Really, We Have To Go to War

Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 1.144

“I have many other reasons to hope for the outcome if you are willing not to grow your empire by warring more and not to add dangers of your own choosing. For I am much more afraid of our own mistakes than our enemies’ plans.

But these are topics which will be explained in another speech on those matters. For now, let use send them away with these answers, that we will allow the Megarians to use our marketplace and harbors provided that the Spartans do not continue their foreign actions against us or our allies—for nothing stops this action or that one in the treaties we have. In addition, we will leave cities independent if they were independent when we came into contact with them and when those cities did not give in to them, they should be independent too, as each of them desires.

Add as well that we are willing to submit to judgments according to the treaties and we will not begin the war, although we will defend against those who do start it. These answers are just and proper answers for the city. You need to understand that we must go to war—but if we welcome it willingly, we will have less enthusiastic opponents.

Remember also that the greatest honors come both in private and public from the greatest dangers. Didn’t our fathers stand up against the Medes even though they started from so unequal a position? And when they left everything they had behind, they fought off the barbarian with greater intelligence than luck and greater daring than power and raised our state to what it is today. For this reason, we must not fall back, but we must defend against our enemies in every way and strive to give to our descendants a state no weaker at all.”

‘Πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἄλλα ἔχω ἐς ἐλπίδα τοῦ περιέσεσθαι, ἢν ἐθέλητε ἀρχήν τε μὴ ἐπικτᾶσθαι ἅμα πολεμοῦντες καὶ κινδύνους αὐθαιρέτους μὴ προστίθεσθαι· μᾶλλον γὰρ πεφόβημαι τὰς οἰκείας ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίας ἢ τὰς τῶν ἐναντίων διανοίας. ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνα μὲν καὶ ἐν ἄλλῳ λόγῳ ἅμα τοῖς ἔργοις δηλωθήσεται· νῦν δὲ τούτοις ἀποκρινάμενοι ἀποπέμψωμεν, Μεγαρέας μὲν ὅτι ἐάσομεν ἀγορᾷ καὶ λιμέσι χρῆσθαι, ἢν καὶ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ξενηλασίας μὴ ποιῶσι μήτε ἡμῶν μήτε τῶν ἡμετέρων ξυμμάχων (οὔτε γὰρ ἐκεῖνο κωλύει ἐν ταῖς σπονδαῖς οὔτε τόδε), τὰς δὲ πόλεις ὅτι αὐτονόμους ἀφήσομεν, εἰ καὶ αὐτονόμους ἔχοντες ἐσπεισάμεθα, καὶ ὅταν κἀκεῖνοι ταῖς ἑαυτῶν ἀποδῶσι πόλεσι μὴ σφίσι [τοῖς Λακεδαιμονίοις] ἐπιτηδείως αὐτονομεῖσθαι, ἀλλ’ αὐτοῖς ἑκάστοις ὡς βούλονται· δίκας τε ὅτι ἐθέλομεν δοῦναι κατὰ τὰς ξυνθήκας, πολέμου δὲ οὐκ ἄρξομεν, ἀρχομένους δὲ ἀμυνούμεθα. ταῦτα γὰρ δίκαια καὶ πρέποντα ἅμα τῇδε τῇ πόλει ἀποκρίνασθαι. εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ ὅτι ἀνάγκη πολεμεῖν, ἢν δὲ ἑκούσιοι μᾶλλον δεχώμεθα, ἧσσον ἐγκεισομένους τοὺς ἐναντίους ἕξομεν, ἔκ τε τῶν μεγίστων κινδύνων ὅτι καὶ πόλει καὶ ἰδιώτῃ μέγισται τιμαὶ περιγίγνονται. οἱ γοῦν πατέρες ἡμῶν ὑποστάντες Μήδους καὶ οὐκ ἀπὸ τοσῶνδε ὁρμώμενοι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ἐκλιπόντες, γνώμῃ τε πλέονι ἢ τύχῃ καὶ τόλμῃ μείζονι ἢ δυνάμει τόν τε βάρβαρον ἀπεώσαντο καὶ ἐς τάδε προήγαγον αὐτά. ὧν οὐ χρὴ λείπεσθαι, ἀλλὰ τούς τε ἐχθροὺς παντὶ τρόπῳ ἀμύνεσθαι καὶ τοῖς ἐπιγιγνομένοις πειρᾶσθαι αὐτὰ μὴ ἐλάσσω παραδοῦναι.’

File:Jean-auguste-dominique ingres, uomo deificato, detto l'apoteosi di omero, 1827, 02.jpg
Detail of J.A.D Ingres’  “Apotheosis of Homer”

 

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