This topic had a special significance at the moment when the Olympiakos of Lysias was spoken1
. It was spoken, according to Diodôros, in the first year of the 98th Olympiad, 388 B. C.—the year before the Peace of Antalkidas, by which the Corinthian War was brought to a close. Athens, Thebes, Argos and Corinth had in 388 been seven years at war with Sparta. During this time two powers, both dangerous to the freedom of Greece, had been rapidly growing. In the east the naval strength of Persia had become greater than it had been for a century. In the west Dionysios, tyrant, since 405, of Syracuse, had reduced Naxos, Katana and Leontini; had twice defeated Carthage; and was threatening the Greek towns of Italy.
The Embassy from Dionysios.A magnificent embassy from the court of Dionysios, with his brother Thearides at its head, appeared at the Olympic festival of 388. Tents embroidered with gold were pitched in the sacred enclosure; a number of splendid chariots were entered in the name of Dionysios for the four-horse chariot-race;
while rhapsodists, whose skill in recitation attracted crowds, repeated poems composed by their royal master2
. While eye and ear were thus allured by the glories of the Syracusan tyrant, Lysias lifted up his voice to remind the assembled Greeks that in Dionysios they must recognise one of the two great enemies of Greece. Let them not admit to their sacred festival the representatives of an impious despotism. Let them remember that their duty is to overthrow that tyranny and to set Sicily free; and let the war be begun forthwith by an attack upon those glittering tents3
Only the first part of the speech has been preserved; but, to judge from the scale on which the topics are treated and from the point in the argument which the extract reaches, the whole cannot have been much longer.
After praising Herakles for having founded the Olympic
festival in order to promote goodwill among all Hellenes (§§ 1, 2), the speaker says that he is not going to trifle with words like a mere sophist, but to offer serious counsel upon the dangers of Greece. Part of the Greek world is already subject to barbarians, part to tyrants. Artaxerxes is rich in ships and money; so is Dionysios. Greeks must lay aside civil strife, and unite like their fathers against their common foes. (§§ 3—6.) The Lacedaemonians are the acknowledged leaders of Greece, unconquered abroad, untroubled by faction at home. Why do they not bestir themselves? (§ 7) Instant action is needful. Greece must not wait until the enemy in the east and the enemy in the west close in upon her together. (§§ 8, 9.)