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Wise Patriots or Traitors?

It has often and in many cases occurred to me to
Was Aristaenus a traitor or a wise Opportunist?
wonder at the mistakes men make; but none seems to me so surprising as that of traitors. I wish, therefore, to say a word in season on the subject. I know very well that it is one which does not admit of easy treatment or definition. For it is not at all easy to say whom we ought to regard as a real traitor. Plainly all those, who at a time of tranquillity make compacts with kings or princes, cannot be reckoned such off hand; nor, again, those who in the midst of dangers transfer their country from existing friendships and alliances to others. Far from it. For such men have again and again been the authors of manifold advantages to their own countries. But not to go any further for example, my meaning can be made clear by the circumstances of the present case. For, if Aristaenus had not at this time opportunely caused the Achaeans to leave their alliance with Philip and join that of Rome, it is clear that the whole league would have been utterly ruined. But as it was, this man and this policy were confessedly the sources, not only of security to individual Achaeans at the time, but of the aggrandisement of the whole league. Therefore he was not looked upon as a traitor, but universally honoured as a benefactor and saviour of the country. The same principle will hold good in the case of all others who regulate their policy and measures by the necessities of the hour.

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    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 31-32, commentary, 32.18
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