Using the Past as a Guide for the Future

Andocides, On the Peace with Sparta 1-2

“You all seem to me to understand, Athenians, that it is better to make a just peace than to keep going to war. That politicians agree to peace in name but they oppose the acts that foster peace, you do not all perceive this. For they claim that, once peace is achieved, there is the greatest peril for the people that the current regime may be dissolved.

Therefore, if the people of the Athenians had never made peace before with the Lakedaimonians, we might rightly fear this because of inexperience of the process or distrust for them. Since you have often made peace with them previously when you were already ruled as a democracy, how would it not be right for you to first examine the things that happened before. For, it is right, Athenians, to use prior events as a guide about what will happen in the future.”

Ὅτι μὲν εἰρήνην ποιεῖσθαι δικαίαν ἄμεινόν ἐστιν ἢ πολεμεῖν, δοκεῖτέ μοι, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, πάντες γιγνώσκειν· ὅτι δὲ οἱ ῥήτορες τῷ μὲν ὀνόματι τῆς εἰρήνης συγχωροῦσι, τοῖς δ᾿ ἔργοις ἀφ᾿ ὧν ἂν ἡ εἰρήνη γένοιτο ἐναντιοῦνται, τοῦτο δὲ οὐ πάντες αἰσθάνεσθε. λέγουσι γὰρ ὡς ἔστι δεινότατον τῷ δήμῳ, γενομένης εἰρήνης, ἡ νῦν οὖσα πολιτεία μὴ καταλυθῇ.

Εἰ μὲν οὖν μηδεπώποτε πρότερον ὁ δῆμος ὁ [τῶν]2Ἀθηναίων εἰρήνην ἐποιήσατο πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους, εἰκότως ἂν ἐφοβούμεθα αὐτὸ διά τε τὴν ἀπειρίαν τοῦ ἔργου διά τε τὴν ἐκείνων ἀπιστίαν· ὅπου δὲ πολλάκις ἤδη πρότερον εἰρήνην ἐποιήσασθε δημοκρατούμενοι, πῶς οὐκ εἰκὸς ὑμᾶς πρῶτον ἐκεῖνα σκέψασθαι τὰ τότε γενόμενα; χρὴ γάρ, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, τεκμηρίοις χρῆσθαι τοῖς πρότερον γενομένοις περὶ τῶν μελλόντων ἔσεσθαι.

ὡς ἔστι δεινότατον… Smyth §2224 δεινός εἰμι functions grammatically as an expression of fear, triggering the fear clause postponed to the end of the sentence (μὴ καταλυθῇ)


Image result for Athens treaty with sparta inscription
Segment of the Gortyn Legal inscription

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