"All you who in that
city have participated in its eloquence and learning, show mercy to men who offer their country
as a school for the common use of mankind; and do all you, who have taken part in the most holy
lives of those who initiated you, some by way of showing gratitude for kindly services already
received and others, who look forward to partaking of them, not in anger depriving yourselves
of that hope.
For what place is there to which foreigners may
resort for a liberal education once the city of the Athenians has been destroyed? Brief is the
hatred aroused by the wrong they have committed, but important and many are their
accomplishments which claim goodwill.
"But apart from
consideration for the city, one might, in examining the prisoners individually, find those who
would justly receive mercy. For the allies of Athens
, being under constraint because of the superior power of their rulers, were
compelled to join the expedition.
It follows, then, that if it
is just to take vengeance upon those who have done wrong from design, it would be fitting to
treat as worthy of leniency those who sin against their will. What shall I say of Nicias, who
from the first, after initiating his policy in the interest of the Syracusans, was the only man
to oppose the expedition against Sicily
, and who has
continually looked after the interests of Syracusans resident in Athens
and served as their proxenus?2
It would be extraordinary indeed that Nicias, who had
sponsored our cause as a politician in Athens
should be punished, and that he should not be accorded humane treatment because of the goodwill
he has shown toward us but because of his service in business of his country should meet with
implacable punishment, and that Alcibiades, the man who brought on the war against the
Syracusans, should escape his deserved punishment both from us and from the Athenians, whereas
he who has proved himself by common consent the most humane among Athenians should not even
meet with the mercy accorded to all men.
Therefore for my
part, when I consider the change in his circumstances, I pity his lot. For formerly, as one of
the most distinguished of all Greeks and applauded for his knightly character, he was one to be
deemed happy and was admired in every city;
but now, with
hands bound behind his back in a tunic squalid in appearance, he has experienced the piteous
state of captivity, as if Fortune wished to give, in the life of this man, an example of her
power. The prosperity which Fortune gives it behooves us to bear as human beings should and not
show barbarous savagery toward men of our own race."