II. 1. Plataikos.
[Or. XIV.]—The revolution of 379 B. C. at Thebes had been a blow to Spartan influence throughout Hellas, and especially in Boeotia. Agesilaos in 378 and 377, Kleombrotos in 378 and 376,
had invaded Boeotia without gaining any advantage. By the end of 376 the oligarchies supported by Sparta had been abolished in all the Boeotian towns except Orchomenos1
; and the Boeotian Confederacy, with Thebes at its head, had been reconstituted.
After its destruction in 427 Plataea had been
non-existent till 386, when it was rebuilt by Sparta as a stronghold against Thebes. Cut off from Spartan support, Plataea had been brought, in 377 or 376, into the revived Boeotian Confederacy; but,
like Thespiae and Tanagra (§ 9), had joined it unwillingly. The relief felt by most other towns at riddance from the philo-Spartan oligarchies was more than balanced, in the case of Thespiae, Tanagra and Plataea, by hatred of Thebes. Diodoros2
states that the Plataeans secretly offered their town to Athens. At any rate the alarm felt at Plataea was so great that it was only on the days of public assemblies at Thebes that the men ventured to go into the fields, leaving their wives and children within the walls3
. On one of these days a Theban force under the
Boeotarch Neokles surprised Plataea, in the latter half of 373 B. C.4
. The town was destroyed and the territory was again annexed to Thebes. The inhabitants, with such property as they could carry, sought refuge, like their ancestors in 427, at Athens. Their case was discussed there, not merely in the ekklesia, but in the congress of the allies (συνέδριον
§ 21); Kallistratos being the foremost advocate of Plataea, as Epameinondas of Thebes5
. It was not till 338, after Chaeroneia, that Plataea was restored; this time through the enmity of Philip, as formerly through the enmity of Sparta, towards Thebes6
The speech of Isokrates is supposed to be spoken by a Plataean before the ekklesia; and there is nothing in the matter or form of the speech itself
to make it improbable that it was actually so delivered7
. The date is 373 B. C.
‘We know, Athenians, that it is your custom to help the
wronged and to remember those who have done you good. We have come, therefore, to beg that you will not allow
Plataea to be devastated, in time of peace8
, by Thebes. No people have ever been more injured than we are; no people are more closely bound to you. We have to contend, not only against the Thebans, but against those Athenian advocates whose aid they have procured with our property. It will be necessary for us, then, to speak at some length. To describe our wrongs adequately would be difficult; enough that you know our town to have been razed and our lands seized. We will try to expose the arguments by which the Thebans hope to mislead you (§§ 1—7).
‘It is sometimes their pretence that they have thus dealt
Pretexts of Thebes: (1) that Plataea rejected dependence:
with us because we refused to be enrolled as dependents of Thebes. Judge if this is a sufficient warranty for such usage, or if it became Plataea to accept upon compulsion such a dependence. Thespiae9
and Tanagra also refused it; but they
were not treated as Plataea has been treated; they were not destroyed, but simply compelled to obey. It is difficult to see what is the claim of Thebes to such obedience. Historically speaking, Orchomenos is the head of Boeotia. Or if the peace of Antalkidas is to be recognised, then all cities, great or small, are independent (§§ 8—10).
‘Perhaps, however, the Thebans will take a different
(2) that Plataea was leagued with Sparta.
ground. They may say that we were leagued with Sparta against them, and that they have acted in the interest of their entire Confederacy. In any case the treaty ought to have protected us. But, moreover, we were the allies of Sparta perforce. A harmost and a garrison being in our town, while our army was at Thespiae, we had no choice. Many other Greek States are in the same plight. By allowing us to be punished, you will alienate them (§§ 11—16).
‘Remember that the war which you suddenly undertook,
Athens must defend the autonomy of the cities.
with Thebes, against Sparta, was not for liberty—you and your allies had liberty already—but for the independence of those whose rights, conferred by the Peace of Antalkidas, were being violated. Will you allow cities which you wished to vindicate from slavery to Sparta to be destroyed by Thebes? The Thebans complain of the Lacedaemonian seizure of the Kadmeia; but they themselves raze the walls of their neighbours. They were jealous of Oropos10
having voluntarily given itself to
Athens; yet they themselves usurp territory by force (§§ 17—20).
‘They pretend that they have acted in the common
interest of their allies. But, before the act, Athens ought to have been consulted. While the war lasted, Thebes spoke much of the common cause; now that she is secured by peace, she thinks only of her own advantage (§§ 21—25).
‘They cannot plead that there is danger lest, if we get
Plataea and Thebes— their deeds towards Athens contrasted.
back our territory, we should go over to Lacedaemon. Plataea has been twice besieged and twice taken11
on account of its loyalty to Athens. The Thebans, on the other hand, have been repeatedly false to you. Having caused the Corinthian war, and having been brought safely through it by you, on the conclusion of peace they forsook your alliance for that of Sparta; while Chios, Mytilene and Byzantium remained true. They were punished by the Spartan seizure of the Kadmeia,—when they found a refuge at Athens. But no sooner had they been restored to their city, than they made new overtures to Sparta, which were frustrated only by the severity of her terms. Yet these Thebans taunt others with ‘Laconism,’—they, who have been the slaves of Spartan ambition. Did they ever fail to take part in an invasion of Attica? Were they not your worst foes in the war of Dekeleia? Did they not, finally, give their solitary vote12
for the enslavement of your population and the conversion of your country into sheep-pastures like those of Krisa? (§§ 26—32).
‘It may be said that Boeotia is the bulwark of Attica;
and that, if you break off your friendship with the Thebans, they will join Sparta. They will not be so mad. It would be the ruin of the democratic party at Thebes,—watched, as it is, at once by the oligarchical exiles and by the malcontents in the Boeotian towns. Treat them as you did when they
blustered about your acquisition of Oropos. When you excluded them from the peace13
, they became humble; and they will become so now, if treated with like firmness (§§ 33—38).
‘Even supposing, however, that they were likely to act
The Peace of Antalkidas must be upheld.
differently, it does not become Athens to regard their friendship more than the treaty to which she has sworn. Experience shows, moreover, the value in war of being able to appeal to a just cause. It was thus that Sparta roused Hellas against Athens; it was thus that Athens reft the empire from Sparta. Show your readiness to espouse the cause of right, and, in any future war, all Hellas will be with you. If, on the contrary, you allow Thebes to break her oaths, who, hereafter, will help you to make Sparta keep hers? Would it not be monstrous if you upheld the constant allies of Sparta against those who, in a single instance, were forced to side with her? (§§ 39—45).
‘Who could be found more wretched than we are? Our
Miseries of the Plataeans.
city, our land, our fortunes have been taken from us in a single day. With whom shall we take refuge? If with fellow-sufferers, we shall share their troubles; if with happier men, we shall be reminded of our own. Parents comfortless in their old age—children threatened with slavery on account of some paltry debt14
—wives separated from husbands, daughters from mothers—are the miseries which we mourn daily. Have care for us; we are near to you in friendship,—many of us, in blood; for, through the right of intermarriage given to us, many of us are sons of Athenian mothers. Athens helped Adrastos to get from the Thebans burial for his dead; let her help us to save those who yet live (§§ 46—55).
‘We ask you to give us back our land and town. Alone
of all the Greeks, you owe us this charity. It is said that when, in the Persian Wars, your fathers were driven from their homes, our fathers, alone of all the dwellers outside the
Peloponnesos, shared their perils. At least, if you do not care for our lives, defend our land—in which are the trophies of the victory won by Hellas from all Asia. Think of the
and to the sacredness of the Plataean land.
gods and heroes who hold the place; think of your fathers, and of the feeling which would be theirs, if they could know that their graves were unvisited by offerings because the traitors who fought against them had swept their comrades from the soil. You used to make it the greatest reproach against the Spartans that Plataea had been destroyed to please Thebes; do not let that reproach fall upon you. Much must be left unsaid. But remember your oaths and the treaty; remember our friendship and their enmity; and give righteous judgment in our cause’ (§§ 56—63).
shows great power of a certain
kind: it is a glowing denunciation of a cruelty; and the peroration especially has true and noble pathos (§§ 56—62). But if the reasoning is examined it will appear that the pleas urged are liable to some abatement; and that, on grounds of general policy, there was something to be said for the Thebans. When the Plataean speaker appeals to the peace of Antalkidas15
, he forgets that Plataea could derive no right from that treaty, since Plataea did not exist when the treaty was made16
. And, though the character of the town since 386 as a Spartan outpost may have been imposed upon it by force17
, it was still natural that that character should make Plataea obnoxious to the head of an anti-Spartan Confederacy. Thebes might urge with plausibility that the measures taken against Plataea, however severe, were necessary in the interest of the allies18
. This view—as we learn
from the speech itself—was taken by several Athenian debaters19
; and it was the view which prevailed,
for no attempt was at this time made to restore Plataea.