History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides

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

‘I have not lived so long, Lacedaemonians, without having had the experience of many wars, and I see those among you of the same age as myself, who will not fall into the common misfortune of longing for war from inexperience or from a belief in its advantage and its safety.

This, the war on which you are now debating, would be one of the greatest magnitude, on a sober consideration of the matter.

In a struggle with Peloponnesians and neighbors our strength is of the same character, and it is possible to move swiftly on the different points.

But a struggle with a people who live in a distant land, who have also an extraordinary familiarity with the sea, and who are in the highest state of preparation in every other department; with wealth private and public, with ships, and horses, and heavy infantry, and a population such as no one other Hellenic place can equal, and lastly a number of tributary allies—what can justify us in rashly beginning such a struggle? wherein is our trust that we should rush on it unprepared?

Is it in our ships?

There we are inferior; while if we are to practise and become a match for them, time must intervene.

Is it in our money?

There we have a far greater deficiency.

We neither have it in our treasury, nor are we ready to contribute it from our private funds.