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"Yet, by Zeus, someone will say, Nicias took the part of the Syracusans in the debate and was the only one who advised against making war. As for what he said there we know it by hearsay, but what has been done here we have witnessed with our own eyes. [2] For the man who there opposed the expedition was here commander of the armament; he who takes the part of Syracusans in debate walled off your city; and he who is humanely disposed toward you, when Demosthenes and all the others wished to break off the siege, alone compelled them to remain and continue the war. Therefore for my part I do not believe that his words should have greater weight with you than his deeds, report than experience, things unseen than things that have been witnessed by all. [3]

"Yet, by Zeus, someone will say, it is a good thing not to make our enmity eternal. Very well, then, after the punishment of the malefactors you will, if you so agree, put an end to your enmity in a suitable manner. For it is not just that men who treat their captives like slaves when they are the victors, should, when they in turn are the vanquished, be objects of pity as if they had done no wrong. And though they will have been freed of paying the penalty for their deeds, by specious pleas they will remember the friendship only so long as it is to their advantage. [4] For I omit to mention the fact that, if you take this course, you will be wronging not only many others but also the Lacedaemonians, who for your sake both entered upon the war over there and also sent you aid here; for they might have been well content to maintain peace and look on while Sicily was being laid waste.1 [5] Consequently, if you free the prisoners and thus enter into friendly relations with Athens, you will be looked upon as traitors to your allies and, when it is in your power to weaken the common enemy, by releasing so great a number of soldiers you will make our enemy again formidable. For I could never bring myself to believe that Athenians, after getting themselves involved in so bitter an enmity, will keep the friendly relation unbroken; on the contrary, while they are weak they will feign goodwill, but when they have recovered their strength, they will carry their original purpose to completion. [6] I therefore adjure you all, in the name of Zeus and all the gods, not to save the lives of your enemies, not to leave your allies in the lurch, not again for a second time to bring peril upon your country. You yourselves, men of Syracuse, if you let these men go and then some ill befalls you, will leave for yourselves not even a respectable defence."2

1 At the first request of the Syracusans for aid the Lacedaemonians did no more than send their general Gylippus (chap. 7), not wishing to break the peace with Athens. But early in 413 they declared war on Athens, seized and fortified Deceleia in Attica, and began sending troops on merchant ships to Sicily.

2 Plut. Nic. 28.2 and Thuc. 7.86.2 state that Gylippus proposed that the lives of the generals be spared, since he wished to take them back with him to Sparta.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.86.2
    • Plutarch, Nicias, 28.2
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