Unit 2: Ancient Greece / Athens and Sparta
Archidamus Characterizes the Strengths of Sparta
From Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War. ed. Henry Dale (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1878), 50-52.
83. And let no one think it shows a want of courage for many not to advance at once against one state. For they too have fewer allies who pay them tribute; and war is not so much a thing of arms as of money, by means of which arms are of service; especially in the case of continental against maritime powers. Let us first then provide ourselves with this, and not be excited beforehand by the speeches of the allies; but as we shall have the greater part of them for the consequences either way, so also let us quietly take a view of them beforehand.

84. And as for the slowness and dilatoriness which they most blame in us, be not ashamed of them. For by hurrying [to begin the war] you would be the more slow in finishing it, because you took it in hand when unprepared: and at the same time we always enjoy a city that is free and most glorious; and it is a wise moderation that can best constitute this. For owing to it we alone do not grow insolent in success, and yield less than others to misfortunes. We are not excited by the pleasure afforded by those who with praise stimulate us to dangers contrary to our conviction; and if any one provoke us with accusation, we are not the more prevailed on through being thus annoyed. We are both warlike and wise through our orderly temper: warlike, because shame partakes very largely of moderation, and courage of shame; and wise, because we are brought up with no little learning to despise the laws, and not with too severe a self-control to disobey them; and we are not over-clever in useless things, so that while in a word we might ably find fault with our enemies’ resources, we should not go against them so well in deed; but are taught to think that our neighbor’s plans, and the chances which befall in war, are very similar, as thinks not admitting of nice distinction in language. But we always provide in deed against our adversaries with the expectation of their planning well; and must not rest our hopes on the probability of their blundering, but on the belief of our own taking cautious forethought. Again, we should not think that one man differs much from another, but that he is the best who is educated in the most necessary things.

85. These practices then, which our fathers bequeathed to us, and which we have always retained with benefit, let us not give up, nor determine hurriedly, in the short space of a day, about many lives, and riches, and states, and honors, but let us do it calmly; as we may do more than others, on account of our power. And send to the Athenians respecting Potidaea1, and send respecting those things in which the allies say they are injured; especially as they are ready to submit to judicial decision; and against the party that offers that, it is not right to proceed against the guilty one. But prepare for war at the same time. For in this you will determine both what is best, and what is most formidable to your adversaries. Archidamus spoke to this effect.

1Potidaea revolted in 432 B.C. against Athens with Corinthian help; this was one of the incitements to the Peloponnesian War

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