To return to the Lacedaemonians.
The history of their first embassy, the injunctions which it conveyed, and the rejoinder which it provoked, concerning the expulsion of the accursed persons, have been related already.
It was followed by a second, which ordered Athens to raise the siege of Potidaea, and to respect the independence of Aegina.
Above all, it gave her most distinctly to understand that war might be prevented by the revocation of the Megara decree, excluding the Megarians from the use of Athenian harbors and of the market of Athens.
But Athens was not inclined either to revoke the decree, or to entertain their other proposals; she accused the Megarians of pushing their cultivation into the consecrated ground and the unenclosed land on the border, and of harboring her runaway slaves.
At last an embassy arrived with the Lacedaemonian ultimatum.
The ambassadors were Rhamphias, Melesippus, and Agesander.
Not a word was said on any of the old subjects; there was simply this:— ‘Lacedaemon wishes the peace to continue, and there is no reason why it should not, if you would leave the Hellenes independent.
Upon this the Athenians held an assembly, and laid the matter before their consideration.
It was resolved to deliberate once for all on all their demands, and to give them an answer.
There were many speakers who came forward and gave their support to one side or the other, urging the necessity of war, or the revocation of the decree and the folly of allowing it to stand in the way of peace.
Among them came forward Pericles, son of Xanthippus, the first man of his time at Athens, ablest alike in counsel and in action, and gave the following advice:—