History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides

Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.

Such is Athens, your antagonist.

And yet, Lacedaemonians, you still delay, and fail to see that peace stays longest with those, who are not more careful to use their power justly than to show their determination not to submit to injustice.

On the contrary, your ideal of fair dealing is based on the principle that if you do not injure others, you need not risk your own fortunes in preventing others from injuring you.

Now you could scarcely have succeeded in such a policy even with a neighbor like yourselves; but in the present instance, as we have just shown, your habits are old-fashioned as compared with theirs.

It is the law as in art, so in politics, that improvements ever prevail; and though fixed usages may be best for undisturbed communities, constant necessities of action must be accompanied by the constant improvement of methods.

Thus it happens that the vast experience of Athens has carried her further than you on the path of innovation.

Here, at least, let your procrastination end.

For the present, assist your allies and Potidaea in particular, as you promised, by a speedy invasion of Attica, and do not sacrifice friends and kindred to their bitterest enemies, and drive the rest of us in despair to some other alliance.

Such a step would not be condemned either by the gods who received our oaths, or by the men who witnessed them.

The breach of a treaty cannot be laid to the people whom desertion compels to seek new relations, but to the power that fails to assist its confederate.

But if you will only act, we will stand by you; it would be unnatural for us to change, and never should we meet with such a congenial ally.

For these reasons choose the right course, and endeavor not to let Peloponnese under your supremacy degenerate from the prestige that it enjoyed under that of your ancestors.’