89.The ambassadors of The Four Hundred being returned from Samos to Athens and having related what they had in charge from Alcibiades, how that he exhorted them to hold out and not give ground to the enemy, and that he had great hopes to reconcile them to the army and to overcome the Peloponnesians, whereas many of the sharers in the oligarchy were formerly discontented and would gladly, if they could have done it safely, have quitted the business, they were now a great deal more confirmed in that mind.
And already they had their meetings apart and did cast aspersions on the government, and had for their ringleaders some of the heads of the oligarchicals and such as bare office amongst them, as Theramenes, the son of Agnon, and Aristocrates, the son of Scellius, and others, who though they were partakers with the foremost in the affairs of state, yet feared, as they said, Alcibiades and the army at Samos;and joined in the sending of ambassadors to Lacedaemon, because they were loth, by singling themselves from the greater number, to hurt the state, not that they dismissed the state into the hands of a very few, but said that The Five Thousand ought in fact to be assigned, and not in voice only, and the government to be reduced to a greater equality.
And this was indeed the form pretended in words by The Four Hundred.But the most of them, through private ambition, fell upon that by which an oligarchy made out of a democracy is chiefly overthrown.For at once they claimed every one not to be equal but to be far the chief.Whereas in a democracy, when election is made, because a man is not overcome by his equals, he can better brook it.
But the great power of Alcibiades at Samos and the opinion they had that the oligarchy was not like to last was it that most evidently encouraged them;and thereupon they every one contended who should most eminently become the patron of the people.
The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. Thucydides. Thomas Hobbes. translator. London. Bohn. 1843.
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