But at the same time we should have the sense to see that this conference is not solely concerned with our private1
interests, but with those of the whole country. Sicily is in my opinion at this moment imperilled by the designs of the Athenians, and we must try, if not too late, to save her. The Athenians are a much more convincing argument of peace than any words of mine can be. They are the greatest power in Hellas; they come hither with a few ships to spy out our mistakes; though we are their natural enemies, they assume the honourable name of allies, and under this flimsy pretence turn our enmity to good account.
For when we go to war and invite their assistance (and they are fond of coming whether they are invited or not) we are taxing ourselves for our own destruction, and at the same time paving the way for the advance of their empire. And at some future day, when they see that we are exhausted, they are sure to come again with a larger armament, and attempt to bring all Sicily under their yoke2