Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 1, Chapter 3 – Congress of the Peloponnesian Confederacy at Lacedaemon

  1. The Athenians & Peloponnesians had a lot of complaints against one another. Corinth complained her colony under siege by the Athenians. The Athenians complained that the Peloponnesians were inciting revolts in her allied cities, in openly fighting against Athens in Potidaea. Yet, in spite of this, there was no formal war.
  2. This siege put an end to the inactivity. The Spartans accused Athens of breaching the treaty. The Eginetans were secret advocates for war because they were not given the independence the treaty promised them. The Spartans invited them to speak at an assembly. The Megarians also had many complaints, being excluded from Athenian ports, also against the treaty. The Corinthians spoke:
  3. “You Spartans are so cozy with your constitution & social order. You don’t know what goes on outside your bubble. We’ve warned you about Athens. But you always brushed us away as alarmists. You delayed so long that you didn’t get involved until you allies are hurting. You ignored actions taken in broad daylight. We don’t need to make long speeches. It’s going on now – in Corcyra & in Thrace.
  4. “You let this happen. You allowed Athens to fortify their city after the Persian War. You claim to be the liberator of Greece. But Greece is becoming less free. We know this is not happening out in the open. Athens is feeling more confident because of your acceptance of their behavior. You’re only interested in your own safety. But in doing so, you allow it grow twice its size instead of nipping it in the bud. It used to be said that Sparta could be counted on. But we know from the Persian War, you withheld your military power while the Persians attacked Greece until they were at your door. Athens is growing & you do nothing about it.
  5. “We’re not being hostile to you but we’re trying – as friend – to jolt you out of your inactivity. But now we’re a situation with 2 nations with entirely different characters going toe to toe with each other. Athenians are innovative, with swift designs in conception & innovation. Spartans do no innovation, are not quick to move & never go far enough in action. Athens is daring, adventurous, sanguine in danger. You never use all your power & feel like you’re always in danger. They are not likely to procrastinate while that’s all you do. They are always on the go, while you never leave home. They think being absent will expand their possessions while you think you’ll lose everything by leaving home. They want to follow up success, spend money to expand & use your wits. But they don’t enjoy life because they never stop working. They are imposing this way of life on others.
  6. “We know the character of Athens. Yet you don’t try & stop them from expanding. Your idea of justice is not to injure others, not risking your fortune to prevent others from injuring you. These are outdated habits. They have proven that innovation leads to improvements in art, politics, law, business, etc. Stop dawdling & help your allies, esp. Potidaea. You promised an invasion of Attica if Athens besieged Potidaea. Don’t let us sit around & get attacked. What’s the point of this treaty if the Athenians can violate it willy-nilly?”
  7. The Athenian envoys wished to speak, not out of defense but to make apparent the severity of what was being said. They spoke:
  8. “We weren’t sent here to argue & counter accusations lobbed against us but to try & stop you from making a bad decision. We have a fair claim to our possessions. We hate to keep pointing to the Persian War but we took the brunt of that hit & got possessions out of it that we aim to keep. Don’t try to take them from us. Don’t try to fight us. You’ve seen what our navy can do because we did it to the Persians.
  9. “Greece really relied on the Athenian fleet for that, as well as Themistocles, the great leader, & the most amazing patriotism. We had the spirit to carry on fighting at sea after having to abandon our homes. All of this without any help. You only came to help because you were afraid for your own safety. Without us, the war would have been lost.
  10. “It’s not our spirit or wisdom that makes us unpopular. We’ve built our empire without violence. It’s because you didn’t have the balls to finish the Persian War & our allies came to us for help & leadership. But now we seem to be the objects of hatred & suspicion.
  11. “You Spartans have always used superior strength to lord it over your neighbors. You would’ve been in the same seat as us if you’d actually provided help to those who had asked for it. Now you’re calling us unjust & want to stop our ambitions.
  12. “We actually think we’re being moderate. You are trying to decrease our rights & we try to implement good law & you give us hell for it. Why don’t you do this to other states? To those who treat their citizens like garbage? Our subjects are treated as equals & anything that clashes with justice from a legal side or from power from our empire. People get more indignant by legal wrongs than violent wrongs. You all put up with way worse from the Persians than what you’re giving us hell about. If you tried to replace us, you’d be in the same position – unpopular. Your home rules don’t mesh with those you impose on others or what’s recognized throughout Greece.
  13. “Take your time in forming a resolution. Don’t let others start fights for you. Think what an upheaval war would bring. A lot of the outcome will be due to chance. Most people act first & think later. We know what will come of it. Don’t break the treaty.”
  14. The Spartans had heard from its allies & from the Athenians. They went to consult amongst themselves. The majority felt Athens were the aggressors & war must be declared. The King, Archidamus, wise & moderate, spoke:
  15. “This war being debated will be the biggest ever in the history of Greece. When fighting Peloponnesians, it’s all with people similar to us. Fighting with Athens is fighting with a different sort of animal. They know the sea very well, they’re rich, with lots of resources. How will we get the best of them? At sea? We are inferior there. With money? We don’t have most of that either. Now one will pay out of his own pocket.
  16. “We may feel good in our infantry & population. But Athens has a lot of lands to draw from & it has command of the sea. If we incite revolts, it will have to be through the use of a navy, since their allies are on islands. Unless we can beat them at sea or deprive them of their income, we’ll lose. Let’s not think we can win this war quickly. I fear our children will be fighting it. I don’t think Athens will back down either.
  17. “Let’s not jump to war. Let’s warn them with a tone not too harsh & not too weak. In the meantime, we need to build up allies, including wealth & a navy. We also need to develop our home resources. Then we can attack them. Maybe once we have, they will submit so as not to have everything they own ruined but not too desperate where they’d lash out & fight. This has to be done smartly.
  18. “Let’s not call it cowardice. The Athenians have their own allies & a source of income. We all know war is as much a matter of money as it is of arms. This is especially true in a war between a land power & a naval power.
  19. “Don’t worry about being accused of procrastination. If we jump into a war without preparing, it would only delay the end of it. We are being condemned for our moderation & not getting carried away. Let’s not get cheered on to take unnecessary risks or annoyed at accusations. We are warlike because self-control contains honor & bravery. We are wise because we haven’t filled our heads with useless knowledge. We always assume an enemy is well-prepared & so we must be well-prepared. Making ourselves hard men also helps us out.
  20. “The practices set by ancestors are good & should be kept. We shouldn’t be rushed into a hasty decision. We must do it calmly. Let the Athenians try their legal trickery.” After Archidamus spoke, one of the ephors, Sthenelaides, spoke:
  21. “The Athenians did a lot of praising of themselves but they never denied they were harming our allies. We can’t ignore that & delay helping our friends. They may have money & resources, but honor calls us to defend our allies. Let’s not delay in this case. It would only serve them to give them time. We have to deal with this injustice & attack the Athenian aggressors.”
  22. After this, he called for the matter to be put to a vote. They couldn’t do it by measuring whose voices were loudest because both sides were loud. They stood to separate sides – one pro-war & one anti-war. The majority was in favor of declaring war immediately. Both Spartans & Athenians went home & the 30 year truce was over after only 14 years after the affair of Euboea.
  23. The Spartans voted that the treaty had been broken. They were not as persuaded by the arguments goading them as they were afraid of Athens’s growth on the whole.

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