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16. 'I have a better right to command, men of Athens, than another; for as Nicias has attacked1 me, I must begin by praising myself; and I consider that I am worthy. Those doings of mine for which I am SO much cried out against are an honour to myself and to my ancestors, and a solid advantage to my country. [2] In consequence of the distinguished manner in which I represented the state at Olympia, the other Hellenes formed an idea of our power which even exceeded the reality, although they had previously imagined that we were exhausted by war. I sent into the lists seven chariots,—no other private man ever did the like; I was victor, and also won the second and fourth prize; and I ordered everything in a style worthy of my victory. Apart from the conventional honour paid to such successes, the energy which is shown by them creates an impression of power. [3] At home, again, whenever I gain distinction by providing choruses or by the performance of some other public duty, although the citizens are naturally jealous of me, to strangers these acts of munificence are a new argument of our strength. There is some use in the folly of a man who at his own cost benefits not only himself, but the state. And where is the injustice, if I or any one who feels his own superiority to another refuses to be on a level with him? [4] The unfortunate keep their misfortunes to themselves. We do not expect to be recognized by our acquaintance when we are down in the world; and on the same principle why should any one complain when treated with disdain by the more fortunate? He who would have proper respect shown to him should himself show it towards others. [5] I know that men of this lofty spirit, and all who have been in any way illustrious, are hated while they are alive, by their equals especially, and in a lesser degree by others who have to do with them; but that they leave behind them to after-ages a reputation which leads even those who are not of their family to claim kindred with them, and that they are the glory of their country, which regards them, not as aliens or as evil-doers, but as her own children, of whose character she is proud. These are my own aspirations, and this is the reason why my private life is assailed; [6] but let me ask you, whether in the management of public affairs any man surpasses me. Did I not, without involving you in any great danger or expense, combine the most powerful states of Peloponnesus against the Lacedaemonians, whom I compelled to stake at Mantinea all that they had upon the fortune of one day? And even to this hour, although they were victorious in the battle, they have hardly recovered courage.

1 My private extravagance is a public benefit. And why should men complain of being looked down upon by the fortunate? For they look down upon the unfortunate themselves. Great men have great ambitions, but their merits are not acknowledged during their life time. This foolish youth gained for you the Argive alliance

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load focus Notes (Charles F. Smith)
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