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So far do they go in their selfish greed, so great is the cowardice which they impute to us, that they, who have time and again called upon us to make war in defense of their own territory,Especially Corinth and Phlius. See Xen. Hell. 4.4.7 and 15. think we ought not to risk battle for Messene, but, in order that they may themselves cultivate their lands in security, seek to convince us that we ought to yield to the enemy a portion of our own; and, besides all that, they threaten that if we do not comply with these terms, they will make a separate peace.
First, I think that I ought to explain to you in what way we acquired Messene, and for what reasons you settled in the Peloponnesus—you who from of old are Dorians. And the reason why I shall go back to remote times is that you may understand why your enemies are trying to rob you of this country, which you acquired, no less than Lacedaemon itself, with a just title
and lastly, they found that Messene was theirs as a prize taken in war, for Heracles, when he had been robbed of the cattle from Erytheia,To fetch the cattle of Geryon from Erytheia, an island off the coast of Spain, was the tenth labor imposed on Heracles by Eurystheus. See Apollod. 2.5.10. by Neleus and all his sons except Nestor, had taken the country captive and slain the offenders, but had committed the city to Nestor's charge, believing him to be prudent, because, although the youngest of his brethren, he had taken no part in their iniquity.
The perils which befell them on the march, and the other incidentsSuch as are told in Apollod. 2.8.3. which have no bearing on the present theme, I need not take the time to describe. Let it suffice that, having conquered in war those who dwelt in the regions which I have mentioned, they divided their kingdom into three parts.Procles and Eurysthenes, twin sons of Aristodemus, along with Temenos and Cresphontes, sons of Aristomachus, drew lots for Argos, Lacedaemon, and Messene.Now you men of Sparta have until this day remained faithful to the oaths and to the covenants which you made with my forefathers;
I have not, it is true, recounted in detail our original titles to this land （for the present occasion does not permit me to go into legendary history, and I have had to set them forth with too great brevity for clearness）; yet I am sure that even this brief statement makes it evident to all that there is no difference whatever between the way in which we acquired the land which is acknowledged to be ours and the land to which our claim is disputed. For we inhabit Lacedaemon because the sons of Heracles gave it to us, because Apollo directed us to do so, and because we fought and conquered those who held it; and Messene we received from the same people, in the same way, and by taking the advice of the same orac
To be sure, if we are in a mood not to defend our title to anything, not even if they demand that we abandon Sparta itself, it is idle to be concerned about Messene; but if not one of you would consent to live if torn from the fatherland, then you ought to be of the same mind about that country; for in both cases we can advance the same justifications and the same reasons for our claim.
Then again you are doubtless well aware that possessions, whether private or public, when they have remained for a long time in the hands of their owner, are by all men acknowledged to be hereditary and incontestable. Now we took Messene before the Persians acquired their kingdomIn 559 B.C., when Cyrus became ruler of Persia. and became masters of the continent, in fact before a number of the Hellenic cities were even founded.
You will perceive still more clearly from what follows both that we are now dealt with most unfairly and that in the past we held Messene justly. For in the many wars which have befallen us we have before this at times been forced to make peace when we were in much worse case than our foes.such were the Peace of Nicias （421 B.C., Thucyd. v. 18）, the Peace of Antalcidas, and the separate peace between Athens and Sparta （Xen. Hell. 6.2.1）. But, although our treaties were concluded under circumstances in which it was impossible for us to seek any adv