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For the People of Megalopolis

16.1Both sides seem to be in error, men of Athens, both those who have spoken in favor of the Arcadians and those who have done the same for the Lacedaemonians; for, just as though they had come from one or other of those states and were not citizens of Athens, to which both embassies are addressed, they are indulging in mutual abuse and recrimination. That, indeed, might be a task for our visitors; but to take a broad view of the question and to explore the best policy, with a regard for your interests and yet without party-spirit, that is the task of men who claim to offer advice in this Assembly. 16.2As it is, apart from the fact that they were known persons and spoke Attic, I think myself that many would have taken them for Arcadians or Laconians. But I see how difficult it is to recommend the wisest course, because, when you share the delusions of your advisers, some wanting this and others that, anyone who attempts to suggest a middle course and finds you too impatient to be instructed, will please neither party and will be discredited with both. 16.3All the same, if that is to be my fate, I will choose rather to be charged with talking nonsense than allow you to be misled by certain speakers, contrary to what I judge to be best for the city. Other points I will, with your permission, discuss later, but now, starting from principles admitted by all, I will try to explain what I consider the best policy.

16.4Now no one would deny that our city is benefited by the weakness of the Lacedaemonians and of the Thebans yonder. note The position of affairs, then, if one may judge from statements repeatedly made in your Assembly, is such that the Thebans will be weakened by the refounding of Orchomenus, Thespiae and Plataea, but the Lacedaemonians will regain their power, if they get Arcadia into their hands and destroy Megalopolis. 16.5Our 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.

16.6But 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, note 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.” 16.7If, then, all the powers consent to keep peace, we will not help the Megalopolitans, for it will be unnecessary, so that there will be no question of our opposing our comrades in arms; some of them, indeed, already profess to be our allies, and the others will now come into line. And what more could we desire? 16.8But if the Lacedaemonians act unjustly and insist on fighting, then, on the one hand, if the only question to be decided is whether we shall abandon Megalopolis to them or not, just indeed it is not, but I for my part agree to allow it and to offer no opposition to the people who shared the same dangers with us note; but, on the other hand, if you are all aware that the capture of Megalopolis will be followed by an attack on Messene, I ask any of those who are now so hard on the Megalopolitans to tell me what he will advise us to do then. 16.9But I shall get no answer. Yet you all know that, whether these speakers advise it or not, you are bound to help the Messenians, both for the sake of your sworn agreement with them and for the advantage that you derive from the preservation of their city. Just ask yourselves at what point you would begin to make your stand against Lacedaemonian injustice with more honor and generosity—with the defence of Megalopolis or with the defence of Messene? 16.10In the one case, you will show yourselves ready to help the Arcadians and eager to confirm the peace for which you faced danger on the field of battle. In the other case, everyone will see clearly that you wish to preserve Messene less for the sake of justice than for fear of the Lacedaemonians. But the proper course is in all things to find out what is right and then do it, though at the same time we must take care that what we do is expedient as well.

16.11Now my opponents argue that the recovery of Oropus is something that we ought to attempt, but that if we make enemies of those who would have helped us to recover it, we shall have no allies. I too think that we ought to recover Oropus, but to say that the Lacedaemonians will be our enemies as soon as we make allies of those Arcadians who are willing to be our friends—I think the only men who have no right even to suggest that are the men who persuaded you to help the Lacedaemonians in their hour of danger. 16.12For when all the Peloponnesians came to you and called on you to lead them against the Lacedaemonians, it was not by such arguments that these men persuaded you not to receive them—(and that was why they took the only remaining course of applying to the Thebans)—but to contribute funds and risk your lives for the safety of the Lacedaemonians. Yet you would surely never have consented to save them, if they had announced to you that when saved they would owe you no thanks for your help, unless you allowed them as before to commit whatever act of injustice they chose. 16.13Moreover, even if our alliance with the Arcadians is a serious impediment to the designs of the Lacedaemonians, yet surely they ought to be more grateful for the safety that we won for them, when they were in the gravest peril, than angry because of the wrongs that they are now prevented from committing. How, then, can they refuse to help us at Oropus without proving themselves the basest of mankind? By heavens! I see no escape for them.

16.14Then 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, note and has afterwards made alliance with them, having always one and the same object in view. 16.15And what is that? To save the victims of injustice. If, then, this is so, it is not we who are inconsistent, but those who refuse to abide by the principles of justice; and it will be manifest that the circumstances are always changing, through the policy of ambitious men, but our city changes not.

16.16The policy of the Lacedaemonians seems to me to be very sharp practice. For they now say that Elis ought to receive parts of Triphylia, and Phlius the district of Tricaranum, and certain Arcadian tribes the land belonging to them, and that we ought to have Oropus, not because they want to see each of us enjoying our own, far from it—(that would be a tardy exhibition of philanthropy)— 16.17but they want it to be generally supposed that they are co-operating with each state to recover the territory that it claims, so that when they march against Messene on their own account, all the others will join heartily in the expedition, or else will put themselves in the wrong by making no adequate return for the support they have enjoyed in regaining what each state claimed as its own. 16.18But my own impression is that, in the first place, without subjecting any of the Arcadians to Sparta, our city may recover Oropus with the help both of the Lacedaemonians, if they choose to act justly, and of all who think they ought not to let the Thebans keep other people's property. But supposing, on the other hand, it should become clear to us that unless we let the Lacedaemonians subdue the whole of the Peloponnese, we shall not be able to take Oropus, then I think it the better policy, if I may say so, to let Oropus go, rather than sacrifice Messene and the rest of the Peloponnese to the power of Sparta. For I do not think that Oropus would be the only subject of dispute between us, but also—. However, I will pass over what I intended to say; only I fancy there are many dangers ahead of us. note

16.19But 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. 16.20But 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. 16.21Surely 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. 16.22For I cannot regard it as a pledge of our security, that the Lacedaemonians should seize Megalopolis and grow great once more, seeing as I do that even now they have not taken up arms to avenge an injury, but to recover the power that once was theirs; and what their ambition was in the day of their power, you know perhaps better than I, and will distrust them accordingly.

16.23I should like to ask those speakers who profess hatred of the Thebans and of the Lacedaemonians, whether they hate them in either case for your sake and in your interests, or whether they hate the Thebans for the sake of the Lacedaemonians and the Lacedaemonians for the sake of the Thebans respectively. If the latter, you must not take the advice of either party, because they are both mad; but if they allege your interests, why do they unduly forward the interests of those other states? 16.24For it is surely possible to humble the Thebans without strengthening the Lacedaemonians; nay, it is much easier. How it can be done, I will try to explain.

Everyone knows this much, that all men, even against their wishes, are, up to a certain point, ashamed not to do what is just, but make a display of opposition to injustice, especially in cases where there are definite victims; and we shall find that what ruins everything—the root in fact of all evil—is unwillingness to act justly under all circumstances. 16.25In 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. 16.26Moreover, if we proclaim this policy, there is none but will be glad that the Thebans should cease to hold other people's territory; if we do not, we shall not only find the Thebans, naturally enough, hostile to the other proposal, as soon as they reflect that the restoration of those cities means ruin to themselves, but we shall also involve ourselves in endless trouble; for what limit indeed can there be, if we are always sanctioning the destruction of existing cities, and demanding the restoration of those that are destroyed?

16.27Now those who seem to argue most fairly demand of the Megalopolitans that they shall destroy the pillars note that record their treaty with the Thebans, if they are to be our trusted allies. But they reply that with them friendship is based, not on inscribed pillars, but on mutual advantage, and they count as their allies those who are their helpers. But, granting the fairness of these speakers, my own view is this. I say that we must at the same time call upon them to destroy the pillars and upon the Lacedaemonians to keep the peace. If they refuse—whichever of the two it may be—then at once we side with those who consent. 16.28If 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. 16.29I 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.

16.30Then again I think that you must bear this in mind, that if you reject the Megalopolitans and they are overthrown and decentralized, note the Lacedaemonians can at once be a great power, or if they do escape destruction—for such miracles have happened before now—they are bound to be the staunch friends of Thebes; but if you accept them as allies, Megalopolis will indeed owe its immediate deliverance to you, but we must put on one side all calculation of risk, and consider what will be the effect upon our relations with Thebes and Sparta. 16.31Now if the Thebans are finally beaten, as they deserve to be, there will be no undue increase in the power of the Lacedaemonians, because there are their neighbors, the Arcadians, to balance it; but if the Thebans after all recover and are saved, at any rate they will be the weaker because we shall have gained these allies, saved by our help. Therefore it is in every way expedient that the Arcadians should not be abandoned, and that if they do survive, they should not seem to owe their preservation to themselves or to any other people than you.

16.32Men of Athens, I solemnly assure you that I am not prompted by private friendship or enmity for either party, but have said what I consider expedient for you; and I urge you not to abandon the Megalopolitans, and, as a general principle, never to sacrifice the weak to the strong.

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