Thucydides’ History, Book 6

Chapter 33

“I might seem to you just as untrustworthy as anyone else talking about the truth of the sailing against, and I understand that those either saying or announcing things that seem untrue not only do not persuade you, but even seem to be senseless ; nevertheless, I shall not, fearing, hold back from the endangerment of the city, believing that I speak, seeing more clearly than another. For the Athenians do what wholly amazes you, they have set out against you with a great army, both naval and foot, and while they allege it is for alliance with the Egestaioi, and for re-settling the Leontinoi, it is in truth for desire of Sicily, especially our city, believing that if they should take it, they will easily have the rest. And so, being that they will soon be here, look to your present circumstances for what way you might defend your most precious possessions from them, and do not, by looking down on them, be caught unguarded, nor by disbelieving neglect the whole. And if this is credible to anyone, let him not be shocked at their bravado and power. For they are not such to harm us more than they suffer, nor is it, that they came against us with a great expedition, unprofitable, but it is, instead, wholly better, both with respect to the other Sikeliots (for they, shocked, will wish more to be allied with us), and moreover, if we should indeed either make an end of them or drive them back without gain from that which they throw themselves (for I do not fear that they might chance upon that which they expect), it will turn out as our noblest deed, and this is not unhoped for by me. For few great expeditions indeed, whether of Hellenes or of barbarians, once they have departed from their own, have ever wholly succeeded. For they went to places filled with inhabitants and their neighbours (for everyone, under fear, stands together), and should they be thrown down by the hardship of supplying in a land belonging to another, even if they trip themselves up, they nevertheless leave behind a reputation to those they plotted against. And this is the very thing by which these same Athenians grew powerful, when the Mede was thrown down alongside great talk, it went upon their reputation as he went against Athens, and neither is it hopeless that it might turn out such for you.”

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