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53. 'Men of Lacedaemon, we surrendered our city because we had confidence in you; we were1 under the impression that the trial to which we submitted would be legal, and of a very different kind from this; and when we accepted you and you alone to be our judges, which indeed you are, we thought that at your hands we had the best hope of obtaining justice. [2] But we fear that we are doubly mistaken, having too much reason to suspect that in this trial our lives are at stake, and that you will turn out to be partial judges. So we must infer, because no accusation has been preferred against us calling for a defence, but we speak at our own request; and because your question is a short one, to which the answer, if true, condemns us, and, if false, is exposed at once. [3] In the extremity of our helplessness, our only and our safest course is to say something, whatever may be our fate; for men in our condition are sure to reproach themselves with their silence, and to fancy that the unuttered word, if spoken, would have saved them.

[4] 'But by what arguments can we ever convince you? If we were unacquainted with one another we might with advantage adduce in evidence matters of which you were ignorant, but now you know all that we can say; and we are afraid, not that we are criminals in your eyes because you have decided that we fall short of your own standard of virtue2, but that we are being sacrificed to please others, and that the cause which we plead is already prejudged.

1 We hoped to have a legal trial and to receive justice at your hands, but we are disappointed. We now fear that we are to be sacrificed to the Thebans.

2 Cp. 3.57 init.

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load focus Notes (E.C. Marchant, 1909)
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