Isocrates. Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by George Norlin, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1928-1980.

and that we still remain faithful to the customs and ways of life which we established here in the very beginning, while the rest of the Hellenes are not able to stand even their good fortune, but have become completely demoralized, some of them seizing the cities of their allies,[*](That is, those of the Theban league. Isocrates is here describing Thebes and especially her allies in the Peloponnesus.) others opposing them in this; some disputing with their neighbors about territory, others, again, indulging their envy of one another[*](See note a, p. 352. Xen. Hell. 7.1.32, says that the Thebans and Eleans were no less pleased at the defeat of their allies, the Arcadians, in the “tearless” battle of 367 B.C. than were the Lacedaemonians.) rather than making war against us. Therefore I wonder at those who look for a stronger ally than is found in the blundering of our enemies.

But if I must also speak of aid from the outside, I think that many will be disposed to assist us.[*](For Athens see Isoc. 8.105 and Isoc. 5.44. Among the states in Peloponnesus, Phlius, Heraea, and Orchomenus in Arcadia were still true to Sparta. (Xen. Hell. 7.2.1, Xen. Hell. 6.5.22, and Xen. Hell. 6.5.11.) The reference is to Dionysius the younger, who began to reign 367-366 B.C. His father had given aid to Sparta on various occasions. See Underhill's note on Xen. Hell. 5.1.28 (Oxford edition). Nectanebos (378-364 B.C.) was king of Egypt at this time. Egypt generally supported those who fought against the Persians, and now the Theban enemies of Sparta were in league with Persia. As to the dynasts of Asia see Isoc. 4.162 and Isoc. 5.103. Probably such powerful rulers as Mausolus of Caria, who revolted from Persia in 362 B.C., are here meant, as well as the rulers of Cyprus. See Isoc. 5.102 and Isoc. 4.134.) For I know, in the first place, that the Athenians, although they may not hold with us in everything, yet if our existence were at stake would go to any length to save us; in the second place, that some of the other states would consult our interest as if it were their very own;

again, that the tyrant Dionysius, and the king of Egypt, and the various dynasts throughout Asia, each so far as he has the power, would willingly lend us aid; and, furthermore, that the Hellenes who rank first in wealth and stand foremost in reputation and who desire the best of governments,[*](Those who sympathize with an oligarchy such as the Spartan government. oi( be/ltistoi is almost technical for “the aristocratic party.” as ta\ be/ltista for an aristocratic government. Cf. Xen. Hell. 5.2.6. Such people might be expected to form a conspiracy to set up an oligarchy favorable to Sparta.) even though they have not yet allied themselves with us, are with us at least to the extent of wishing us well, and that upon them we have good reason to rest great hopes for the future.

Also I think that not only the people of the Peloponnesus in general but even the adherents of democracy,[*](Those in Peloponnesus who are not definitely committed to an oligarchic government.) whom we consider to be especially unfriendly to us, are already yearning for our protection. For by revolting from us they have gained nothing of what they anticipated; on the contrary, they have got just the opposite of freedom; for having slain the best of their citizens, they are now in the power of the worst; instead of securing self-government, they have been plunged into misgovernment of many terrible kinds;

accustomed as they have been in the past to march with us against others, they now behold the rest taking the field against themselves; and the war of factions, of whose existence in other territories they used to know only by report, they now see waged almost every day in their own states. They have been so levelled by their misfortunes that no man can discern who among them are the most wretched;

for not one of their states is unscathed, not one but has neighbors ready to do it injury; in consequence, their fields have been laid waste, their cities sacked, their people driven from their homes, their constitutions overturned, and the laws abolished under which they were once the most fortunate among the Hellenes.[*](The Acheans (Polyb. 2.38.6) and the Mantineans (Ael. Var. Hist. 2.22) were famed for their excellent laws.)

They feel such distrust and such hatred of one another that they fear their fellow-citizens more than the enemy; instead of preserving the spirit of accord and mutual helpfulness which they enjoyed under our rule, they have become so unsocial that those who own property had rather throw their possessions into the sea than lend aid to the needy, while those who are in poorer circumstances would less gladly find a treasure than seize the possessions of the rich;

having ceased sacrificing victims at the altars they slaughter one another[*](Possibly Isocrates may have in mind the massacre at Corinth in 392 B.C. (Xen. Hell. 4.4.3), the murder of certain Achaean suppliants, who took refuge in the temple of Heliconian Poseidon (Pausanias vii. 25), or the slaughter of 1200 prominent citizens in Argos in 371 B.C. (Diodorus xv. 58). Cf. Isoc. 5.52.) there instead; and more people are in exile now from a single city than before from the whole of the Peloponnesus. But although the miseries which I have recounted are so many, those which remain unmentioned far outnumber them; for all the distress and all the horror in the world have come together in this one region.

With these miseries some states are already replete; others too will shortly have their fill, and then they will seek to find some relief for the troubles which now beset them. For do not imagine that they will continue to put up with these conditions; for how could men who grew weary even of prosperity endure for a long time the pressure of adversity? And so not only if we fight and conquer, but even if we keep quiet and bide our time, you will see them veer round and come to regard alliance with us as their only safety. Such, then, are the hopes which I entertain.

However, so far am I from complying with the enemy's demands that, if none of these hopes should be realized and we should fail to obtain help from any quarter, but on the contrary some of the Hellenes should wrong us and the rest should look on with indifference—even so I should not alter my opinion; but I would undergo all the hazards which spring from war before I would agree to these terms. For I should be equally chagrined in either case—if we charged our forefathers with having deprived the Messenians of their land unjustly, or if, although insisting that they acquired it rightly and honorably, we made any concession regarding this territory contrary to our just rights.

Nay, we must follow neither course, but must consider how we may carry on the war in a manner worthy of Spartans, and not prove those who are wont to eulogize our state to be liars, but so acquit ourselves that they shall seem to have told less than the truth about us.

Now I certainly believe that nothing worse will befall us in the future than what we endure at present, but that, on the contrary, our enemies will plan and act in such a way that they themselves will right our fortunes; but if we should after all be disappointed in our hopes, and should find ourselves hemmed in on every side and be no longer able to hold our city, then, hard as may be the step which I am about to propose, yet I shall not hesitate to proclaim it boldly; for that which I shall propose to you is a nobler course to be heralded abroad among the Hellenes, and more in keeping with our own pride, than that which is urged by some among you.

For I declare that we must send our parents and our wives and children and the mass of the people away from Sparta, some to Sicily, some to Cyrene, others to the mainland of Asia,[*](Greek emigration from the home country was commonly towards the far west (Sicily), the east (coast of Asia Minor), or the south (Cyrene). Moreover, Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse and the “dynasts” in Asia were friendly to the Spartans (see § 63), and Cyrene was a Spartan settlement (see Isoc. 5.5).) where the inhabitants will all gladly welcome them with gifts of ample lands and of the other means of livelihood as well, partly in gratitude for favors which they have received and partly in expectation of the return of favors which they first bestow.

Those of us, on the other hand, who are willing and able to fight must remain behind, abandon the city and all our possessions except what we can carry with us, and having seized some stronghold which will be the most secure and the most advantageous for carrying on the war, harry and plunder our enemies both by land and by sea until they cease from laying claim to what is ours.

If we have the courage for such a course and never falter in it, you will see those who now issue commands imploring and beseeching us to take back Messene and make peace. For what state in the Peloponnesus could withstand a war such as would in all likelihood be waged if we so willed? What people would not be stricken with dismay and terror at the assembling of an army which had carried out such measures, which had been roused to just wrath against those who had driven it to these extremes, and which had been rendered desperate and reckless of life—

an army which, in its freedom from ordinary cares and in having no other duty but that of war, would resemble a mercenary force, but in point of native valor and of disciplined habits would be like no army that could be levied in all the world—an army, moreover, which would have no fixed government, but would be able to bivouac in the open fields and to range the country at will, readily making itself neighbor to any people at its pleasure, and regarding every place which offered advantages for waging war as its fatherland?

For my part, I believe that if this proposal were merely put in words and scattered broadcast among the Hellenes, our enemies would be thrown into utter confusion; and still more would this be so if we were put to the necessity of carrying it into effect. For what must we suppose their feelings will be when they themselves suffer injury, but are powerless to inflict injury upon us;

when they see their own cities reduced to a state of siege, while we shall have taken such measures that our own city cannot henceforth experience a like calamity; and when, furthermore, they perceive that it is easy for us to procure food both from our existing stores and from the spoils of war, but difficult for them, inasmuch as it is one thing to provide for an army such as ours and another to feed the crowds in cities?

But bitterest of all will it be for them when they learn that the members of our households have all along been living in comfort and plenty, whereas they will see their own people destitute every day of the necessities of life, and will not be able even to alleviate their distress, but if they till the soil, they will lose both crop and seed, and if they allow it to lie unworked, they will be unable to hold out any time at all.

But perhaps, you will object, they will join forces and with their united armies will follow us up and prevent us from doing them harm. Yet what better thing could we wish than to find close at hand, drawn up in line of battle and encamped against us face to face on the same difficult ground, an undisciplined and motley rabble, serving under many leaders? For there would be need of no great effort on our part; no, we should quickly force them to give battle, choosing the moment propitious for ourselves and not for them.