Thucydides’ History, Book 6

* This is my 100th post! *

Chapter 35

Such did Hermocrates say ; and the public body of Syracuse were in great strife toward each other. For some held that the Athenians were in no way coming and there was nothing he said that was true, and for others, even if they were coming, what could they do to them that they would not suffer more in turn. Still others, with great disregard, turned the whole affair to laughter. And few had faith in Hermocrates and feared that to come. Athenagoras came before them, who was a foremost man of the public body and was currently the most persuasive to the majority, and he said the following.

Chapter 36

“Anyone who does not wish the Athenians wish to consider poorly and by coming here be put under our hand, either he is cowardly or does not wish the city well. And those announcing these sorts of things and making you panicked, I do not marvel at their bravado but their stupidity if they do not know that they are transparent. For dreading something privately they want the city thrown into panic, so that they might hide their own fear in shadow of a common one. This now is what these messages signify ; they do not arise of their own accord, but are contrived by men, the very men who always set these things in motion. And you, if you are well-counselled, will contemplate these things and you will calculate what is likely, not from what these men are announcing, but from what clever and much experienced-men—as I judge the Athenians to be—actually do. For they are not likely to leave behind the Peloponnesians, not without somehow securely resolving the war there, to come here wittingly for another war no lesser, since I think they should be well-pleased that we do not come against them, being that we are so many cities and large ones too.”

Chapter 37

“And even if they should come, as these men claim, I believe that Sicily will be more capable than the Peloponnese to get through a war, inasmuch as it has been better prepared for all things. With the army, so they say, now approaching our city here, even if one twice as large should come, we are stronger than those for whom I understand do not have cavalry following them, nor are they supplied here, except some small amount from the Egestaioi. Nor would they bring hoplites equal in number to our own on their ships (for it is a great task conveying such a voyage here, even by lightly-laden ships), along with any other preparation as much as must be provided to go against a city such as this, being no small amount. Such that, according to my knowledge, it seems to me that, even if they should come as many as there are Syracusians, bringing another city just as great and should make war, dwelling on our borders, they would scarcely fail to be completely and utterly destroyed. Especially so in a war with all Sicily (for it will unite), having been settled in an encamped army out of ships and not venturing out very far from their little huts and from necessity of preparation, because of our knights. And on the whole, I believe they would not be able to prevail over the land ; I think out preparation is stronger by so much.”

Chapter 38

“But since, as I am saying, the Athenians also understand these things, and I know well of them that they are looking after their own. Hence the men fabricate tales of things that are not, nor have they happened. These are men whom I understand—and not for the first time but always—whether by stories such as these now and those yet more mischievous than these, or by deeds, wish to panic your mobs and rule over the city themselves. And I have feared that, by trying many things, they might even succeed ; And we are bad, until we are in the midst of suffering, at taking precautions and even having perceived, at attacking. And so accordingly, due to this, the city has seldom known peace. It has taken up a lot of civil strife and contests, not more against its enemies than against itself, and there are sometimes tyrannies and unjust dynasties. These things, I myself will attempt, if you are willing to obey, to never let any of them happen for us, by persuading the most of you, by chastising those who contrive these sorts of things, not only catching them in the act (for this is difficult to come upon), but also for what they want, but are not able (for not only must measures be taken against what the hated man would do but also against his intentions, fir indeed someone who does not take precautions will be first to suffer), and again against the few, partly by close examination, partly by guarding against these things and partly by instructing you in them ; for it seems to me that this especially will turn them away from their evil-doings. This indeed, this is what I have often questioned, what then do you want, you younger men? What, to rule now? Not legally! The law was established because of your inability and not to dishonour those who are able. Or would you not have the same rights as the majority? And how is it right that the same men are not considered worthy of the same rights?”

Chapter 39

“Someone will say that democracy is neither wise nor equal, and that the nobility and those who have wealth rule best. But I say, first, that public means the whole, and whereas oligarchy is only part, since the best guardians of wealth are the wealthy, and the wise make the best plans, the majority are the best to listen and judge, and that all these things equally, both according to their part and altogether, have an equal share in democracy. The oligarchy, however, gives its share of risks to the majority, and does not only claim a larger share of what is useful, but takes away and keeps all of it ; both those of you who are powerful and the young are zealous for what is impossible to possess in a great city. But even now, for those of you most foolish of all, if you do not understand that you strive after wicked things, either you are most ignorant of what I know about the Hellenes, or you are the most unjust, if you have such effrontery despite knowing.”

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