[Or. VI.]. At the beginning of 366 B. C. Sparta, Athens, Corinth and the smaller states dependent on Corinth, as Epidauros and Phlius, were allied, and were at war with Thebes and her allies, of whom the chief was Argos. But in that year the treacherous attempt of Athens to seize Corinth gave the Corinthians a sense of insecurity and a desire for peace. They1
accordingly sent envoys to Thebes, asking on what terms peace would be granted to the allies. The Thebans prescribed, as one
condition of peace, the recognition of the independence of Messene, the new state founded by Epameinondas in 3702
. A congress met at Sparta. The Spartans refused to recognise the independence of Messene; and accordingly remained, with Athens, at war against Thebes. The Corinthians, Epidaurians, Phliasians, and probably some other small states3
, accepted the condition, and made peace on their own account, B.C. 366: see § 91.
is in the form of a deliberative speech. It purports to be spoken, in 366 B. C., by
Archidamos III., son of the king Agesilaos, during a debate4
at Sparta on the Theban proposal. There seems no reason to doubt that the speech was written in 366 B.C., either just before or soon after the actual decision of the question5
. It may have been
composed in the first instance as an exercise6
; yet, as discussing a question of contemporary politics from the point of view which a large party at Sparta must really have taken, it claims to be considered as something more. Isokrates probably sent it to Archidamos,—not, of course, for delivery, but as a proof of sympathy with the Spartan policy7
‘Perhaps some of you will be surprised that I, who have always been loyal to the customs of Sparta, should, in spite of my youth8
, come forward to advise. Had my elders given counsel worthy of Sparta, I should have been silent. As it is, some of them have supported the demand of the enemy; others have but faintly opposed it. I must not, through regard for what becomes me individually, allow the State to pass a resolution which would dishonour it.
‘The royal house of Sparta is responsible for the conduct of war; surely it ought to have a voice in the debates on
which war depends. The present crisis is the gravest in which Sparta has ever been placed. The question is not
whether we shall rule others, but whether we shall obey the dictates of an enemy. As a descendant of Herakles, as son of a king of Sparta and heir of his dignity, I cannot look on in silence while the country left to us by our ancestors is made over to our slaves. Such a surrender would be for Thebes a triumph greater than Leuktra; a victory over that which they failed to conquer when they broke our ranks— the Spartan spirit (§§ 1—10).
‘Our allies urge us to resign Messenia and to make
peace. Worse traitors than those who revolted from us formerly and ruined only themselves, these seek to rob us of the glory which our ancestors were seven hundred years9
in winning. We have often fought for our allies; they refuse to fight for us, and threaten, if we hold out, to make peace on their own account. Let them: a struggle without them will bring us the more honour (§§ 11—14).
‘I am no lover of words; but it will be useful at this moment to trace the historical claims of Sparta to Messene (§§ 15—16).
‘When Herakles had passed from earth to the gods, his
Sparta's title to Messene.
children were long vexed by Eurystheus; then, after their enemy's death, they settled among the Dorians. Their descendants in the third generation had occasion to consult the oracle at Delphi. It told them nothing as to the special object of their visit; but bade them go to their fatherland.
Reflecting, they found that Argos belonged to them by hereditary right—since the offspring of Herakles were now the only representatives of Perseus: Lacedaemon, by gift—for Heracles had bestowed it upon Herakles who had restored him from exile: Messene, by conquest—for Herakles, wronged by Neleus and his sons, had slain them and taken their town.
‘Deeming that the oracle spoke of all these places, the
Return of the Herakleidae.
Herakleidae rallied your ancestors around them, promising to divide the territory among their followers, but reserving the royalty to themselves. It need not be told how they
conquered the Peloponnesos and divided it into three chief kingdoms. You have kept to this day the compact which your ancestors made with mine. But the Dorian invaders of Messenia had scarcely been settled in it when they slew their own leader and founder, the Heraklid Kresphontes. His sons fled to Sparta, imploring vengeance for their father, and offering Messenia to us. Encouraged by an oracle, we made war and conquered the country. Our right to it thus
Sparta's threefold claim.
rests on the same grounds as our right to Lacedaemon; that is,—on the gift of the Herakleidae; on an oracle; and on conquest (§§ 17—25).
‘All titles to possession are made stronger by length of occupancy. We acquired Messene before the Persians were masters of Asia, and before some of the Greek cities had been founded. Yet the Thebans, while recognising, in the
case of Persia, a right less than two hundred years10
old, deny, in ours, a right of more than twice that age. Only the other day11
they devastated Thespiae and Plataea; after an interval of four hundred years12
they restore Messene—in each instance breaking oaths and treaties. Were they only bringing back genuine Messenians, it would be unjust; but in fact they are planting Helots on our frontier.
‘Further, our claim to Messene has been indirectly allowed by our enemies. We have had ere now to make a humiliating peace; but neither Persia nor Athens has ever asked us for Messene. Our claim was also recognised by the oracle at Delphi,—the most august in Greece. It advised
us to accept the offer of the sons of Kresphontes, and showed us how to succeed in the war; but was silent to our enemies. In brief—we received Messene from its former owners—established our own right of conquest—drove out the impious foe of the Heraklidae—and have had our title confirmed by time, by the verdict of enemies, by the voice of the gods (§§ 26—33).
‘We are urged to make our decision on grounds of expediency, not of abstract justice. This is wrong in principle, and not easy in practice; for what is expediency? It is not clear that, supposing we obeyed Thebes, we should obtain a firm peace. Concessions of this kind always invite new attacks (§§ 34—39).
‘There are plenty of instances in which disasters as great
Examples of recovery from disaster.
as ours have been retrieved. Athens, to say nothing of her perils in remote times, came safely through the Persian war, and gained empire, because, when her position seemed desperate, she refused to listen to the dictates of the enemy. Dionysios13
was on the point of abandoning Syracuse to the Carthaginians, when a friend reminded him that “royalty is a good winding-sheet”:—he remained, and triumphed. Amyntas14
of Macedon, defeated by his neighbours and temporarily robbed of his whole realm, rallied, with a like result, from a like despair. Thebes is great now because she had patience to endure our attacks steadfastly. In short, good government and military skill are the two things needful to repair national misfortunes. No one will deny that in both these things we stand unrivalled (§§ 40—48).
‘Some advocate peace because war is a bad thing in itself. But that depends on circumstances. Peace is for the prosperous: war is certainly the best hope of the unfortunate. Those who would be free must make peace, not when the enemy bids them, but when they have become stronger than, or equal to, him (§§ 49—51).
‘We ought not to be less spirited in defending ourselves
than we have always been in succouring others. Formerly, if a single Lacedaemonian went to the aid of a city allied with us, its deliverance was always ascribed to him. Pedaritos15
saved Chios, Brasidas saved Amphipolis, Gylippos
saved Syracuse. What one Spartan could do for others, shall not the whole Lacedaemonian people be able to do for themselves? Asia and Europe are full of the trophies of our victories in the causes of others; in the cause of Sparta shall not one blow be struck? We can afford to keep numbers of horses at a great cost; and shall we make peace as if we were beggars? We have the name of being the most laborious of the Hellenes; and shall we accept the terms of the enemy after one defeat16
, one invasion17
—resigning so quickly the country for which the Messenians themselves stood a siege of twenty years18
, and forgetting the dangers by which our ancestors won it? (§§ 52—57).
‘Some, reckless of our honour, advise peace because
Sparta is weak and Thebes strong. But we have at least the strength of a good government, of temperate habits, of a brave spirit. Nor shall we lack external aid. Athens, though she is not with us in all things, will not see us destroyed. Dionysios of Syracuse; the king of Egypt; the various dynasts of Asia; the richest and most distinguished individuals in Hellas, whose political sympathies are with us—will help. Nay, even the democrats of the Peloponnese will soon begin to long once more for our protecting care, now that they have tasted the fruits of anarchy (§§ 58—69).
‘Even, however, if we were utterly forsaken, I should be ashamed to give up Messene, and to admit, either that our
ancestral title to it was bad, or that we had relinquished a right. Probably the tide will turn soon. But, if the worst
comes, we must send away our women and children and old men to Sicily, Italy, Cyrene, Asia; we must quit Sparta; seize some strong position; and, from it, harass the enemy by land and sea. No city in the Peloponnese would long be able to bear what an army of desperadoes, unfettered by any polity, and able to plant themselves where they pleased, could inflict. Or if several towns combined, and brought their ill-disciplined levies to meet us in our fastnesses, what could serve us better? The essence of Sparta's strength lies in the resemblance of her civic system to an orderly and disciplined camp. If this resemblance becomes identity, what
can resist us? The Athenians, in the cause of Hellenic freedom, once left their homes; the Phokaeans removed to Massalia rather than submit to the Persian king. It would be strange if we did not choose to quit Sparta for a time rather than to obey the dictates of our former subjects. But our thoughts ought not to dwell on the possible necessity of leaving Sparta,—they ought to anticipate our triumphant return to it. I have not spoken of what must happen; rather of what ought to happen before we surrender Messene. No lasting peace could be gained by such a compromise. If the Helots were once established at our side, endless annoyance and danger would be our portion (§§ 70—87).
‘There could be no nobler cause in which to die than the present, when the prestige, when the very existence of Sparta is threatened. Epidauros, Corinth, Phlius19
without reproach prefer safety to honour; Sparta cannot. The reputation of the city ought to be as dear to each Spartan as his own: he ought not to suffer it to desert the post at which our fathers placed it. How could we ever show our faces at Olympia20
or at any Hellenic gathering, if we were to find our own slaves outshining us there by means of wealth taken from us? Dipaea21
, where a single
line of Spartans routed many myriads of Arcadians; Thyrea, where three hundred Spartans defeated all the Argives; Thermopylae, where a thousand Spartans held their ground against the seventy myriads of Persia—ought to teach us selfreliance now. Nothing is hopeless in war. It was by war, not peace, that Athens and Thebes grew. And in this struggle we should be stimulated by remembering that all Hellas is watching us (§§ 88—106).
‘The true view of this crisis may be shortly given. By
staking our lives on this good cause we shall save them; cowardice would be not only base but fatal. Let us imagine children and parents pleading with us—these, for Sparta's future name; those, for her past. No king of our house has ever led you to defeat. Listen, then, as prudent men listen, to the advice of those who in practice have been found trusty guides’ (§§ 107—111).
has a real historical interest: it
may be taken as an expression, highly coloured but in the main faithful, of the feeling excited in a majority of Spartans by the reestablishment of Messenia at their side. The damage thus inflicted on Sparta did not consist merely in the reanimation of a hostile State which had long been in decay. It consisted in the creation anew of a hostile State which for three centuries had been dead; and in the subtraction, for that purpose, from Sparta of what had been for three centuries the fairest portion of her territory—of all the country from the Neda to C. Akritas and from the Western slopes of Taygetos to the sea22
Archidamos denounces the allies who consented to such a measure as worse enemies to Sparta than helots and Messenians23
. He proposes that, if need be, the Spartans should send away the old and helpless— abandon Sparta—and pour themselves upon Messenia as homeless and desperate invaders24
. If the matter-of-fact narrative of Xenophon25
gives no hint of any feeling so passionate as that which is expressed by the second Tyrtaeos, it vouches at least for a resolution no less firm; a resolution which, four years later, again decided Sparta against accepting a peace26