They say that when an embassy had come from Lacedaemon to Athens to treat of these matters, and Pericles was shielding himself behind the plea that a certain law prevented his taking down the tablet on which the decree was inscribed, Polyalces, one of the ambassadors, cried:
‘Well then, don't take it down, but turn the tablet to the wall; surely there's no law preventing that.’ Clever as the proposal was, however, not one whit the more did Pericles give in.
He must have secretly cherished, then, as it seems, some private grudge against the Megarians; but by way of public and open charge he accused them of appropriating to their own profane uses the sacred territory of Eleusis, and proposed a decree that a herald be sent to them, the same to go also to the Lacedaemonians with a denunciation of the Megarians.
This decree, at any rate, is the work of Pericles, and aims at a reasonable and humane justification of his course. But after the herald who was sent, Anthemocritus, had been put to death through the agency of the Megarians, as it was believed, Charinus proposed a decree against them, to the effect that there be irreconcilable and implacable enmity on the part of Athens towards them, and that whosoever of the Megarians should set foot on the soil of Attica be punished with death; and that the generals, whenever they should take their ancestral oath of office, add to their oath this clause, that they would invade the Megarid twice during each succeeding year; and that Anthemocritus be buried honorably at the Thriasian gates, which are now called the Dipylum.
But the Megarians denied the murder of Anthemocritus, and threw the blame for Athenian hate on Aspasia and Pericles, appealing to those far-famed and hackneyed versicles of the
Simaetha, harlot, one of Megara's womankind,
Was stolen by gilded youths more drunk than otherwise;
And so the Megarians, pangs of wrath all reeking hot,
Paid back the theft and raped of Aspasia's harlots two.