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.