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On the Navy-Boards

14.1Those who praise your ancestors, men of Athens, seem to me to choose an acceptable theme, which yet fails to do any real service to those whom they eulogize; for when they attempt to speak about achievements to which no words could possibly do justice, they earn for themselves the reputation of clever speakers, but leave their hearers with a lower estimate of the merits of those famous men. Indeed, I think the best testimony to their merits is the length of time that has elapsed, during which no other men have been able to surpass their achievements. 14.2For my own part, however, I shall confine myself to pointing out how you can best prepare for war. For this is how things stand. Even if all of us who are to address you should prove capable speakers, you would, I am sure, be no better off; but if someone, whoever he may be, could come forward and point out convincingly the nature and size of the force that will be serviceable to the city, and show how it is to be provided, all our present fears will be relieved. This is what I will try to do, if only I am able, first giving you briefly my views about our relations with the Great King.

14.3I admit that he is the common enemy of all the Greeks; yet I would not on that account advise you to undertake a war against him by yourselves apart from the rest, for I observe that the Greeks themselves are by no means common friends of one another, but that certain of them repose more confidence in the King than in some of their neighbors. From this state of things I conclude that it is to your interest to be careful that your grounds for entering on war shall be equitable and just, but to proceed with all the necessary preparations, making that the foundation of your policy. 14.4For I believe, Athenians, that if there were clear and unmistakable signs of the King's hostile intentions, the other Greeks would join with us, and would be deeply grateful to those who would stand up for them and with them against his attacks; but if we force on a war, while his aims are still obscure, I am afraid, men of Athens, that we shall be obliged to encounter, not only the King, but also those whom we are minded to protect. 14.5For the King, suspending his designs—if he really intends to invade Greece—will distribute money among them and tempt them with offers of friendship, while they, anxious to bring their private quarrels to a successful issue and keeping that object in view, will overlook the common safety of all. Into such a welter of confusion and folly I beseech you not to plunge our country. 14.6For indeed, as regards your policy towards the King, I see that you are by no means on the same footing as the other Greeks; for many of them it is, I suppose, possible to pursue their private interests and abandon the cause of their countrymen, but for you, even when wronged by them, it would not be honorable to exact such a penalty from the wrong-doers as to leave any of them under the heel of the barbarian. 14.7But as long as this is so, we must take care that we are not involved in war at a disadvantage, and that the King, whom we believe to have designs against the Greeks, does not win the credit of appearing as their friend. How then can this be ensured? If we make it plain to all that our forces are already marshalled and equipped, but equally plain that our policy is founded on sentiments of justice. 14.8To your rash advisers, who are so eager to hurry you into war, I have this to say, that it is not difficult, when deliberation is needed, to gain a reputation for courage, nor when danger is at hand, to display skill in oratory; but there is something that is both difficult and essential—to display courage in the face of danger, and in deliberation to offer sounder advice than one's fellows. 14.9I believe, men of Athens, that the war with the King is a difficult undertaking for our city, though any conflict which the war involved might prove easy enough. note Why so? Because the first requisites for every war are necessarily, I suppose, fleets and money and strong positions, and I find that the King is more fully supplied with these than we are; but for the actual conflict I observe that nothing is needed so much as brave soldiers, and of these we and those who share the danger with us have the better supply. 14.10That is why I advise that we should not on any grounds be the first to plunge into war, but for the conflict we must be properly equipped from the start. If indeed there were one kind of force suitable for defence against Persians and another for defence against Greeks, then we might reasonably be suspected of marshalling ourselves against the King; 14.11but when all preparation for war is on the same lines and the main objects of an armed force are the same—to be strong enough to repel the enemy, to assist one's allies, and to preserve one's own possessions-why, having open enemies enough, must we be looking out for another? Let us rather make our preparations against them, and then we shall defend ourselves against him too, if he ventures to molest us. 14.12Moreover you are now calling on the Greeks to join you; but if you refuse to do their bidding—and your relations with some of them are not cordial—how can you expect any of them to answer your call? “Because,” you say, “we shall warn them that the King has designs on them.” But seriously, do you imagine that they cannot detect that for themselves? I am sure they can. But as yet their fear of Persia is subordinate to their feuds with you and, in some cases, with one another. Therefore your ambassadors will only go round repeating their heroics. note 14.13But later on, if what we now deem probable comes to pass, surely no Greek community has such a good conceit of itself that when they see that you have a thousand cavalry and as many infantry as one could desire and three hundred ships, they will not come as our suitors, feeling that with such support their safety is assured. Therefore to invite them at once means that you are the suppliants and, if unsuccessful, have failed utterly, but to wait and at the same time complete your own preparations means saving them at their request, and being well assured that they will all join you.

14.14Therefore, men of Athens, moved by this and similar considerations, I was unwilling to compose a confident oration or one of futile length, but I have been at very great pains to consider the best and speediest method of completing our equipment. I venture to think that you ought to hear my plan and vote for it, if it satisfies you. Now the first and most important step in our equipment, men of Athens, is that you should be filled with such resolution that everyone shall be willing and eager to do his part. 14.15For you will notice, men of Athens, that whenever you have collectively formed some project, and thereafter each individual has realized that it was his personal duty to carry it out, nothing has ever escaped your grasp; but whenever you have formed your project and thereafter have looked to one another to carry it out, each expecting to do nothing while his neighbor worked, then nothing has succeeded with you. 14.16But seeing you thus resolved and enthusiastic, I propose that the register of the twelve hundred note should be filled up and enlarged to two thousand by the addition of eight hundred names; for if you fix on that number, I believe that you will get your twelve hundred persons, after striking out wards, orphans, settlers in colonies, joint holders of estates, and anyone otherwise ineligible. 14.17Then I propose to divide these into twenty boards, as at present, each containing sixty persons. Each of these boards I would subdivide into five groups of twelve men, always attaching to the wealthiest man those who are poorest, to keep the balance. That is how I propose to arrange these persons; you will understand why, when you have heard the whole of the arrangement. 14.18Now what about the war-galleys? I propose to fix the total number at three hundred, divided into twenty squadrons of fifteen ships each, assigning to each squadron five of the first hundred, note five of the second, and five of the third; and next to allot a squadron of fifteen to each board, and the board must assign three vessels to each of its own groups. 14.19When these preliminaries are settled, I propose that your wealth also should be organized, and that as the ratable value of the country is six thousand talents, this sum should be divided into a hundred parts of sixty talents each, and that then five of these parts should be allotted to each of the twenty full boards, and that the board itself should assign one part, consisting of sixty talents, note to each of its own five groups. 14.20Thus, if you want a hundred war-galleys the cost of each will be covered by the sixty talents and there will be twelve trierarchs for each; if you want two hundred, there will be thirty talents to cover the cost and six persons to serve as trierarchs; if you want three hundred, there will be twenty talents for the cost and four persons to serve. 14.21In the same way I propose, men of Athens, that all ships' gear now on loan should be valued and divided according to the inventory into twenty parts, and then that one part of the debtors liable for it should be allotted to each of the full boards, and that each board should assign an equal share to each of its own groups; and that the twelve members of the group should exact the same from the debtors, and so provide, fully equipped, as many galleys as they are severally responsible for. 14.22That, I think, would be the best way of providing and organizing the money, the hulls, the trierarchs, and the calling in of the ships' gear. note

I now proceed to describe a clear and easy way of manning the ships. I suggest that the generals should divide the dockyards into ten areas, so arranging it that there may be dock-room in each for thirty ships, as close together as possible, and that when they have done this, they should apportion two boards and thirty galleys to each area, and then assign the tribes by lot to the areas. 14.23And each brigade-commander note must divide into three parts whatever area his tribe has taken over, and the ships in the same way, and then he must allot the thirds of his tribe in such a way that of the whole space of the dockyards each tribe may have one area and each third of a tribe a third of an area; so that you can know at once, if necessary, where each tribe and each third of a tribe is stationed, who are the trierarchs and what ships they have, and that so each tribe may have thirty ships and each third of a tribe ten. For if we can only get this started, any detail at present omitted (for it is perhaps difficult to provide for everything) will be discovered by the actual working of the plan, and we shall have a uniform system both for the whole navy and for every part of it.

14.24But as regards money and a ready supply of it at once, I am aware that I am going to make a startling proposal. The proposal shall, however, be made, because I am confident that if you take the right point of view, it will be clear that I alone have told you the truth, as it is and as it will be. My view is that we ought not to talk about money now; for if we need it, we have a source of supply, abundant, honorable and fair; if we look for it at once, we shall fail so utterly to supply it now that we shall conclude that it is not even in reserve for our future use, but if we leave it alone, it will be there. What, then, is this supply, which is not now, but will be hereafter? 14.25That sounds like a riddle, but I will explain. Look at the great city that lies around you, men of Athens. In that city there is wealth, I might almost say, equal to that of all the other Greek cities together. But that wealth is in the hands of men whose temper is such that if all our orators started a scare that the King is coming, that he is close at hand, that the report must be true, and if the orators were backed by an equal number of oracle-mongers, not only would they fail to contribute, but they would refuse to declare or acknowledge their wealth. 14.26But if once they saw that what alarms them now as a mere rumor was actually taking place, none of them is so foolish that he would not be the first to pay his contribution; for who will choose to sacrifice life and property sooner than contribute a fraction to ensure his person and the remainder of his wealth? The money, I say, we have when it is really needed, but not before. Therefore I advise you not to seek it out, for the whole sum that you could raise, if you insisted on raising it, would be more ridiculous than nothing at all. 14.27For consider; will anyone propose a tax of one per cent now? Then we get sixty talents. Or double it and make it two per cent? Still only a hundred and twenty talents. And what is that to the twelve hundred camels laden, as our friends here tell us, with the King's treasure? Then would you have me assume that we shall contribute a twelfth of your wealth, or five hundred talents? But you would not submit to such a tax, nor if you paid up, would the money be sufficient for the war. 14.28You must therefore make all your other preparations, but let the money remain for the present in the hands of its owners, for it could not be in better keeping, for the benefit of the State; but if ever the threatened crisis comes, then accept it as a voluntary contribution.

These proposals, men of Athens, are both practicable and honorable and advantageous, fit to be reported of you to the King and calculated to inspire him with no little alarm. 14.29He knows that with two hundred galleys, of which we provided one hundred, our ancestors destroyed a thousand of his ships, and he will hear that we have three hundred of our own ready for sea, so that even if he were raving mad, he would scarcely think it a light thing to incur the hostility of our city. But indeed, if he bases his confidence on his wealth, he will find this too a less sure foundation than yours. 14.30He is bringing, they say, gold in plenty. But if he disburses it, he will look in vain for more; for even springs and wells have a way of failing, if one draws from them constantly and lavishly. But he will hear that our resources consist of the ratable value of our country, and how we can fight in defence of it against invaders from his land, those ancestors of his who fought at Marathon best know; but as long as we are victorious, there is surely no prospect of money failing us.

14.31Again, what frightens some of you—that his wealth will attract a large mercenary army—does not strike me as true. For although I believe that many Greeks would consent to serve in his pay against the Egyptians and Orontes note and other barbarians, not so much to enable him to subdue any of those enemies as to win for themselves wealth and relief from their present poverty, yet I do not think that any Greek would attack Greece. For where would he retire afterwards? Will he go to Phrygia and be a slave? 14.32For the objects at stake in a war against the barbarian are nothing less than our country, our life, our habits, our freedom, and all such blessings. Who, then, is so desperate that he will sacrifice himself, his ancestors, his sepulchres, and his native land, all for the sake of a paltry profit? I cannot think that there is such a man. Moreover, it is not even to the King's advantage that mercenaries should beat the Greeks, for the men who shall beat us have been his masters long ago. note No; his object is not, after destroying us, to find himself in the power of others, but to rule all the world, if he can, or if not, at least those who are now his slaves.

14.33Now, if anyone expects the Thebans to take our side, it is difficult to speak to you about them, because you have such a hearty dislike of them that you would not care to hear any good of them, even if it were true; but yet, when dealing with grave matters, one must not on any pretext pass over an important consideration. For my part, I believe that the Thebans are so little likely to join the King in an attack on Greece that they would pay a large sum, 14.34if they had it, to get a chance of expiating their former sins against the Greeks. note If, however, some think that the Thebans are fated always to be on the wrong side, at any rate you all know this, that if the Thebans stand by the King, their enemies are bound to stand by the Greeks.

14.35I believe, then, that the cause of justice and those who defend it will prove stronger than the traitors and the barbarian against all opposition. Therefore I say that we must not be unduly alarmed, nor must we be tempted to commence hostilities. And indeed I cannot see that any of the other Greeks have reason to dread this war. 14.36For who of them does not know that as long as they were of one mind and regarded the Persian as their common enemy, they could count on many advantages, but ever since they thought of him as a friend to fall back on and were torn asunder by their own private quarrels, they have suffered such disasters as no one would have devised for them even in an imprecation. If that is so, are we to fear this man, whom fortune and the voice of Heaven proclaim to be an unprofitable friend and an auspicious foe? Never! Yet let us do him no wrong either, both in our own interests and in view of the unrest and disloyalty of the other Greeks. 14.37If indeed we could attack him with unanimity, all banded against one, I should not count it wrong in us to do him wrong. note But since this is impossible, I suggest that we ought to be careful not to give the King an opportunity to pose as the champion of the other Greeks; for as long as you remain quiet, any such action on his part would excite suspicion, but if you are the aggressors, he will seem naturally anxious to befriend the rest, because they are hostile to you. 14.38Do not, then, expose the weakness of the Greeks by issuing a summons which they will not obey and declaring a war which you cannot wage; but in quietness and confidence go on with your preparations, and be content that this report of you be brought to the King's ears, not (Heaven forbid!) that all the Greeks, including the Athenians, are helpless, 14.39terrified and distracted—that is far from being the case—but that if falsehood and perjury were not as disgraceful in the eyes of the Greeks as they are respectable in his, you would long ago have marched against him; that as it is, you will not for your own sakes do this, but you pray to all the gods that he may be smitten with the same infatuation as were his ancestors of old. And if it comes into his mind to reflect on this; he will find that your resolutions are not carelessly taken. 14.40He knows that the wars we fought against his ancestors have made our city prosperous and powerful, but that the policy of inaction that she once pursued gave her no such supremacy over any of the other Greek states as she enjoys today. And indeed he sees that the Greeks stand in need of a peacemaker, whether voluntary or involuntary, and he knows that in that character he would himself appear to them, if he tried to stir up war. Therefore he will find the reports that reach him easy to understand and easy to believe.

14.41To spare you the tedium of a lengthy speech, men of Athens, I will sum up my suggestions and step down. I recommend you to equip your forces against your existing enemies, but I add that you must employ those same forces in self-defence against the King and against all who venture to do you wrong, though you must not set the example of wrong, either in word or in deed; and you must see to it that our actions, rather than the speeches delivered from this platform, are worthy of our fathers. If you act thus, you will be acting for the good both of yourselves and also of those who give you the contrary advice, since you will not have to be angry with them hereafter for errors you have committed now.

Demosthenes, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Dem.].
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