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Many are the services which we have rendered to the state of the Lacedaemonians, but it has suited my purpose to speak of this one only; for, starting with the advantage afforded by our succor of them, the descendants of Heracles—the progenitors of those who now reign in Lacedaemon—returned to the Peloponnese, took possession of Argos, Lacedaemon, and Messene, settled Sparta, and were established as the founders of all the blessings which the Lacedaemonians now enj
which was not only fitted by her situation to command the sea, but also surpassed all the islands in her general resources,Herodotus characterizes Euboea as a “large and prosperous” island, Hdt. 5.31. Cf. Thuc. 8.96. and Euboea lent itself more readily to our control than did our own country besides, while we knew that both among the Hellenes and among the barbarians those are regarded most highly who have driven their neighbors from their homesThis cynical remark points to the Spartan conquest of Messene. and have so secured for themselves a life of affluence and ease, nevertheless, none of these considerations tempted us to wrong the people of the isla
And yet our alliesEspecially the Corinthians. See Introduction. have been only too zealous in advising you that you must give up Messene and make peace. Because of this they merit your indignation far more than those who revoltedThe Arcadians had joined the Thebans in invading Sparta. The Argives, Eleans, and Achaeans had also forsaken Sparta and gone over partly or wholly to the Thebans. from you at the beginning. For the latter, when they had forsaken your friendship, destroyed their own cities, plunging them into civil strife and massacres and vicious forms of government.Such disturbances and changes of government took place about this time in Arcadia, Argos, Sicyon, Elis, and Phlius. See Xen. Hell. 7.1-4. By vicious forms of government Archidamus probably refers to the democracies which in various places had been set up instead of the earlier oligarchies. These men, on the other hand, come here to inflict injury upon us;
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.