The History of the Peloponnesian War
Page: 93Meanwhile the Athenians, greatly encouraged by the inaction of the Mitylenians, summoned allies to their aid, who came in all the quicker from seeing so little vigour displayed by the Lesbians, and bringing round their ships to a new station to the south of the town, fortified two camps, one on each side of the city, and instituted a blockade of both the harbours. The sea was thus closed against the Mitylenians, who, however, commanded the whole country, with the rest of the Lesbians who had now joined them; the Athenians only holding a limited area round their camps, and using Malea more as the station for their ships and their market.
While the war went on in this way at Mitylene, the Athenians, about the same time in this summer, also sent thirty ships to Peloponnese under Asopius, son of Phormio; the Acarnanians insisting that the commander sent should be some son or relative of Phormio. As the ships coasted along shore they ravaged the seaboard of Laconia; after which Asopius sent most of the fleet home, and himself went on with twelve vessels to Naupactus, and afterwards raising the whole Acarnanian population made an expedition against Oeniadae, the fleet sailing along the Achelous, while the army laid waste the country. The inhabitants, however, showing no signs of submitting, he dismissed the land forces and himself sailed to Leucas, and making a descent upon Nericus was cut off during his retreat, and most of his troops with him, by the people in those parts aided by some coastguards; after which the Athenians sailed away, recovering their dead from the Leucadians under truce.
Meanwhile the envoys of the Mitylenians sent out in the first ship were told by the Lacedaemonians to come to Olympia, in order that the rest of the allies might hear them and decide upon their matter, and so they journeyed thither. It was the Olympiad in which the Rhodian Dorieus gained his second victory, and the envoys having been introduced to make their speech after the festival, spoke as follows:
"Lacedaemonians and allies, the rule established among the Hellenes is not unknown to us. Those who revolt in war and forsake their former confederacy are favourably regarded by those who receive them, in so far as they are of use to them, but otherwise are thought less well of, through being considered traitors to their former friends. Nor is this an unfair way of judging, where the rebels and the power from whom they secede are at one in policy and sympathy, and a match for each other in resources and power, and where no reasonable ground exists for the rebellion. But with us and the Athenians this was not the case; and no one need think the worse of us for revolting from them in danger, after having been honoured by them in time of peace.
"Justice and honesty will be the first topics of our speech, especially as we are asking for alliance; because we know that there can never be any solid friendship between individuals, or union between communities that is worth the name, unless the parties be persuaded of each other's honesty, and be generally congenial the one to the other; since from difference in feeling springs also difference in conduct. Between ourselves and the Athenians alliance began, when you withdrew from the Median War and they remained to finish the business. But we did not become allies of the Athenians for the subjugation of the Hellenes, but allies of the Hellenes for their liberation from the Mede; and as long as the Athenians led us fairly we followed them loyally; but when we saw them relax their hostility to the Mede, to try to compass the subjection of the allies, then our apprehensions began. Unable, however, to unite and defend themselves, on account of the number of confederates that had votes, all the allies were enslaved, except ourselves and the Chians, who continued to send our contingents as independent and nominally free. Trust in Athens as a leader, however, we could no longer feel, judging by the examples already given; it being unlikely that she would reduce our fellow confederates, and not do the same by us who were left, if ever she had the power.
"Had we all been still independent, we could have had more faith in their not attempting any change; but the greater number being their subjects, while they were treating us as equals, they would naturally chafe under this solitary instance of independence as contrasted with the submission of the majority; particularly as they daily grew more powerful, and we more destitute. Now the only sure basis of an alliance is for each party to be equally afraid of the other; he who would like to encroach is then deterred by the reflection that he will not have odds in his favour. Again, if we were left independent, it was only because they thought they saw their way to empire more clearly by specious language and by the paths of policy than by those of force. Not only were we useful as evidence that powers who had votes, like themselves, would not, surely, join them in their expeditions, against their will, without the party attacked being in the wrong; but the same system also enabled them to lead the stronger states against the weaker first, and so to leave the former to the last, stripped of their natural allies, and less capable of resistance. But if they had begun with us, while all the states still had their resources under their own control, and there was a centre to rally round, the work of subjugation would have been found less easy. Besides this, our navy gave them some apprehension: it was always possible that it might unite with you or with some other power, and become dangerous to Athens. The court which we paid to their commons and its leaders for the time being also helped us to maintain our independence. However, we did not expect to be able to do so much longer, if this war had not broken out, from the examples that we had had of their conduct to the rest.