'Men of Boeotia, no one among us generals should ever have allowed the thought to enter his mind that we ought not to fight with the Athenians, even although we may not overtake them on Boeotian soil. They have crossed our frontier; it is Boeotia in which they have built a fort, and Boeotia which they intend to lay waste. Our enemies they clearly are wherever we find them, and therefore in that country out of which they came1
and did us mischief.
But perhaps not to fight may appear to some one to be the safer course. Well then, let him who thinks so think again. When a man being in full possession of his own goes out of his way to attack others because he covets more, he cannot reflect too much;
but when a man is attacked by another and has to fight for his own, prudence does not allow of reflection. In you the temper has been hereditary which would repel the foreign invader, whether he be in another's country or in your own;
the Athenian invader above all others should be thus repelled, because he is your next neighbour. For among neighbours antagonism is ever a condition of independence, and against men like these, who are seeking to enslave not only near but distant countries, shall we not fight to the last? Look at their treatment of Euboea just over the strait, and of the greater part of Hellas. I would have you know, that whereas other men fight with their neighbours about the lines of a frontier, for us, if we are conquered, there will be no more disputing about frontiers, but one fixed boundary, including our whole country, for the Athenians will come in and take by force all that we have.
So much more dangerous are they than ordinary neighbours. And men who, like them, wantonly assail others, will not hesitate to attack him who remains quietly at home and only defends himself; but they are not so ready to overbear the adversary who goes out of his own country to meet them, and when there is an opportunity strikes first.
We have proved this in our own dealings with the Athenians. Once, owing to our internal dissensions, they took possession of our land, but we overcame them at Coronea, and gave Boeotia that complete security which has lasted to this day2
Remember the past: let the elder men among us emulate their own earlier deeds, and the younger who are the sons of those valiant fathers do their best not to tarnish the virtues of their race. Confident that the God whose temple they have impiously fortified and now occupy will be our champion, and relying on the sacrifices, which are favourable to us, let us advance to meet them. They may satisfy their greed by attacking those who do not defend themselves; but we will show them that from men whose generous spirit ever impels them to fight for the liberties of their country, and who will not see that of others unjustly enslaved,—from such men they will not part without a battle.'