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καίτοι . . κατεργ. κἂν κατ—the alliteration renders the assertion more incisive.

διὰ πολλοῦ καὶ πολλῶν—cf. below § 6 περὶ πλεῖστον καὶ διὰ πλείστου, and c. 87, 4 ἐν παντὶ γὰρ πᾶς χωρίῳ. The γε gives a causal force to the partic.

ὧν—common object to κρατήσας and κατασχήσει, following, as usual, the coustruction of the partic.

καὶ μή—the rel. is not repeated in this clause, but the second μή carries on its force.

μὴ ἐν τῷ ὁμοίῳ—cf. II. 60 ἐν ἴσῳ εἶναι, III. 22 ἐν ἀπόρῳ εἶναι, and many others. καὶ πρὶν ἐπι.—καί ‘as’; so after ἴσος (e.g. III. 14, 1) and other similar words. Failure to capture a city by assault or siege was an experience of the Athenians: it had not hitherto led to disastrous consequences. But a failure in Sicily would mean a combined attack from Sparta and their Sicilian friends, an invitation to doubtful allies to revolt, and great loss of treasure and prestige.


Σικελιῶται δ᾽ ἄν κτλ—this is explained in two ways: (1) After ὥς γε νῦν ἔχουσι supply οὐ δεινοὶ εἶναι by an ellipse such as Herbst thinks characteristic of Thuc. and calls ‘beautiful.’ Clas. thinks that there is a lacuna after ἔχουσι. The Schol. and others support this view. Cf. note in Jowett. (2) ‘Looking at the actual state of Sicily, I should say that the island would be even less formidable to us’: so Arnold, Bloomf., Stahl, etc. This version misses the antithesis between ὤς γε νῦν ἔχουσι and εἰ ἄρξειαν which is carried on in νῦν . . ἐκείνως. Now it is not certain that νῦν μὲν γάρ . . is epexegetic of ὤς γε νῦν ἔχουσι: for καὶ ἔτι ἂν ἧσσον may quite well=καὶ ἔτι ἂν ἧσσον νῦν εἰσι. The real difficulty is to settle the meaning of ὤς . . ἔχουσι. According to Stahl ‘the present state of the S.’ means ‘their state while they are independent.’ Much more probably ‘uninvaded as they are by us’ is the sense. Should we invade Sicily, the conditions would be altered. If we won, we should not gain: if we lost, then Syracuse might get the upper hand, and of course then would join Sparta. Cf. Class. Rev. July 1895.

ἄρξειοιν—ingressive.

ὅπερ—internal acens. to ἐκφοβοῦσι.


ἕκαστοι—‘separately.’ The statement is put vaguely, because after the experience of Sparta with regard to her Sicilian allies there could not be much ground for Athens to fear that the Siceliots, if undisturbed, would send help to Sparta. Observe that ὥς γε νῦν ἔχουσι is still implied both with νῦν μὲν γάρ and with ἐκείνως δ̓. ἐκείνωςεἰ ἄρξειαν αὐτῶν Συρ.

εἰκός—generally takes aor. inf., occasionally present. The argument (πίστις) from τὸ εἰκός is common in Thuc. Antiphon, Tetral. A, α, 4 is an example of a charge resting on τὸ εἰκός, probabile.

ἀρχὴν ἐπὶ ἀρχήν—the argument is not that it is unnatural for one empire (Syracuse) to attack another (Athens); but that if the Athenian power, the common enemy of Sparta and Syracuse, were destroyed, Sparta would soon come to regard the Syracusan power as the successor of the Athenian, and would grow jealous of it.

τῶν αὐτῶν—the Peloponnesians.

σφετέραν—the (secondary) reflexive, not ἐκείνων or αὐτῶν, because the thought of the Syracusans is represented.

διὰ τοῦ αὐτοῦ—neut.=‘similar means,’ i.e. by combination with other states. For the change from the dat. ἂν τρόπῳ to the gen. with διά, cf. Isocr. 15 τούτῳ (τῷ λόγῳ) ἐξελέγχομεν καὶ ἐγκωμιάζομεν: διὰ τούτου παιδεύομεν καὶ δοκιμάζομεν.


ἡμᾶς δέ—after explaining that A. has nothing to fear from a Syracusan empire, Nicias proceeds to explain by what means A. may inspire the Siceliots with most fear.

ἔπειτα δὲ καί—the less desirable course.

δι᾽ ὀλίγου—temporal, with ἀπέλθοιμεν.

διὰ πλείστου—the edd. quote the maxim aseribed to Tiberius (Tac. An. 1, 47) major e longinquo reverentia, Virgil's minuit praesentia famam, etc. See crit. note.

πεῖραν ἥκιστα—‘and whatever affords least opportunity for testing its reputation.’ Cf. Pericles' remark, II. 41 τῶν ἔργων τὴν ὑπόνοιαν ἀλήθεια βλάψει. Nicias in making this remark is making a point against the party of Alcibiades. Cf. c. 13, 1.


διὰ τό—asyndeton after a demonstrative (which is here replaced by ὅπερ) is fairly common. Cf. II. 60, 4 νῦν ὑμεῖς δρᾶτε: ταῖς κατ᾽ οἶκον κακοπραγίαις . . ἀφίεσθε.

παρὰ γνώμην=παρ᾽ ἐλπίδα, ‘contrary to your expectation’; contrast c. 9, 2. αὐτῶν probably belongs to περιγεγενῆσθαι, but is put early in order to contrast it with Σικελίας. Stein thinks παρὰ γ. αὐτῶν=praeter vestram ipsorum opinionem.

πρὸς . τὸ πρῶτον—this use of πρός, ‘in comparison with,’ is commoner in Thuc. than in other Attic prose writers. (These words are inserted because Nicias does not mean ‘having, contrary to your expectation, attained the mastery,’ as Bloomfield renders: but, on the contrary, that the success of Athens has been considerable if viewed in the light of her fears at the beginning of the war, in the days when Pericles strove to calm her fears)


μὴ πρὸς τὰς τύχαςτὰ τῆς τύχης, or αἱ τύχαι are the manifestations of the inscrutable τύχη that so often thwarts human γνώμη. According to Thuc. events are the outcome of ascertainable causes, except when τύχη comes in. Nicias himself in VII. 61 expresses a hope that τὸ τῆς τύχης may side with the Athenians: he seems to think that the conduct of the gods may be reasoned about (VII. 77, 4), but that τύχη is unaccountable. The context here gives to τ. the sense ‘misfortunes.’ τὰς διανοίας κρατήσαντας θ.—διανοίαι=‘designs,’ the results of διανοία. If τὰς δ. goes with κρατήσαντας, it is strange that the gen. is not used, in accordance with the otherwise invariable rule of Thuc., except when μάχη is expressed or implied. Clas, takes τὰς δ. as accus. of ‘respect,’ and supplies αὐτῶν to κρατήσαντας. It is better to take τὰς διανοίας as object of θαρσεῖν, and to render ‘to defeat (the enemy) and (then) to have no fear of his (further) plans.’ For the sentiment, cf. Demosth. proem. 32, 2 οὐκ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων θρασύν, ἀλλ̓ ἐπὶ τῆς παρασκευῆς ἰσχυρὸν εἶναι δεῖ, οὐδ᾽ ἐπὶ τῷ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς μὴ δυνήσεσθαι θαρρεῖν, ἀλλ̓ ἐπὶ τῷ κἂν δύνωνται κρατήσειν.

μηδὲ Λακεδαιμονίους—the paraphrase of the Schol. is a good example of the skill with which a good scholiast imitates the diction of Thuc.: “μὴ νομίζετε Λακεδαιμονίους ἄλλο τι σκοπεῖν , διὰ τὸ αἰσχρῶς ἐσπεῖσθαι, σπεύδειν ὅτῳ τρόπῳ δύναίντο (!) ἔτι νῦν καθελόντες ἡμᾶς ἀναμαχέσασθαι τὴν πρόσθεν ἀδοξίαν.”

εὖ θέσθαι=‘to settle satisfactorily.’

ὅσῳ—‘in so far as’: ‘a point upon which their anxiety is proportioned to their long and passionate pursuit of military glory’ (Wilkins). ὅσῳ is thus used with comparatives or superlatives, and with precisely the same freedom with regard to the presence or absence of a correlative (τοσούτῳ), or of the comparative (or superl.) in one or the other clauses as it appears in Tacitus in the case of eo . . quo, tanto . . quanto. Cf. c. 78, 1 τοσούτῳ ἀσφαλέστερον ὅσῳ . . ἀγωνιεῖται. περὶ πλείστου =‘above everything.’ For περί see Index.

ἀρετῆς—here in its earlier sense, ‘courage,’ not in the sense that it has already in Thuc., ‘virtue.’


ἀγών—sc. ἐστί.

δι᾽ ὀλιγαρχίας—‘by means of an oligarchy.’ Nicias had experienced the cunning of the Spartan government in the matter of the peace. It had been reduced to a name (c. 10, 2) through Spartan diplomacy aided by those in Athens who played into the hands of Sparta. This is a direct appeal to the extreme democrats, who were eagerly supporting the expedition. Cf. Demosth. 15, 30 εἷς ἀγών ἐστιν πρὸς τοὺς προδήλους ἐχθρούς. Stein thinks δι᾽ .=ὀλιγαρχικῶς.

φυλαξόμεθα—M.T. § 339.

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  • Commentary references from this page (6):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.41
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.60
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.14
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.22
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.61
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.77
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