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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
yet, while there were other matters about which differences arose, neither the Great King nor the city of Athens ever charged us with having acquired Messene unjustly. And yet how could we find a more thoroughgoing judgement on the justice of our case than this, which was rendered by our enemies and made at a time when we were beset with misfortunes?
That oracle, moreover, which all would acknowledge to be the most ancient and the most widely accepted and the most trustworthy in existence, recognized Messene as ours, not only at the time when it commanded us to receive the country as a gift from the sons of Cresphontes and to go to the aid of the wronged, but also later, when the war dragged on and both sides sent delegations to Delphi, the Messenians appealing for deliverance and we inquiring how we could most speedily make ourselves masters of their city, the god gave them no answer, thus showing that their appeal was unjust, while to us he revealed both what sacrifices we should perform and to whom we should send for aid.in the second Messenian War, 685-668 B.C., the Athenians are said to have sent Tyrtaeus, the lame school-master, to the aid of the Spartans. See Pausanias iv. 15.
And yet how could anyone furnish testimony more significant or clearer than this? For it has been shown, first of all （since nothing prevents our restating these points briefly）, that we received the country from its rightful owners; secondly, that we took it by war, precisely as most of the cities in those days were founded; further, that we drove out those who had grievously sinned against the children of Heracles—men who by right should have been banished from the sight of all mankind; and, finally, it has been shown that the length of our tenure, the judgement of our enemies, and the oracles of Apollo all confirm our right to the possession of Messene
Anyone of these facts is enough to refute the assertions of those who presume to allege against us either that we now refuse to conclude peace because of a desire for aggrandizement, or that we then made war on the Messenians because we coveted what was not our own. I might perhaps say more than this about our acquisition of Messene, but I consider what I have already said to be sufficient
For according to my proposal you would not relinquish a single one of your possessions nor fasten any disgrace upon the state; nay, on the contrary, you would have good hope that taking up arms in a just cause you would fight better than your foes. According to their proposal, on the other hand, you would withdraw at once from Messene, and, having first committed this wrong against yourselves, you would perhaps fail to secure both what is expedient and what is just—and everything else which you expect to gain
Who would not censure us if, while the Messenians withstood siege for twenty years in order to retain Messene,In the first Messenian war, 743-724 B.C. Paus. 4.13.4. we should so quickly withdraw from it under a treaty and should take no thought of our forefathers, but should allow ourselves to be persuaded by words to throw away this territory which they acquired by dint of struggles and wars?
There are those, however, who care for none of these things, but, overlooking all considerations of shame, counsel you to follow a course which will bring disgrace upon the state. And so anxious are they to persuade you to give up Messene that they have dared to dwell on the weakness of Sparta and the strength of the enemy, and now they challenge us who oppose them to say from what quarter we expect reinforcements to come, seeing that we exhort you to make war.