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.

(6.89) 'I must endeavour first of all to remove a prejudice against myself, lest through suspicion of me you should turn a deaf ear to considerations of public interest. My ancestors in consequence of some misunderstanding renounced the office of Lacedaemonian proxenus; I myself resumed it, and did you many good offices, especially after your misfortune at Pylos. My anxiety to serve you never ceased, but when you were making peace with Athens you negotiated through my enemies, thereby conferring power on them, and bringing dishonour upon me.93 And if I then turned to the Mantineans and Argives and opposed you in that or in any other way, you were rightly served, and any one who while the wound was recent may have been unduly exasperated against me should now take another and a truer view. Or, again, if any one thought the worse of me because I was inclined to the people, let him acknowledge that here too there is no real ground of offence. Any power adverse to despotism is called democracy, and my family have always retained the leadership of the people in their hands because we have been the persistent enemies of tyrants. Living too under a popular government, how could we avoid in a great degree conforming to circumstances? However, we did our best to observe political moderation amid the prevailing licence. But there were demagogues, as there always have been, who led the people into evil ways, and it was they who drove me out.94 Whereas we were the leaders of the state as a whole,95 and not of a part only; it was our view that all ought to combine in maintaining that form of government which had been inherited by us, and under which the city enjoyed the greatest freedom and glory. Of course, like all sensible men, we knew only too well what democracy is, and I better than any one, who have so good a reason for abusing it. The follies of democracy are universally admitted, and there is nothing new to be said about them. But we could not venture to change our form of government when an enemy like yourselves was so near to us.

(6.90) 'Such is the truth about the calumnies under which I labour. And now I will speak to you of the matter which you have in hand, and about which I, in so far as I have better information, am bound to instruct you. We sailed to Sicily hoping in the first place to conquer the Sicilian cities; then to proceed against the Hellenes of Italy; and lastly, to make an attempt on the Carthaginian dominions, and on Carthage itself. If all or most of these enterprises succeeded, we meant finally to attack Peloponnesus, bringing with us the whole Hellenic power which we had gained abroad, besides many barbarians whom we intended to hire--Iberians and the neighbouring tribes, esteemed to be the most warlike barbarians that now are.96 Of the timber which Italy supplies in such abundance we meant to build numerous additional triremes, and with them to blockade Peloponnesus. At the same time making inroads by land with our infantry, we should have stormed some of your cities and invested others. Thus we hoped to crush you easily, and to rule over the Hellenic world. For the better accomplishment of our various aims our newly-acquired territory would supply money and provisions enough, apart from the revenue which we receive in Hellas.

(6.91) 'You have heard the objects of our expedition from him who knows them best; the generals who remain will persevere and carry them out if they can. And now let me prove to you that if you do not come to the rescue Sicily will be lost. If the Greeks would all unite they might even now, notwithstanding their want of military skill, resist with success; but the Syracusans alone, whose whole forces have been already defeated, and who cannot move freely at sea, will be unable to withstand the power which the Athenians already have on the spot. And Syracuse once taken, the whole of Sicily is in their hands; the subjugation of Italy will follow; and the danger which, as I was saying, threatens you from that quarter, will speedily overwhelm you. And therefore remember every one of you that the safety, not of Sicily alone, but of Peloponnesus, is at stake. No time should be lost. You must send to Sicily a force of hoplites who will themselves handle the oars and will take the field immediately on landing. A Spartan commander I conceive to be even more indispensable than an army; his duty will be to organise the troops which are already enlisted, and to press the unwilling into the service. Thus you will inspire confidence in your friends and overcome the fears of the wavering. Here too in Hellas you should make open war. The Syracusans, seeing that you have not forgotten them, will then persevere in their resistance, while the Athenians will have greater difficulty in reinforcing their army. You ought also to fortify Decelea in Attica; the Athenians are always in particular dread of this; to them it seems to be the only peril of which they have not faced the worst in the course of the war. And the way to hurt an enemy most surely is to inform yourself exactly about the weak points of which you see that he is conscious, and strike at them. For every man is likely to know best himself the dangers which he has most to fear. I will sum up briefly the chief though by no means all the advantages which you will gain, and the disadvantages which you will inflict, by the fortification of Decelea. The whole stock of the country will fall into your hands. The slaves will come over to you of their own accord; what there is besides will be seized by you. The Athenians will at once be deprived of the revenues which they obtain from the silver mines of Laurium, and of all the profits which they make by the land or by the law courts: above all, the customary tribute will cease to flow in; for their allies, when they see that you are now carrying on the war in earnest, will not mind them. (6.92) How far these plans are executed, and with how much speed and energy, Lacedaemonians, depends on you; for I am confident that they are practicable, and I am not likely to be mistaken.

'You ought not in fairness to think the worse of me because, having been once distinguished as a lover of my country, I now cast in my lot with her worst foes and attack her with all my might; or suspect that I speak only with the eagerness of an exile. An exile I am indeed; I have lost an ungrateful country, but I have not lost the power of doing you service, if you will listen to me. The true enemies of my country are not those who, like you, have injured her in open war, but those who have compelled her friends to become her enemies. I love Athens, not in so far as I am wronged by her, but in so far as I once enjoyed the privileges of a citizen. The country which I am attacking is no longer mine, but a lost country which I am seeking to regain. He is the true patriot, not who, when unjustly exiled, abstains from attacking his country, but who in the warmth of his affection seeks to recover her without regard to the means. I desire therefore that you, Lacedaemonians, will use me without scruple in any service however difficult or dangerous, remembering that, according to the familiar saying, "the more harm I did you as an enemy, the more good can I do you as a friend." For I know the secrets of the Athenians, while I could only guess at yours. Remember the immense importance of your present decision, and do not hesitate to send an expedition to Sicily and Attica. By despatching a fraction of your forces to co-operate in Sicily you may save great interests, and may overthrow the Athenian power once and for ever. And so henceforward you may dwell safely yourselves and be leaders of all Hellas, which will follow you, not upon compulsion, but from affection.'

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


93. (From 6.89) Cp. v. 43.

94. (From 6.89) Cp. viii. 65 med.

95. (From 6.89) Cp. vi. 39 init.

96. (From 6.90) Reading machimôtatous and placing a comma after ekei.

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.