When the tyrant had been given the option of speaking first or of listening, he began thus: “If, Titus Quinctius and you others who are present, I had been able to discover for myself any reason why you should have declared or should now be waging war upon me, I should have waited in silence for the decision as to my fate;
but as it is, I have been unable to control my curiosity to know, before I perish, why I am to perish.
And, by Hercules, if you were such men as the Carthaginians are reputed to be, among whom no sanctity attaches to a pledge of alliance, as regards myself too I should not wonder that you take little thought as to how you are acting;
but now, as I look at you, I see that you are Romans, men who hold treaties to be the most sacred of divinely-established institutions, and a pledge to be the most sacred of human ties.
When I look at myself, I hope that I see myself as one who, as a member of the state, in common with the other Lacedaemonians, has enjoyed a most ancient treaty1
with you, and who on his own account and in his own person has recently, [p. 497]
the war with Philip, renewed this friendship2
But, you say, I have violated and overturned it because I hold the city of Argos. How shall I defend myself against this charge? By the aid of the facts or by consideration of the time? The facts give me a double defence: first, when the citizens themselves invited me and turned the city over to me, I accepted it, not seized it; second, I received it when the city belonged to Philip's faction and was not in league with you.
The time likewise acquits me of that charge, since the alliance between you and me was arranged at a time when I was already in possession of Argos, and your stipulation was that I should send you assistance for the war, not that I should withdraw my garrison from Argos.
But, by Hercules, in the dispute which concerns Argos, I come out the victor both by the justice of my case, because I received a
city which belonged not to you but to the enemy, received it by its own act and not through compulsion; and by your own admission, since by the terms of our alliance you left Argos in my hands.
But my title of tyrant and my behaviour argue against me, because I summon slaves to the enjoyment of freedom and establish the needy commons upon the soil.
As to my title, I can give this reply, that, whatever I am, I was the same when you yourself, Titus Quinctius, made the alliance with me.
At that time I recall that you saluted me as king; at this time I see that I am called tyrant. Therefore, if I had changed the title of my office, I should have to explain my inconsistency; since you are changing it, you must give reason for your own.
As to the fact that I have [p. 499]
increased population by freeing slaves and have distributed3
land to the poor, I can defend myself against this charge by the plea of the time as I did before:
I had already done all this, such as it is, at the time when you arranged the alliance with me and accepted my aid in the war against Philip;
but if I had just recently done this, I should not ask, 'What harm have I done you in this way, or how have I broken the treaty?' but merely say that I had acted according to the tradition and custom of our ancestors.
Do not weigh what is done in Lacedaemon on the scales of your own laws and institutions. It is unnecessary to make a detailed comparison. You choose your cavalry and your infantry according to their census-ratings,4
and you desire that a few5
should excel in wealth and that the commons should be under their control;
ordained that the state should not be in the hands of the few, whom you call the senate, and that no one order should predominate in the state, but he believed that by equalizing wealth and rank it would come to pass that there would be many to bear arms for the country.
I admit that I have spoken at greater length than suits the traditional brevity of our speech;7
and I might have summed up briefly by stating that since I entered upon my friendship with you, I have done nothing to make you regret it.”