48.Nicias, though he also thought their estate bad, yet was unwilling to have their weakness discovered, and, by decreeing of their departure openly with the votes of many, to make known the same to the enemy;for if at any time they had a mind to be gone, they should then be less able to do it secretly.
Besides, the estate of the enemy, inasmuch as he understood it better than the rest, put him into some hope that it might yet grow worse than their own, in case they pressed the siege, especially being already masters of the sea, far and near, with their present fleet.There was moreover a party for the Athenians in Syracuse that desired to betray the state into their hands, and that sent messengers unto him and suffered him not to rise and be gone.
All which he knowing, though he were in truth doubtful what opinion to be of, and did yet consider, nevertheless openly in his speech he was against the withdrawing of the army, and said that he was sure the people of Athens would take it ill if he went thence without their order;for that they were not to have such judges as should give sentence upon their own sight of things done rather than upon the report of calumniators, but such as would believe whatsoever some fine speaker should accuse them of.That many, nay most of the soldiers here, who now cry out upon their misery, will there cry out on the contrary, and say the generals have betrayed the state and come away for a bribe.
That he would not, therefore, knowing the nature of the Athenians so well, choose to be put to death unjustly and charged with a dishonourable crime by the Athenians rather than, if he must needs do one, to suffer the same at the hand of the enemy by his own adventure.And yet, he said, the state of the Syracusians was still inferior to their own.
For paying much money to strangers and laying out much more on forts [without and about the city], having also had a great navy a year already in pay, they must needs want money at last, and all these things fail them.For they have spent already two thousand talents, and are much in debt besides.And whensoever they shall give over this course and make pay no longer, their strength is gone, as being auxiliary and not constrained to follow the war as the Athenians are.
Therefore it was fit, he said, to stay close to the city and not to go away as if they were too weak in money, wherein they were much superior.
The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. Thucydides. Thomas Hobbes. translator. London. Bohn. 1843.
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