These were the nations, Hellenic or Barbarian, who inhabited Sicily, and such was the1
inhabited Sicily, and such was the great island on which the Athenians2
were determined to make war. They virtuously professed that they were going to assist their own kinsmen and their newly-acquired allies3
, but the simple truth was that they aspired to the empire of Sicily.
They were principally instigated by an embassy which had come from Egesta and was urgent in requesting aid. The Egestaeans had gone to war with the neighboring city of Selinus about certain questions of marriage and about a disputed piece of land. The Selinuntians summoned the Syracusans to their assistance, and their united forces reduced the Egestaeans to great straits both by sea and land. The Egestaean envoys reminded the Athenians of the alliance which they had made4
with the Leontines under Laches in the former war5
, and begged them to send ships to their relief. Their chief argument was that, if the Syracusans were not punished for the expulsion of the Leontines, but were allowed to destroy the remaining allies of the Athenians, and to get the whole of Sicily into their own hands, they would one day come with a great army, Dorians assisting Dorians, who were their kinsmen, and colonists assisting their Peloponnesian founders, and would unite in over. throwing Athens herself. Such being the danger, the Athenians would be wise in combining with the allies who were still left to them in Sicily against the Syracusans, especially since the Egestaeans would themselves provide money sufficient for the war.
These arguments were constantly repeated in the ears of the Athenian assembly by the Egestaeans and their partisans; at length the people passed a vote that they would at all events send envoys to ascertain on the spot whether the Egestaeans really had the money which they professed to have in their treasury and in their temples, and to report on the state of the war with Selinus. So the Athenian envoys were despatched to Sicily.