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.

But the remainder of the day would fail me if I undertook to set forth the advantages we should gain by such a course. This much, at any rate, is clear to all—that we have been superior to all the Hellenes, not because of the size of our city or the number of its inhabitants,[*](Sparta was about six miles in circumference. The number of pure Spartan inhabitants never exceeded 10,000.) but because the government which we have established is like a military camp, well administered and rendering willing obedience to its officers.[*](The whole life of a Spartan youth was supervised by military officers of one sort or another. Those over twenty years of age ate at a common table, or military mess. War was the first and only duty of a Spartan citizen, and obedience more important even than life.) If, then, we shall create in reality that which it has profited us to imitate, there can be no doubt that we shall easily overcome our foes.

We know, moreover, that those who became the founders of this city entered the Peloponnesus with but a small army and yet made themselves masters of many powerful states.[*](For example, of Corinth, Sicyon and Megara.) It were fitting, then, to imitate our forefathers and, by retracing our steps, now that we have stumbled in our course, try to win back the honors and the dominions which were formerly ours.

But, monstrous above all things would be our conduct if, knowing well that the Athenians abandoned their country to preserve the freedom of the Hellenes,[*](Cf. Isoc. 4.96.) we should lack the courage to give up our city even to preserve our own lives, and should refuse, when it behoves us to set the example for others in such deeds, even to imitate the conduct of the Athenians.

Even more should we deserve the ridicule of men if, having before us the example of the Phocaeans who, to escape the tyranny of the Great King, left Asia and founded a new settlement at Massilia,[*](The first party of the Phocaeans left Asia about 524 B.C. Besieged by Harpalus, they swore that never would they return to their city until the iron which they had cast into the sea should rise and float on the water. See Horace, Epode. xvi., and Hdt. 1.165. A second group came to Marseilles later. See Paus. 10.8.4.) we should sink into such abjectness of spirit as to submit to the dictates of those whose masters we have always been throughout our history.

But we must not let our minds dwell on the day when we shall have to send away from us those who are nearest and dearest to us; no, we must at once begin to look forward to that good time when, victorious over our foes, we shall restore our city, bring back our own people, and prove to the world that while we now have experienced reverses unjustly, in times past we justly claimed precedence over all others.

This, then, is how matters stand: I have made this proposal, not with the thought that we must put it into effect forthwith, nor that there is in our circumstances no other means of deliverance, but because I wish to urge your minds to the conviction that we must endure, not only these, but even much worse misfortunes before conceding such terms regarding Messene as are being urged upon us.

I should not so earnestly exhort you to carry on the war if I did not see that the peace resulting from my proposals will be honorable and enduring, while that which would result from the counsel of certain men among you will not only be disgraceful, but will last no time at all. For if we permit the Helots to settle on our borders and allow Messene to flourish undisturbed, who does not know that we shall be involved in constant turmoils and dangers all our lives? Therefore, those who talk about “security” are blind to the fact that they are providing us with peace for a few days only, while contriving a state of war which will never end.

I should like to ask these men in what cause they think we ought to fight and die. Is it not cause enough when the enemy make demands that are contrary to justice, when they cut off a portion of our territory, when they free our slaves and settle them in the land which our fathers bequeathed to us, yes, and not only rob us of our possessions but in addition to all our other miseries involve us in disgrace?

For my part, I think that in such a cause as this we ought to endure, not only war, but even exile and death; for it is far better to end our lives in the possession of the high reputation which we now enjoy than to go on living with the infamy which we shall bring upon ourselves if we do what we are commanded to do. In a word, if I may speak without reserve, it is preferable for us to suffer annihilation, rather than derision, at the hands of our foes. For men who have lived in such high repute and in such pride of spirit must do one of two things—either be first among the Hellenes, or perish utterly, having done no ignominious deed but having brought their lives to an honorable close.

Reflecting upon these things, we must not be faint of heart, nor follow the judgements of our allies, whom in former times we claimed the right to lead, but, having duly weighed the matter for ourselves, we should choose, not what is easiest for them, but what will be in keeping with Lacedaemon and with our achievements in the past. For not every people can adopt the same measures in the same situation, but each must follow the principles which from the very first they have made the foundation of their lives.

No one, for example, would reproach Epidaurians or Corinthians or Phliasians if they thought of nothing else than to escape destruction and save their own lives; we men of Lacedaemon, however, cannot seek our deliverance at all costs, but if to “safety” we cannot add “with honor,” then for us death with good repute is preferable; for those who lay claim to valor must make it the supreme object of their lives never to be found doing a shameful thing.

But the cowardice of states is made manifest in deliberations like these no less than in the perils of war; for the greatest part of what takes place on the battle-field is due to fortune, but what is resolved upon here is a token of our very spirit. Wherefore we should strive for success in the measures to be adopted here with an emulation no less keen than we show in the lists of war.

I marvel at those who are willing to die for their personal glory, but have not the same feeling for the glory of the state, for which we may well suffer anything whatsoever to avoid bringing shame upon our city, nor should we permit it to abandon the post in which it was established by our forefathers. It is true that many difficulties and dangers beset us;

these we must avoid, but first and foremost we should be careful that we are never found doing any cowardly deed or making any unjust concessions to the foe; for it would be shameful if we, who once[*](Spartan supremacy lasted, theoretically, more than thirty years, from the end of the Peloponnesian War (404 B.C.) to the battle of Leuctra. Meantime, however, the Athenians secured for a short period their second naval empire (378 B.C.).) were thought worthy to rule the Hellenes, should be seen carrying out their commands, and should fall so far below our forefathers that, while they were willing to die in order that they might dictate to others,[*](Thucydides, i. 140, puts in the mouth of Pericles the assertion that the Spartans prefer to resolve their complaints by war and not by words, dictating terms instead of bringing charges.) we would not dare to hazard a battle in order that we might prevent others from dictating to us.

We may well be ashamed when we think of the Olympian and the other national assemblies, where every one of us used to be more envied and more admired than the athletes who carry off victories in the games. But who would dare attend them now, when instead of being honored he would be scorned, when instead of being sought out by all because of his valor, he would be conspicuous among all for his cowardice,

and when, more than all this, he would see our slaves bringing from the land which our fathers bequeathed to us first-fruits of the harvest and sacrifices greater than our own, and would hear from their lips such taunts as you would expect from men who once were subjected to the strictest bondage but now have made a treaty with their masters on terms of equality? How keenly every one of us would smart under these insults no man alive could set forth in words.

These are the things about which we must take counsel, and we must not wait to indulge our resentment until that will no longer avail us, but must consider now how we may prevent such a disaster. For it is disgraceful that we, who in former times would not allow even free men the right of equal speech, are now openly tolerating licence of speech on the part of slaves.[*](Others translate i)shgari/as as “political unity” and understand tw=n e)leuqe/rwn to refer to the allies of Sparta. But the passage is probably better taken as referring to the military harshness of the Spartans toward any and all with whom they came in contact, as, for instance, when Astyochus started to beat free men for speaking too freely (see Thuc. 8.84).)

For thus we shall give ground for the suspicion that in time past we have been nothing at all but idle boasters, that by nature we are no different from the rest of mankind, and that the sternness and dignity of manner which we cultivate is not natural, but a mere pose. Let us, therefore, give no such occasion to those who are wont to speak ill of us, but let us endeavor to confute their words by patterning our actions after those of our forefathers.

Remember the men who at Dipaea[*](In 471 B.C. See Hdt. 9.35, and Paus. 8.8.4.) fought against the Arcadians, of whom we are told that, albeit they stood arrayed with but a single line of soldiery, they raised a trophy over thousands upon thousands; remember the three hundred who at Thyrea[*](In 542 B.C. See Hdt. 1.82, and Paus. 2.38.5. lsocrates confuses two contests, one earlier, where three hundred Argives fought against three hundred Spartans, one later, where both sides matched their full forces.) defeated the whole Argive force in battle; remember the thousand who went to meet the foe at Thermopylae,

who, although they engaged seven hundred thousand of the barbarians, did not flee nor suffer defeat, but laid down their lives on the spot where they were stationed,[*](Cf. Isoc. 4.90-92.) acquitting themselves so nobly that even those who eulogize them with all the resources of art can find no praises equal to their valor.