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Our duty, then, is to take care lest the Lacedaemonians grow strong and formidable before the Thebans are weaker, and lest their increase of power should, unperceived by us, out-balance the diminution of the power of Thebes, which our interests demand. For this at least we should never admit, that we would sooner have the Lacedaemonians for our rivals than the Thebans, nor is that our serious aim, but rather to put it out of the power of either to do us harm, for in that way we shall enjoy the most complete security.
But perhaps we shall admit that that is how matters ought to stand, but feel that it is monstrous to choose as our allies the men whose ranks we faced at Mantinea,The Athenians fought on the left wing of the Lacedaemonians at Mantinea against Thebans, Arcadians and other allies of Thebes. and even to help them against those with whom we shared the dangers of that battle. And I too am of that opinion, but I think we must add the saving clause, “if the others consent to do what is just.
Then there is another argument that astonishes me; that if we make an alliance with the Arcadians and act upon it, our city will seem to be changing its policy and breaking faith. For to me, men of Athens, the exact opposite seems to be the case. How so? Because I do not think any one man would deny that Athens has saved the Lacedaemonians, and the Thebans before them, and the Euboeans recently,The references are to the battle of Mantinea （362）, the alliance with Thebes against Sparta in 378, and the deliverance of Euboea from the Thebans in 357. and has afterwards made alliance with them, having always one and the same object in vi
But further, with regard to any acts which they say the Megalopolitans have committed for the sake of the Thebans somewhat against your interests, it is ridiculous to make these now the count of an indictment, but when they want to become friends and make you some reparation, to look askance at them and devise means of preventing this, and not to realize that the more zealous they show themselves to have been in the cause of the Thebans, the more justly would these very speakers incur your anger, if they deprived the city of such useful allies, when they came to you before applying to Thebes.
But these, I take it, are the allegations of men who want once again to drive the Megalopolitans elsewhere for an alliance. Now I know, as far as reasoning and conjecture can teach me, and I think that most of you will agree with me, that if the Lacedaemonians take Megalopolis, Messene will be in danger; and if they take Messene also, I say that we shall find ourselves in alliance with Thebes.
Surely it is more honorable and satisfactory that we should win the alliance of the Thebans on our own account and resist Spartan ambition, than that we should shrink from rescuing the allies of Thebes and abandon them now, only to rescue the Thebans in the end, and to be kept moreover in perpetual alarm for ourselves.
In order, then, that this unwillingness may not stand in the way of the weakening of Thebes, let us admit that Thespiae, Orchomenus and Plataea ought to be restored, and let us co-operate with their inhabitants and appeal to the other states, for it is a just and honorable policy not to allow ancient cities to be uprooted; but at the same time let us not abandon Megalopolis and Messene to their oppressors, nor allow the restoration of Plataea and Thespiae to blind us to the destruction of existing and established states.
If the Megalopolitans, though peace is secured for them, still cling to the Theban alliance, it will of course be obvious to all that they prefer the ambition of Thebes to the claims of justice; or if, while the Megalopolitans join our alliance in all sincerity, the Lacedaemonians refuse to keep the peace, then it will be equally obvious that the object of their activities is not merely to restore Thespiae, but to subjugate the Peloponnese while the Thebans are engrossed in the war.
I am surprised that some of you are afraid of the enemies of Sparta becoming allies of Thebes, and yet see nothing to fear in their subjugation by the Lacedaemonians, forgetting the practical lesson to be learned from the past, that the Thebans always use these allies against the Lacedaemonians, whereas the Lacedaemonians, when they had them at command, used them against us.