at Nisaea.56 (4.86) And I myself, why am I here? I come, not to injure, but to emancipate the Hellenes. And I have bound the government of Lacedaemon by the most solemn oaths to respect the independence of any states which I may bring over to their side. I do not want to gain your alliance by force or fraud, but to give you ours, that we may free you from the Athenian yoke. I think that you ought not to doubt my word when I offer you the most solemn pledges, nor should I be regarded as an inefficient champion; but you should confidently join me.

'If any one among you hangs back because he has a personal fear of anybody else, and is under the impression that I shall hand over the city to a party, him above all I would reassure. For I am not come hither to be the tool of a faction; nor do I conceive that the liberty which I bring you is of an ambiguous character; I should forget the spirit of my country were I to enslave the many to the few, or the minority to the whole people. Such a tyranny would be worse than the dominion of the foreigner, and we Lacedaemonians should receive no thanks in return for our trouble, but, instead of honour and reputation, only reproach. We should lay ourselves open to the charges which are our best weapons against the Athenians, and in a far more detestable form, for they have never been great examples of virtue. For to men of character there is more disgrace in seeking aggrandisement by specious deceit than by open violence;57 the violent have the justification of strength which fortune gives them, but a policy of intrigue is insidious and wicked.

(4.87) 'So careful are we where our highest interests are at stake. And not to speak of our oaths, you cannot have better assurance than they give whose actions, when compared with their professions, afford a convincing proof that it is their interest to keep their word.

'But if you plead that you cannot accept the proposals which I offer, and insist that you ought not to suffer for the rejection of them because you are our friend; if you are of opinion that liberty is perilous and should not in justice be forced upon any one, but gently brought to those who are able to receive it,--I shall first call the Gods and heroes of the country to witness that I have come hither for your good, and that you would not be persuaded by me: I shall then use force and ravage your country without any more scruple. I shall deem myself justified by two overpowering arguments. In the first place, I must not permit the Lacedaemonians to suffer by your friendship, and suffer they will through the revenues which the Athenians will continue to derive from you if you do not join me; and in the second place, the Hellenes must not lose their hope of liberation by your fault. On any other ground we should certainly be wrong in taking such a step; it is only for the sake of the general weal that we Lacedaemonians have any right to be forcing liberty upon those who would rather not have it. For ourselves, we are far from desiring empire, but we want to overthrow the empire of others. And having this end in view, we should do injustice to the majority if, while bringing independence to all, we tolerated opposition in you. Wherefore be well advised. Strive to take the lead in liberating Hellas, and lay up a treasure of undying fame. You will save your own property, and you will crown your city with glory.'

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


55.(From 4.85) Or, taking epipherein after aitian exô: 'but shall be deemed either to offer a spurious liberty, or to be weak.'

56.(From 4.85) Cp. iv. 108 fin.

57.(From 4.86) Cp. i. 77 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.