Thucydides’ History, Book 6

Chapter 11

“And further, if we prevailed over these1, we could control them ; whereas even if we overpower those2, by being far away and many, we would be able to rule them only with difficulty. It would be unthinkable to go to such as these and not, having overpowered them, control them, or not succeeding, not even be in the same position as before attempting. The Sikeliots, it seems to me that, as they are now, they would be the less frightening to us if the Syracusians were to rule them ; the very thing with which the Egestaioi cause us great alarm. For as it is, each of them separately might equally wish to, for the sake of the Lacedaimonians, but in the other case it is not so likely for a ruling power to campaign against a ruling power :  for the way in which they, along with the Peloponessians, would take away ours, it is likely that by the same hand and through the same means, they and their own would be taken down. And the Hellenes there3 would marvel us more if we were not to arrive at all, or failing that, if following a display of power, we were to leave after a short time ;  for all things we know from a distance are wondrous, and also those given least trial of their worth. And if we were thrown down they would soon look down on us and with those from here, they would make an attempt against us. This is very thing, good Athenians, that you now have experienced with regard to the Lacedaimonians and their allies ; because you prevailed, contrary to your expectation in regard to what you initially feared, you came quickly to disdain it, and to long for Sicily, too. We must not be conceited with respect to the fortunes of our adversaries, but rather, having overpowered their intent, take heart, but not believe that the Lacedaimonians, due to their disgrace, look for anything other than whatever way, even now, they shall put well their own indecorous behavour, if they are able after throwing us down, to the extent that for the most part and the longest time they court the reputation of virtue. Such that a contest concerning the Egestaioi in Sicily, barbarian men, is not ours, if we are prudent, but instead, how we will keep guard against the city plotting through the oligarchy.”

1. The Chalkidans in Thrace.
2. The Sikeliots.
3. In Sicily.

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