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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 111

"It were not to your glory, Lacedaemonians, either to offend in this way against the common law of the Hellenes and against your own ancestors, or to kill us your benefactors to gratify another's hatred without having been wronged yourselves: it were more so to spare us and to yield to the impressions of a reasonable compassion; reflecting not merely on the awful fate in store for us, but also on the character of the sufferers, and on the impossibility of predicting how soon misfortune may fall even upon those who deserve it not. We, as we have a right to do and as our need impels us, entreat you, calling aloud upon the gods at whose common altar all the Hellenes worship, to hear our request, to be not unmindful of the oaths which your fathers swore, and which we now plead—we supplicate you by the tombs of your fathers, and appeal to those that are gone to save us from falling into the hands of the Thebans and their dearest friends from being given up to their most detested foes. We also remind you of that day on which we did the most glorious deeds, by your fathers' sides, we who now on this are like to suffer the most dreadful fate. Finally, to do what is necessary and yet most difficult for men in our situation—that is, to make an end of speaking, since with that ending the peril of our lives draws near—in conclusion we say that we did not surrender our city to the Thebans (to that we would have preferred inglorious starvation), but trusted in and capitulated to you; and it would be just, if we fail to persuade you, to put us back in the same position and let us take the chance that falls to us. And at the same time we adjure you not to give us up—your suppliants, Lacedaemonians, out of your hands and faith, Plataeans foremost of the Hellenic patriots, to Thebans, our most hated enemies—but to be our saviours, and not, while you free the rest of the Hellenes, to bring us to destruction."

Such were the words of the Plataeans. The Thebans, afraid that the Lacedaemonians might be moved by what they had heard, came forward and said that they too desired to address them, since the Plataeans had, against their wish, been allowed to speak at length instead of being confined to a simple answer to the question. Leave being granted, the Thebans spoke as follows:

"We should never have asked to make this speech if the Plataeans on their side had contented themselves with shortly answering the question, and had not turned round and made charges against us, coupled with a long defence of themselves upon matters outside the present inquiry and not even the subject of accusation, and with praise of what no one finds fault with. However, since they have done so, we must answer their charges and refute their self-praise, in order that neither our bad name nor their good may help them, but that you may hear the real truth on both points, and so decide.


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