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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 108

About the same time in this summer, the Plataeans, being now without provisions and unable to support the siege, surrendered to the Peloponnesians in the following manner. An assault had been made upon the wall, which the Plataeans were unable to repel. The Lacedaemonian commander, perceiving their weakness, wished to avoid taking the place by storm; his instructions from Lacedaemon having been so conceived, in order that if at any future time peace should be made with Athens, and they should agree each to restore the places that they had taken in the war, Plataea might be held to have come over voluntarily, and not be included in the list. He accordingly sent a herald to them to ask if they were willing voluntarily to surrender the town to the Lacedaemonians, and accept them as their judges, upon the understanding that the guilty should be punished, but no one without form of law. The Plataeans were now in the last state of weakness, and the herald had no sooner delivered his message than they surrendered the town. The Peloponnesians fed them for some days until the judges from Lacedaemon, who were five in number, arrived. Upon their arrival no charge was preferred; they simply called up the Plataeans, and asked them whether they had done the Lacedaemonians and allies any service in the war then raging. The Plataeans asked leave to speak at greater length, and deputed two of their number to represent them: Astymachus, son of Asopolaus, and Lacon, son of Aeimnestus, proxenus of the Lacedaemonians, who came forward and spoke as follows:

"Lacedaemonians, when we surrendered our city we trusted in you, and looked forward to a trial more agreeable to the forms of law than the present, to which we had no idea of being subjected; the judges also in whose hands we consented to place ourselves were you, and you only (from whom we thought we were most likely to obtain justice), and not other persons, as is now the case. As matters stand, we are afraid that we have been doubly deceived. We have good reason to suspect, not only that the issue to be tried is the most terrible of all, but that you will not prove impartial; if we may argue from the fact that no accusation was first brought forward for us to answer, but we had ourselves to ask leave to speak, and from the question being put so shortly, that a true answer to it tells against us, while a false one can be contradicted. In this dilemma, our safest, and indeed our only course, seems to be to say something at all risks: placed as we are, we could scarcely be silent without being tormented by the damning thought that speaking might have saved us. Another difficulty that we have to encounter is the difficulty of convincing you. Were we unknown to each other we might profit by bringing forward new matter with which you were unacquainted: as it is, we can tell you nothing that you do not know already, and we fear, not that you have condemned us in your own minds of having failed in our duty towards you, and make this our crime, but that to please a third party we have to submit to a trial the result of which is already decided. Nevertheless, we will place before you what we can justly urge, not only on the question of the quarrel which the Thebans have against us, but also as addressing you and the rest of the Hellenes; and we will remind you of our good services, and endeavour to prevail with you.


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