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[49] After the victorious close of that war with Persia, Themistocles announced in the Assembly that he had a plan for the welfare of the state, but that it was not politic to let it be generally known. He requested the people to appoint someone with whom he might discuss it. They appointed Aristides. Themistocles confided to him that the Spartan fleet, which had been hauled up on shore at Gytheum, could be secretly set on fire; this done, the Spartan power would inevitably be crushed. When Aristides heard the plan, he came into the Assembly amid the eager expectation of all and reported that the plan proposed by Themistocles was in the highest degree expedient, but anything but morally right. The result was that the Athenians concluded that what was not morally right was likewise not expedient, and at the instance of Aristides they rejected the [p. 319] whole proposition without even listening to it. Their attitude was better than ours; for we let pirates go scot free, while we make our allies pay tribute.1

12. Let it be set down as an established principle, then, that what is morally wrong can never be expedient—not even when one secures by means of it that which one thinks expedient; for the mere act of thinking a course expedient, when it is morally wrong, is demoralizing.

1 The Cilician pirates had been crushed by Pompey and settled at Soli (Pompeiopolis). They gathered strength again during the distractions of the civil wars, and Antony is even said to have sought their aid in the war against Brutus and Cassius. Marseilles and King Deiotarus of Armenia had supported Pompey and in consequence were made tributary by Caesar's party.

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