Let us, therefore, confidently begin
preparations here; let us send and confirm some of the Sicels, and obtain the friendship and
alliance of others, and despatch envoys to the rest of Sicily to show that
the danger is common to all, and to Italy to get them to become our allies,
or at all events to refuse to receive the Athenians.
I also think that it would be best to send to Carthage as well; they are by no means there without apprehension, but it is their constant
fear that the Athenians may one day attack their city, and they may perhaps
think that they might themselves suffer by letting Sicily be sacrificed, and
be willing to help us secretly if not openly, in one way if not in another.They are the best able to do so, if they will, of any of the present day,
as they possess most gold and silver, by which war, like everything else,
Let us also send to Lacedaemon and Corinth, and ask them to come here and
help us as soon as possible, and to keep alive the war in Hellas.
But the true thing of all others, in my opinion, to do at the present
moment, is what you, with your constitutional love of quiet, will be slow to
see, and what I must nevertheless mention.If we Siceliots, all together, or at least as many as possible besides
ourselves, would only launch the whole of our actual navy with two months'
provisions, and meet the Athenians at Tarentum and the Iapygian promontory,
and show them that before fighting for Sicily they must first fight for
their passage across the Ionian sea, we should strike dismay into their
army, and set them on thinking that we have a base for our
defensive—for Tarentum is ready to receive us—while they
have a wide sea to cross with all their armament, which could with
difficulty keep its order through so long a voyage, and would be easy for us
to attack as it came on slowly and in small detachments.
On the other hand, if they were to lighten their vessels, and draw together
their fast sailors and with these attack us, we could either fall upon them
when they were wearied with rowing, or if we did not choose to do so, we
could retire to Tarentum; while they, having crossed with few provisions just to give battle, would
be hard put to it in desolate places, and would either have to remain and be
blockaded, or to try to sail along the coast, abandoning the rest of their
armament, and being further discouraged by not knowing for certain whether
the cities would receive them.
In my opinion this consideration alone would be sufficient to deter them
from putting out from Corcyra; and what with deliberating and reconnoitring our numbers and whereabouts,
they would let the season go on until winter was upon them, or, confounded
by so unexpected a circumstance, would break up the expedition, especially
as their most experienced general has, as I hear, taken the command against
his will, and would grasp at the first excuse offered by any serious
demonstration of ours.
We should also be reported, I am certain, as more numerous than we really
are, and men's minds are affected by what they hear, and besides the first
to attack, or to show that they mean to defend themselves against an attack,
inspire greater fear because men see that they are ready for the emergency.
This would just be the case with the Athenians at present.They are now attacking us in the belief that we shall not resist, having a
right to judge us severely because we did not help the Lacedaemonians in
crushing them; but if they were to see us showing a courage for which they are not
prepared, they would be more dismayed by the surprise than they could ever
be by our actual power.
I could wish to persuade you to show this courage; but if this cannot be, at all events lose not a moment in preparing
generally for the war; and remember all of you that contempt for an assailant is best shown by
bravery in action, but that for the present the best course is to accept the
preparations which fear inspires as giving the surest promise of safety, and
to act as if the danger was real.That the Athenians are coming to attack us, and are already upon the
voyage, and all but here—this is what I am sure
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
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