So the praetor Aristaenus spoke again: "You lack counsel, leaders of the Achaeans, no less than the power of speech; but each one refuses to promote the public interest at the cost of peril to himself.
Perhaps I too should keep silence if I were a private citizen; now I see that, so far as the praetor is concerned, either the ambassadors should not have been granted an audience or they should not be sent away unanswered; but how can I answer except in accordance with your decree?
And since no one of you who have been summoned to this council wishes or dares to say anything in the way of suggestion, let us consider the ambassadors' speeches delivered yesterday as opinions expressed in debate, just as if they had not intended what was to their own interest but recommended what they deemed profitable for us.
The Romans, the Rhodians and Attalus ask for our alliance and friendship, and in the war which they are waging with Philip they think it proper that we should assist them.
Philip reminds us of our alliance with him and of our oath, and now demands that we take our stand with him, now says that he is satisfied if we refrain from taking up arms.
Does it occur to no one why those who are not yet our allies demand more than our ally? This is not, ye Achaeans, the [p. 213]
result of Philip's moderation or the Romans' arrogance;1
fortune both gives and takes away confidence in making demands.
We see no sign of Philip except his ambassador; the Roman fleet lies at Cenchreae, displaying the spoils of the cities of Euboea, we see the consul and his legions marching through Phocis and Locris, separated from us by a narrow stretch of water;
do you wonder why Cleomedon, Philip's delegate, suggested with such hesitation a while ago that we take up arms in the king's cause against the Romans? If, in accordance with that treaty and oath,
respect for which he tried to instil into us, we ask him that Philip protect us both against Nabis and his Lacedaemonians and against the Romans, he will not only find no garrison wherewith to protect us: he will not even find an answer to give us, any more, by Hercules, than Philip did last year;
when, by promising that he would conduct the war against Nabis, he had tried to allure our fighting men away to Euboea, after he saw that we would neither vote him that protection nor consent to be involved in the Roman war, forgetful of that alliance about which he now uses such fine words, he left us to Nabis and the Lacedaemonians to plunder and rob.
And to me, at least, Cleomedon's speech seemed by no means consistent with itself.
He belittled the Roman war, and claimed that the result would be the same as that of the earlier war which they engaged in with Philip.
Why then does Philip, remaining away, ask our aid, rather than, being present in person, defend us, his ancient allies, against both Nabis and the Romans? Defend us,
do I say? Why did he permit Eretria and Carystus to be captured in that way? Why so many [p. 215]
towns of Thessaly? Why Locris and Phocis? Why2
does he now allow Elatia to be besieged? Why did he leave the passes of Epirus and his impregnable position above the Aous river, abandon the defile which he held and retire far into his own kingdom?
It was either under compulsion, or from fear, or by design. If he voluntarily left so many allies to be sacked by the enemy, how can he object if his allies take measures for their own security? If he was afraid, let him excuse also our fear.
If he retired because he was beaten in battle, shall we Achaeans, Cleomedon, sustain the Roman attack which you Macedonians did not resist? Or should we take your word for it that the Romans are not employing in the war greater forces and military power than they did before, or should we rather look at the obvious facts?
Then they aided the Aetolians with their fleet; they waged war with neither consular commander nor consular army;3
at that time the maritime cities of Philip's allies were in fear and terror;
the inland districts were so safe from Roman arms that Philip pillaged the Aetolians even while they asked in vain for Roman aid; but now the Romans have finished the Punic War, which they endured for sixteen years in, as it were, the very heart of Italy, and they have not
sent assistance to the Aetolians, who were carrying on the war, but they themselves, as leaders in the war, have attacked Macedonia by land and sea at once. Now the third consul is here, prosecuting the war with boundless energy.
Sulpicius, meeting the king in Macedonia itself, defeated him and put him to flight, and plundered the richest part of his kingdom; now Quinctius has dislodged him from his camp, [p. 217]
though he held the passes of Epirus, relying on the4
nature of the country, on his fortifications and on his army, pursued him as he
fled to Thessaly, and captured the royal garrisons and allied towns almost under the king's very eyes.
"Grant that what the Athenians said about the king's cruelty, greed and passion was not true; grant that we are not interested in the crimes against supernal and infernal gods which he committed in the land of Attica, and much less interested in the sufferings of the Ciani and Abydeni, who are far away from us; let us forget, if you will, our own wounds;
let us dismiss from memory the murders and robberies committed at Messene, in the centre of the Peloponnesus, the murder of Chariteles,5
his host at Cyparissia, in the course of a feast, in violation of all human and divine justice;
the murder of the two Sicyonians, Aratus the father and the son,6
though he had been accustomed to call the unhappy old man even by the name of father; the removal of the son's wife to Macedonia to serve his lust; let the other debaucheries of maids and wives be consigned to oblivion;
assume that our business is not with Philip, from fear of whose cruelty you have all kept silent (for what other explanation is there of your silence when called to deliberate?);
let us consider that our relations are with Antigonus,7
that most just and merciful king who served so well the cause of all of us: would he demand that we do what is imposible?
The Peloponnesus is a peninsula, joined to the mainland by the narrow strip of the Isthmus,8
exposed and open to attack [p. 219]
by sea beyond all else. If one hundred decked9
vessels and fifty smaller undecked ships and thirty light Issaean boats begin to plunder our coast and lay siege to the cities lying almost on the shore, we shall of course retire to the inland strongholds, as if we were not consumed with internal war, raging in our very hearts!
When Nabis and the Spartans press on us by land and the Roman fleet by sea, on what ground should I invoke the king's alliance and Macedonian guards? Or shall we with our ownarms defend against the Romans the towns they will besiege?
Nobly did we defend Dymae in the former war! The misfortunes of others furnish us examples in abundance; let us not seek how we may be an, example to others.
“Do not, because the Romans come of their own accord to seek our friendship, disdain what you ought to have hoped for and particularly desired.
Impelled by fear, no doubt, and entrapped in a strange land, because they wish to find shelter under the shadow of your protection, they flee
to your alliance, that they may hide in your harbours, and secure supplies!
The sea is in their power; they immediately assume control of whatever lands they visit. What they ask, they can compel; because they wish you spared, they do not permit you to do aught for which you should be destroyed.
For as to what Cleomedon pointed out to you a while ago, a middle course, as it were, and the safest way to decide, to wit, that you remain neutral and avoid war, that is not a middle course: it is no course at all.
For, in addition to the fact that you must either accept or reject the Roman alliance, what other course is open except for us, since we have no sure claim to [p. 221]
consideration anywhere, to play the part of men who10
have been merely awaiting the event, with the intention of adapting our counsels to the decision of fortune, and eventually become the prey of the conqueror?
If what we should all be praying for is voluntarily offered, do not despise the gift.
It will not always be open to us, as it is to-day, to make a choice; the same opportunity rarely returns, and it tarries but a little while. For a long time you have wished, but not dared, to free yourselves from Philip. Now men have crossed the sea with mighty fleets and armies, to affirm your claims to liberty without trouble or danger on your part.
If you reject them as allies, you are scarcely sane; but as either allies or enemies you must have them.”