On the Peace


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. 1929-1982.

I fear, therefore, since you are of such a mind, that if I attempt to benefit you I may myself reap a poor reward. Nevertheless, I am not going to refrain entirely from saying the things which I had in mind but shall pass over the most severe and, mayhap, the most painful to you and recall to your minds only the facts by which you will recognize the folly of the men who at that time governed the city.

For so exactly did they gauge[*](Ironical. He means that they mastered the science of making themselves unpopular.) the actions by which human beings incur the worst odium that they passed a decree to divide the surplus of the funds derived from the tributes of the allies into talents and to bring it on the stage,[*](That is, the theoric fund. See Isoc. 8.13, note. The point of the division into talents is obscure. Perhaps one talent was distributed at each festival.) when the theatre was full, at the festival of Dionysus[*](The “Greater Dionysia,” celebrated in March.); and not only was this done but at the same time they led in upon the stage the sons of those who had lost their lives in the war,[*](The state brought them up at public expense until they were of age for citizenship, at which time they were led before the concourse of the people in the theatre and bidden God speed! See Aeschin. 3.154.) seeking thus to display to our allies,[*](It appears that the “tribute” money of the allies during the Confederacy of Delos was brought to Athens by their representatives at the time of the Dionysiac festival. See Aristoph. Ach. 505, 643. Besides, the festival attracted many unofficial visitors from the other states.) on the one hand, the value of their own property[*](That is, the value we attach to it—how we honor their contributions.) which was brought in by hirelings,[*](The text clearly means “brought in by paid men.” But misqwtoi/ may be either paid servants or paid soldiers. The former meaning is generally preferred by the editors because only in a loose sense could it be said that the tribute was brought in by mercenaries; besides, the present tense is employed. Nevertheless the reader will think of the hirelings mentioned just before (in 79) with whom the Athenians manned their triremes and through whom they forced the payment of the tribute, and doubtless the author so intended.) and to the rest of the Hellenes, on the other, the multitude of the fatherless and the misfortunes which result from this policy of aggression.

And in doing this they themselves counted the city happy, while many of the simple-minded deemed it blessed, taking no thought whatsoever for future consequences but admiring and envying the wealth which flowed into the city unjustly and which was soon to destroy also that which justly belonged to it.

For they reached such a degree of neglect of their own possessions and of covetousness of the possessions of other states that when the Lacedaemonians had invaded our territory and the fortifications at Decelea[*](This strong position on the slope of Mt. Parnes in Attica was seized and fortified by the Spartans as an outpost from which to raid Athenian territory in 413 B.C.) had already been built, they manned triremes to send to Sicily[*](The original expedition to Sicily was dispatched in 415 B.C. Strong reinforcements were, however, sent at the time Decelea was fortified by the Spartans. See Thuc. 7.20.) and were not ashamed to permit their own country to be cut off and plundered[*](See Isoc. 8.92.) by the enemy while dispatching an expedition against a people who had never in any respect offended against us.

Nay, they arrived at such a pitch of folly that at a time when they were not masters of their own suburbs[*](Decelea was 14 miles from Athens, but the Athenians kept within their walls, and the Spartans ravaged thier territory almost at will. See Thuc. 7.19 ff.) they expected to extend their power over Italy and Sicily and Carthage.[*](Thucydides makes Alcibiades voice the expectation of conquering first Sicily, then Italy, and then Carthage. See Thuc. 6.90.) And so far did they outdo all mankind in recklessness that whereas misfortunes chasten others and render them more prudent our fathers learned no lessons even from this discipline.

And yet they were involved in more and greater disasters in the time of the empire[*](So also Thuc. 1.23.) than have ever befallen Athens in all the rest of her history. Two hundred ships which set sail for Egypt perished with their crews,[*](These were sent to aid Inarus of Egypt in his revolt against Persia, 460 B.C. See Thuc. 1.104 ff.) and a hundred and fifty off the island of Cyprus;[*](Thucydides (Thuc. 1.112) speaks of a fleet of 200 ships of which 60 were sent to Egypt, the remainder under Cimon laying siege to Citium in Cyprus. This expedition, though expensive in the loss of men and money, was not disastrous like the former.) in the Decelean War[*](The text is very uncertain. The reading of the London papyrus is at least preferable since the loss of 10,000 hoplites (unless a hopeless exaggeration) cannot be accounted for if the reading of *g*e or that of the other MSS. is adopted. See Laistner in Classical Quarterly xv. p. 81. At the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (according to Thuc. 2.13), the Athenian heavy-armed troops numbered but 29,000. Later (according to Dem. 25.51), the whole body of Athenian citizens numbered but 20,000.) they lost ten thousand heavy armed troops of their own and of their allies, and in Sicily forty thousand men and two hundred and forty ships,[*](Diodorus (Dio. Sic. 13.21) gives the same number of men, but 200 ships. Thucydides gives the number of ships as 209 and the number of men as not less than 40,000, including heavy and light armed troops, crews, etc. See especially Thuc. 7.75.5.) and, finally, in the Hellespont two hundred ships.[*](At the battle of Aegospotami in 405 B.C., the denouement of this tragic history. Xenophon (Xen. Hell. 2.1.20) and Diodorus (Dio. Sic. 13.105) give 180 as the number of ships.)

But of the ships which were lost in fleets of ten or five or more and of the men who were slain in armies of a thousand or two thousand who could tell the tale? In a word, it was at that time a matter of regular routine to hold public funerals[*](See Isoc. 4.74, note.) every year, which many both of our neighbors and of the other Hellenes used to attend, not to grieve with us for the dead, but to rejoice together at our misfortunes.

And at last, before they knew it, they had filled the public burial-grounds[*](The Ceramicus.) with the bodies of their fellow citizens and the registers of the phratries and of the state[*](Cf. Isoc. 8.50. All citizens were duly enrolled in the phratry registers, fratorika\ grammatei=a and in the state registers, kept in each township, lhciarxika\ grammatei=a.) with the names of those who had no claim upon the city. And you may judge of the multitude of the slain from this fact: The families of the most illustrious Athenians and our greatest houses, which survived the civil conflicts under the tyrants[*](Pisitratus and his sons, Hippias and Hipparchus. See Aristot. Ath. Pol. 18.) and the Persian Wars as well, have been, you will find, entirely wiped out[*](Cf. Isoc. 8.4.) under this empire upon which we set our hearts.

So that if one desired to go into the question of what befell the rest of our citizens, judging by this instance, it would be seen that we have been changed, one might almost say, into a new people. And yet we must not count that state happy which without discrimination recruits from all parts of the world a large number of citizens but rather that state which more than all others preserves the stock of those who in the beginning founded it. And we ought not to emulate those who hold despotic power nor those who have gained a dominion which is greater than is just but rather those who, while worthy of the highest honors, are yet content with the honors which are tendered them by a free people.

For no man nor any state could obtain a position more excellent than this or more secure or of greater worth. And it was because they acquired just this position that our ancestors in the time of the Persian Wars did not live in the manner of freebooters, now having more than enough for their needs, again reduced to a state of famine and siege[*](They were virtually in a state of seige after the occupation of Decelea by the Spartans, who cut off their food supplies.) and extreme misfortune[*](The terrible plague described by Thucydides (i. 23; ii. 48 ff.).); on the contrary, while they lived neither in want nor in surfeit of the means of subsistence day by day, they prided themselves on the justice of their polity and on their own virtues, and passed their lives more pleasantly than the rest of the world.

But, heedless of these lessons, those who came after them desired, not to rule but to dominate[*](That is, to rule by consent as against ruling by force—delegated as against irresponsible power. See Isoc. 4.80 ff.)—words which are thought to have the same meaning, although between them there is the utmost difference. For it is the duty of those who rule to make their welfare,[*](Cf. Isoc. Letter 7.4.) whereas it is a habit of those who dominate to provide pleasures for themselves through the labors and hardships of others. But it is in the nature of things that those who attempt a despot's course must encounter the disasters which befall despotic power[*](Described in 111-113.) and be afflicted by the very things which they inflict upon others. And it is just this which has happened in the case of Athens;

for in place of holding the citadels of other states, her people saw the day when the enemy was in possession of the Acropolis[*](A Spartan garrison occupied the Acropolis during the rule of the Thirty.); in place of dragging children from their mothers and fathers and taking them as hostages,[*](This the Athenians did at Samos in 440 B.C. See Thuc. 1.115.) many of her citizens, living in a state of siege, were compelled to educate and support their children with less than was their due; and in place of farming the lands of other states,[*](The reference is to the cleruchies. See 6, note.) for many years[*](From 413 to 404 B.C.) they were denied the opportunity of even setting eyes upon their own fields.

If, therefore, anyone were to ask us whether we should choose to see Athens in such distress as the price of having ruled so long a time,[*](From 478 to 405 B.C.) who could answer yes, except some utterly abandoned wretch who cared not for sacred matters nor for parents nor for children nor for any other thing save for the term of his own existence? We, however, ought not to emulate the judgement of such men but rather that of those who exercise great forethought and are no less jealous for the reputation of the state than for their own—men who prefer a moderate competence with justice to great wealth unjustly gained.

For our ancestors,[*](See Isoc. 8.90.) proving themselves to be men of this character, handed on the city to their descendants in a most prosperous condition and left behind them an imperishable memorial of their virtue. And from this we may easily learn a double lesson: that our soil is able to rear better men than the rest of the world[*](Cf. Isoc. 7.74.) and that what we call empire, though in reality it is misfortune,[*](Cf. Eur. Alc. 802: ou)bi/os a)lhqw=s o( bi/os, a)lla\ sumfora/.) is of a nature to deprave all who have to do with it.

We have a most convincing proof of this. For imperialism worked the ruin not only of Athens but of the city of the Lacedaemonians also, so that those who are in the habit of praising the virtues of Sparta[*](Cf. Isoc. 12.200.) cannot argue that we managed our affairs badly because of our democratic government whereas if the Lacedaemonians had taken over the empire the results would have been happy both for the rest of the Hellenes and for themselves. For this power revealed its nature much more quickly in their case.[*](The Spartan supremacy lasted from 404 to 371; the Athenian from 478 to 405 B.C.) Indeed it brought it to pass that a polity which over a period of seven hundred years[*](From the reign of Eurysthenes and Procles, about 1072, to the battle of Leuctra, 371 B.C. For the stability of the Spartan constitution see Isoc. 12.257.) had never, so far as we know, been disturbed by perils or calamities was shaken and all but destroyed in a short space of time.

For in place of the ways of life established among them it filled the citizens with injustice, indolence, lawlessness and avarice and the commonwealth with contempt for its allies, covetousness of the possessions of other states, and indifference to its oaths and covenants. In fact they went so far beyond our ancestors in their crimes against the Hellenes that in addition to the evils which already afflicted the several states they stirred up in them slaughter and strife,[*](See Isoc. 4.110 ff.) in consequence of which their citizens will cherish for each other a hatred unquenchable.

And they became so addicted to war and the perils of war that, whereas in times past they had been more cautious in this regard[*](An example of this caution is the advice of King Archidamus at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. See Thuc. 1.80.) than the rest of the world, they did not refrain from attacking even their own allies and their own benefactors; on the contrary, although the great King had furnished them with more than five thousand talents[*](So also Andocides, Isoc. 8.29.) for the war against us, and although the Chians[*](Chios revolted from Athens in 412 B. C. and supported Sparta with her fleet until the end of the Peloponnesian War.) had supported them more zealously than any of their other allies by means of their fleet

and the Thebans[*](Thebes was one of Sparta's strongest allies against Athens. See Thuc. 4.93.) had contributed a great number of troops to their land forces, the Lacedaemonians no sooner gained the supremacy than they straightway plotted against the Thebans,[*](Instanced by the treacherous seizure of the Theban citadel (the Cadmea) by the Spartan Phoebidas. See Xen. Hell. 5.2.25 ff.) dispatched Clearchus with an army against the King,[*](Cf. Isoc. 12.104. The “ten thousand” mercenaries led by the Spartan Clearchus to support Cyrus against King Artaxerxes were not officially dispatched, although sanctioned, by Sparta. For the fortunes of this army see Isoc. 4.145-149; Isoc. 5.90 ff.; and Xen. Anab.) and in the case of the Chians drove into exile[*](An oligarchy was established there and 600 of the democratic faction were driven into exile. See Dio. Sic. 13.65.) the foremost of their citizens and launched their battle-ships from their docks and made off with their whole navy.[*](This was done by Lysander in 404 B.C. See Dio. Sic. 13.70.)

However, they were not satisfied with perpetrating these crimes, but about the same time were ravaging the Asiatic coast,[*](Greek settlements in Asia Minor. See Isoc. 4.144.) committing outrages against the islands,[*](For example, Samos (Xen. Hell. 2.3.6), by expelling the democratic faction and setting up “decarchis” there.) subverting the free governments in Italy and Sicily, setting up despotisms in their stead,[*](Sparta supported Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse in extending his power over Greek cities in Sicily and Italy. See Diodorus xiv. 10 and cf. Isoc. 4.126, which should be read in this connection.) overrunning the Peloponnesus and filling it with seditions and wars. For, tell me, against which of the cities of Hellas did they fail to take the field? Which of them did they fail to wrong?

Did they not rob the Eleans of part of their territory,[*](See Dio. Sic. 14.17.) did they not lay waste the land of the Corinthians,[*](See Xen. Hell. 4.5.19.) did they not disperse the Mantineans from their homes,[*](See Isoc. 4.126; Xen. Hell. 5.2.1.) did they not reduce the Phliasians by siege,[*](See Xen. Hell. 5.3.21 ff. and Isoc. 4.126.) and did they not invade the country of the Argives,[*](See Xen. Hell. 4.4.19.) never ceasing from their depredations upon the rest of the world and so bringing upon themselves the disaster at Leuctra? Some maintain that this disaster was the cause of the misfortunes which overtook Sparta, but they do not speak the truth. For it was not because of this that they incurred the hatred of their allies; it was because of their insolence in the time preceding that they were defeated in this battle and fell into peril of losing their own city.