Athenians! when a people that have
not rendered any important service or support to their neighbors in times
past, for which they might claim to be repaid, appear before them as we now
appear before you to solicit their assistance, they may fairly be required
to satisfy certain preliminary conditions. They should show, first, that it is expedient or at least safe to grant
their request; next, that they will retain a lasting sense of the kindness.But if they cannot clearly establish any of these points, they must not be
annoyed if they meet with a rebuff.
Now the Corcyraeans believe that with their petition for assistance they
can also give you a satisfactory answer on these points, and they have
therefore despatched us hither.
It has so happened that our policy as regards you, with respect to this
request, turns out to be inconsistent, and as regards our interests, to be
at the present crisis inexpedient.
We say inconsistent, because a power which has never in the whole of her
past history been willing to ally herself with any of her neighbors, is now
found asking them to ally themselves with her.And we say inexpedient, because in our present war with Corinth it has left
us in a position of entire isolation, and what once seemed the wise
precaution of refusing to involve ourselves in alliances with other powers,
lest we should also involve ourselves in risks of their choosing, has now
proved to be folly and weakness.
It is true that in the late naval engagement we drove back the Corinthians
from our shores single-handed.But they have now got together a still larger armament from Peloponnese and
the rest of Hellas; and we, seeing our utter inability to cope with them without foreign aid,
and the magnitude of the danger which subjection to them implies, find it
necessary to ask help from you and from every other power.And we hope to be excused if we forswear our old principle of complete
political isolation, a principle which was not adopted with any sinister
intention, but was rather the consequence of an error in judgment.
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
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