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38. 'The Athenians, I repeat, know all that I am telling you, and do not mean to throw away1 of that. But some of our people are fabricating reports which neither are, nor are ever likely to be, true. [2] I know, and have always known, that by words like these, and yet more mischievous, if not by acts, they want to intimidate you, the Syracusan people and make themselves chiefs of the state. And I am afraid that if they persevere they will succeed at last, and that we shall be delivered into their hands before we have had the sense to take precautions or to detect and punish them. [3] This is the reason why our city is always in a state of unrest and disorganisation, fighting against herself quite as much as against foreign enemies, and from time to time subjected to tyrants and to narrow and wicked oligarchies. If the people will only support me I shall endeavour to prevent any such misfortunes happening in our day. [4] With you I shall use persuasion, but to these conspirators I shall apply force; and I shall not wait until they are detected in the act (for who can catch them?), but I shall punish their intentions and the mischief which they would do if they could. For the thoughts of our enemies must be punished before they have ripened into deeds. If a man does not strike first, he will be the first struck. As to the rest2 of the oligarchical party, I must expose them and have an eye on their designs; I must also instruct them; that, I think, will be the way by which I can best deter them from their evil courses. [5] Come now, young men, and answer me a question which I have often asked myself. ‘What can you want?’ To hold office already? But the law forbids. And the law was not intended to slight you had you been capable; it was passed because you were incapable. And so you would rather not be on an equality with the many? But when there is no real difference between men, why should there be a privileged class?

1 The Athenians are what they have got: I am pretty sure a shrewd people and not likely to ruin themselves. These reports are fabricated by oligarchical conspirators, who want to get the government ink their hands. I shall resist them to the last.

2 Tirade against the young oligarchs.

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load focus Notes (E.C. Marchant, 1909)
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