The Athenians imagined that all these preparations were aimed against them because of the affair at Marathon; and when they heard of how the canal had been made through Athos
, and the bridge thrown over the Hellespont
, and were told of the vast number of vessels in the Persian flotilla, then they felt that there was no salvation for them by land, nor yet by sea. By land they had no hopes that anyone would come to their aid; for they remembered how, on the first arrival of the Persians and their subjugation of Eretria
, nobody helped them or
ventured to join in the fight with them; and so they expected that the same thing would happen again on this occasion. By sea, too, they saw no hope of safety, with more than a thousand war-ships bearing down against them. One solitary hope of safety did they perceive—a slight one, it is true, and a desperate, yet the only hope—and it they derived from the events of the past, when victory in battle appeared to spring out of a desperate situation; and buoyed up by this hope, they discovered that they must rely for refuge on themselves only and on the gods.
So all this created in them a state of friendliness one towards another—both the fear which then possessed them, and that begotten of the past, which they had acquired by their subjection to the former laws—the fear to which, in our previous discussions,1
we have often given the name of “reverence,” saying that a man must be subject to this if he is to be good (though the coward is unfettered and unaffrighted by it). Unless this fear had then seized upon our people, they would never have united in self-defence, nor would they have defended their temples and tombs and fatherland, and their relatives and friends as well,
in the way in which they then came to the rescue; but we would all have been broken up at that time and dispersed one by one in all directions.Megillus
What you say, Stranger, is perfectly true, and worthy of your country as well as of yourself.Athenian
That is so, Megillus: it is proper to mention the events of that period to you, since you share in the native character of your ancestors. But both you and Clinias must now consider whether what we are saying is
at all pertinent to our law-making; for my narrative is not related for its own sake, but for the sake of the law-making I speak of. Just reflect: seeing that we Athenians suffered practically the same fate as the Persians—they through reducing their people to the extreme of slavery, we, on the contrary, by urging on our populace to the extreme of liberty—what are we to say was the sequel, if our earlier statements have been at all nearly correct?