Thucydides’ History, Book 6

Chapter 17

“And this, my youth and folly, although alleged to be contrary to nature, conversed by befitting arguments with the power of the Peloponessians, and, having furnished trust by my passion, persuaded them. And now do not fear it, but rather, while I am yet in my prime with this and Nicias seems to have luck on his side1, avail yourselves of the aid from each of us. And the voyage for Sicily, do not reconsider it, as if it were against a great power. For the cities are populated with commingled crowds and they readily have changes in the citizenry and reception of the new. And due to this no one equips anything as if for a domestic fatherland, either with respect to ‘round the body any armaments, nor with respect to that in the land, the customary assets ; but anything which each man, whether from persuading by the spoken word or by civil strife, thinks that he may take from the public treasury or, failing that, to colonize another land, this is what is prepared. And it is not likely that a crowd of this sort would heed a word as one mind, nor would they turn in common to any task ; but each man, should anyone speak according to his pleasure, would swiftly side with him, especially if they are in civil strife, just as we are informed. And hoplites, surely they do not have so many as are boasted, nor have the other Hellenes turned out to be so many, as many as they each themselves reckoned, but rather having deceived the most in this regard, the Hellas was in fact scarcely sufficiently readied for this war. Thus those affairs there, from which I have by my ear perceived, such as they are are even yet most easily gotten (for we will find many barbarians who, for hatred of the Syracusians, will join with us attacking them) and the affairs here will not be a hindrance, if you are counseled straight. For our fathers, although they had those same men, the very men of whom they now speak as enemies left behind should we sail, and over and above those the Medes, a hated foe, they procured an empire, and not in any other way than by an abundance of naval prowess were they mighty. And presently, the Peloponnesians were never more without hope regarding us til now, and even if they are perfectly strong, for assaulting our lands, even if we don’t sail away, they would be a match, but they would not be able to harm us by naval prowess, for even a remainder of our naval prowess is a tough match.” 

1. I want to point out how amusing I found this contrast. Alcibiades claims he himself is persuasive and brilliant, in the prime of his youth, and Nicias (who was a seasoned and successful general), well, he seems to have gotten lucky.

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