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(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.


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.

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