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

(6.36) 'He is either a coward or a traitor who would not rejoice to hear that the Athenians are so mad as to come hither and deliver themselves into our hands. The audacity of the people who are spreading these alarms does not surprise me, but I do wonder at their folly if they cannot see that their motives are transparent. Having private reasons for being afraid, they want to strike terror into the whole city that they may hide themselves35 under the shadow of the common fear. And now, what is the meaning of these rumours? They do not grow of themselves; they have been got up by persons who are the troublers of our state. And you, if you are wise, will not measure probabilities by their reports, but by what we may assume to be the intentions of shrewd and experienced men such as I conceive the Athenians to be. They are not likely to leave behind them a power such as Peloponnesus. The war which they have already on their hands is far from settled, and will they go out of their way to bring upon themselves another as great? In my opinion they are only too glad that we are not attacking them, considering the number and power of our states.

(6.37) 'Even if the rumour of their coming should turn out to be true, I am sure that Sicily is more fit than Peloponnesus to maintain a great war. The whole island is better supplied in every way, and our own city is herself far more than a match for the army which is said to be threatening us; aye, and for another as great. I know that they will not bring cavalry with them, and will find none here, except the few horsemen which they may procure from Egesta. They cannot provide a force of hoplites equal to ours,36 for they have to cross the sea; and to come all this distance, if only with ships and with no troops or lading, would be work enough.37 I know too that an armament which is directed against so great a city as ours will require immense supplies.38 Nay, I venture to assert that if they came hither, having at their command another city close upon our border as large as Syracuse, and could there settle and carry on war against us from thence, they would still be destroyed to a man; how much more when the whole country will be their enemy (for Sicily will unite), and when they must pitch their camp the moment they are out of their ships, and will have nothing but their wretched huts and meagre supplies, being prevented by our cavalry from advancing far beyond their lines? Indeed I hardly think that they will effect a landing at all. So far superior, in my judgment, are our forces to theirs.

(6.38) 'The Athenians, I repeat, know all that I am telling you, and do not mean to throw away what they have got: I am pretty sure of that. But some of our people are fabricating reports which neither are, nor are ever likely to be, true. I know, and have always known, that by words like these, and yet more mischievous, if not by acts, they want to intimidate you, the Syracusan people, and make themselves chiefs of the state. And I am afraid that if they persevere they will succeed at last, and that we shall be delivered into their hands before we have had the sense to take precautions or to detect and punish them. This is the reason why our city is always in a state of unrest and disorganisation, fighting against herself quite as much as against foreign enemies, and from time to time subjected to tyrants and to narrow and wicked oligarchies. If the people will only support me I shall endeavour to prevent any such misfortunes happening in our day. With you I shall use persuasion, but to these conspirators I shall apply force; and I shall not wait until they are detected in the act (for who can catch them?), but I shall punish their intentions and the mischief which they would do if they could. For the thoughts of our enemies must be punished before they have ripened into deeds. If a man does not strike first, he will be the first struck. As to the rest of the oligarchical party, I must expose them and have an eye on their designs; I must also instruct them; that, I think, will be the way by which I can best deter them from their evil courses. Come now, young men, and answer me a question which I have often asked myself. "What can you want?" To hold office already? But the law forbids. And the law was not intended to slight you had you been capable; it was passed because you were incapable. And so you would rather not be on an equality with the many? But when there is no real difference between men, why should there be a privileged class?

(6.39) 'I shall be told that democracy is neither a wise nor a just thing, and that those who have the money are most likely to govern well. To which I answer, first of all, that the people is the name of the whole, the oligarchy of a part; secondly, that the rich are the best guardians of the public purse, the wise the best counsellors, and the many, when they have heard a matter discussed, the best judges;39 and that each and all of these classes have in a democracy equal privileges. Whereas an oligarchy, while giving the people the full share of danger, not merely takes too much of the good things, but absolutely monopolises them. And this is what the powerful among you and the young would like to have, and what in a great city they will never obtain.

(6.40) 'O most senseless of men, for such you are indeed if you do not see the mischief of your own schemes; never in all my experience have I known such blindness among Hellenes, or such wickedness if you have your eyes open to what you are doing. Yet even now learn if you are stupid, repent if you are guilty; and let your aim be the welfare of the whole country. Remember that the good among you will have an equal or larger share in the government of it than the people;40 while if you want more you will most likely lose all. Away with these reports; we know all about them, and are determined to suppress them. Let the Athenians come, and Syracuse will repel her enemies in a manner worthy of herself; we have generals who will look to the matter. But if, as I believe, none of your tales are true, the state is not going to be deceived, and will not in a moment of panic admit you to power, or impose upon her own neck the yoke of slavery. She will take the matter into her own hands, and when she gives judgment will reckon words to be equally criminal with actions. She will not be talked out of her liberty by you, but will do her utmost to preserve it; she will be on her guard, and will put you down with a strong hand.'

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


35. (From 6.36) Or, 'that they may hide their own consciousness of guilt.'

36. (From 6.37) Cp. vi. 23 init.

37. (From 6.37) Placing a colon after elthontas and taking mega gar ... komisthênai as a parenthesis.

38. (From 6.37) Cp. vi. 21 med.

39. (From 6.39) Cp. ii. 40 med.

40. (From 6.40) Cp. ii. 37 init.

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.