Excerpts from Thucydides
1)   Pericles' Funeral Oration Pericles' Funeral Oration
2)   The Mitylenian Debate The Mitylenian Debate
3)   The Melian Dialogue  The Melian Dialogue

 Pericles' Funeral Oration  (Thucydides, Book 2, chapters 34-46)

 In the same winter the Athenians gave a funeral at the public cost to those who had first
     fallen in this war. It was a custom of their ancestors, and the manner of it is as follows.
     Three days before the ceremony, the bones of the dead are laid out in a tent which has
     been erected; and their friends bring to their relatives such offerings as they please. In the
     funeral procession cypress coffins are borne in cars, one for each tribe; the bones of the
     deceased being placed in the coffin of their tribe. Among these is carried one empty bier
     decked for the missing, that is, for those whose bodies could not be recovered. Any citizen
     or stranger who pleases, joins in the procession: and the female relatives are there to wail
     at the burial. The dead are laid in the public sepulchre in the Beautiful suburb of the city, in
     which those who fall in war are always buried; with the exception of those slain at
     Marathon, who for their singular and extraordinary valour were interred on the spot where
     they fell. After the bodies have been laid in the earth, a man chosen by the state, of
     approved wisdom and eminent reputation, pronounces over them an appropriate
     panegyric; after which all retire. Such is the manner of the burying; and throughout the
     whole of the war, whenever the occasion arose, the established custom was observed.
     Meanwhile these were the first that had fallen, and Pericles, son of Xanthippus, was
     chosen to pronounce their eulogium. When the proper time arrived, he advanced from the
     sepulchre to an elevated platform in order to be heard by as many of the crowd as
     possible, and spoke as follows:

     "Most of my predecessors in this place have commended him who made this speech part
     of the law, telling us that it is well that it should be delivered at the burial of those who fall
     in battle. For myself, I should have thought that the worth which had displayed itself in
     deeds would be sufficiently rewarded by honours also shown by deeds; such as you now
     see in this funeral prepared at the people's cost. And I could have wished that the
     reputations of many brave men were not to be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual,
     to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a
     subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth.
     On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some
     point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on
     the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if
     he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only
     so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions
     recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity. However, since
     our ancestors have stamped this custom with their approval, it becomes my duty to obey
     the law and to try to satisfy your several wishes and opinions as best I may.

     "I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honour
     of the first mention on an occasion like the present. They dwelt in the country without
     break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the
     present time by their valour. And if our more remote ancestors deserve praise, much more
     do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance the empire which we now possess, and
     spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation.
     Lastly, there are few parts of our dominions that have not been augmented by those of us
     here, who are still more or less in the vigour of life; while the mother country has been
     furnished by us with everything that can enable her to depend on her own resources
     whether for war or for peace. That part of our history which tells of the military
     achievements which gave us our several possessions, or of the ready valour with which
     either we or our fathers stemmed the tide of Hellenic or foreign aggression, is a theme too
     familiar to my hearers for me to dilate on, and I shall therefore pass it by. But what was the
     road by which we reached our position, what the form of government under which our
     greatness grew, what the national habits out of which it sprang; these are questions which I
     may try to solve before I proceed to my panegyric upon these men; since I think this to be
     a subject upon which on the present occasion a speaker may properly dwell, and to which
     the whole assemblage, whether citizens or foreigners, may listen with advantage.

     "Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to
     others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this
     is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in
     their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation
     for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does
     poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity
     of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our
     ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not
     feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes, or even to indulge
     in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive
     penalty. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens.
     Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws,
     particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the
     statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken
     without acknowledged disgrace.

     "Further, we provide plenty of means for the mind to refresh itself from business. We
     celebrate games and sacrifices all the year round, and the elegance of our private
     establishments forms a daily source of pleasure and helps to banish the spleen; while the
     magnitude of our city draws the produce of the world into our harbour, so that to the
     Athenian the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of his own.

     "If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from our antagonists. We throw open
     our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of
     learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our
     liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in
     education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after
     manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter
     every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Lacedaemonians do not
     invade our country alone, but bring with them all their confederates; while we Athenians
     advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbour, and fighting upon a foreign soil
     usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes. Our united force was
     never yet encountered by any enemy, because we have at once to attend to our marine
     and to dispatch our citizens by land upon a hundred different services; so that, wherever
     they engage with some such fraction of our strength, a success against a detachment is
     magnified into a victory over the nation, and a defeat into a reverse suffered at the hands of
     our entire people. And yet if with habits not of labour but of ease, and courage not of art
     but of nature, we are still willing to encounter danger, we have the double advantage of
     escaping the experience of hardships in anticipation and of facing them in the hour of need
     as fearlessly as those who are never free from them.

     "Nor are these the only points in which our city is worthy of admiration. We cultivate
     refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ
     more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact
     but in declining the struggle against it. Our public men have, besides politics, their private
     affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry,
     are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, regarding him who takes
     no part in these duties not as unambitious but as useless, we Athenians are able to judge at
     all events if we cannot originate, and, instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block
     in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.
     Again, in our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each
     carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons; although usually decision
     is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be
     adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and
     pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally
     singular, acquiring our friends by conferring, not by receiving, favours. Yet, of course, the
     doer of the favour is the firmer friend of the two, in order by continued kindness to keep
     the recipient in his debt; while the debtor feels less keenly from the very consciousness that
     the return he makes will be a payment, not a free gift. And it is only the Athenians, who,
     fearless of consequences, confer their benefits not from calculations of expediency, but in
     the confidence of liberality.

     "In short, I say that as a city we are the school of Hellas, while I doubt if the world can
     produce a man who, where he has only himself to depend upon, is equal to so many
     emergencies, and graced by so happy a versatility, as the Athenian. And that this is no
     mere boast thrown out for the occasion, but plain matter of fact, the power of the state
     acquired by these habits proves. For Athens alone of her contemporaries is found when
     tested to be greater than her reputation, and alone gives no occasion to her assailants to
     blush at the antagonist by whom they have been worsted, or to her subjects to question
     her title by merit to rule. Rather, the admiration of the present and succeeding ages will be
     ours, since we have not left our power without witness, but have shown it by mighty
     proofs; and far from needing a Homer for our panegyrist, or other of his craft whose
     verses might charm for the moment only for the impression which they gave to melt at the
     touch of fact, we have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and
     everywhere, whether for evil or for good, have left imperishable monuments behind us.
     Such is the Athens for which these men, in the assertion of their resolve not to lose her,
     nobly fought and died; and well may every one of their survivors be ready to suffer in her

     "Indeed if I have dwelt at some length upon the character of our country, it has been to
     show that our stake in the struggle is not the same as theirs who have no such blessings to
     lose, and also that the panegyric of the men over whom I am now speaking might be by
     definite proofs established. That panegyric is now in a great measure complete; for the
     Athens that I have celebrated is only what the heroism of these and their like have made
     her, men whose fame, unlike that of most Hellenes, will be found to be only commensurate
     with their deserts. And if a test of worth be wanted, it is to be found in their closing scene,
     and this not only in cases in which it set the final seal upon their merit, but also in those in
     which it gave the first intimation of their having any. For there is justice in the claim that
     steadfastness in his country's battles should be as a cloak to cover a man's other
     imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen
     more than outweighed his demerits as an individual. But none of these allowed either
     wealth with its prospect of future enjoyment to unnerve his spirit, or poverty with its hope
     of a day of freedom and riches to tempt him to shrink from danger. No, holding that
     vengeance upon their enemies was more to be desired than any personal blessings, and
     reckoning this to be the most glorious of hazards, they joyfully determined to accept the
     risk, to make sure of their vengeance, and to let their wishes wait; and while committing to
     hope the uncertainty of final success, in the business before them they thought fit to act
     boldly and trust in themselves. Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting,
     they fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face, and after one brief moment,
     while at the summit of their fortune, escaped, not from their fear, but from their glory.

     "So died these men as became Athenians. You, their survivors, must determine to have as
     unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue.
     And not contented with ideas derived only from words of the advantages which are bound
     up with the defence of your country, though these would furnish a valuable text to a
     speaker even before an audience so alive to them as the present, you must yourselves
     realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her
     fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect
     that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were
     enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them
     consent to deprive their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the most
     glorious contribution that they could offer. For this offering of their lives made in common
     by them all they each of them individually received that renown which never grows old,
     and for a sepulchre, not so much that in which their bones have been deposited, but that
     noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid up to be eternally remembered upon every
     occasion on which deed or story shall call for its commemoration. For heroes have the
     whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its
     epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to
     preserve it, except that of the heart. These take as your model and, judging happiness to
     be the fruit of freedom and freedom of valour, never decline the dangers of war. For it is
     not the miserable that would most justly be unsparing of their lives; these have nothing to
     hope for: it is rather they to whom continued life may bring reverses as yet unknown, and
     to whom a fall, if it came, would be most tremendous in its consequences. And surely, to a
     man of spirit, the degradation of cowardice must be immeasurably more grievous than the
     unfelt death which strikes him in the midst of his strength and patriotism!

     "Comfort, therefore, not condolence, is what I have to offer to the parents of the dead
     who may be here. Numberless are the chances to which, as they know, the life of man is
     subject; but fortunate indeed are they who draw for their lot a death so glorious as that
     which has caused your mourning, and to whom life has been so exactly measured as to
     terminate in the happiness in which it has been passed. Still I know that this is a hard
     saying, especially when those are in question of whom you will constantly be reminded by
     seeing in the homes of others blessings of which once you also boasted: for grief is felt not
     so much for the want of what we have never known, as for the loss of that to which we
     have been long accustomed. Yet you who are still of an age to beget children must bear up
     in the hope of having others in their stead; not only will they help you to forget those whom
     you have lost, but will be to the state at once a reinforcement and a security; for never can
     a fair or just policy be expected of the citizen who does not, like his fellows, bring to the
     decision the interests and apprehensions of a father. While those of you who have passed
     your prime must congratulate yourselves with the thought that the best part of your life was
     fortunate, and that the brief span that remains will be cheered by the fame of the departed.
     For it is only the love of honour that never grows old; and honour it is, not gain, as some
     would have it, that rejoices the heart of age and helplessness.

     "Turning to the sons or brothers of the dead, I see an arduous struggle before you. When a
     man is gone, all are wont to praise him, and should your merit be ever so transcendent,
     you will still find it difficult not merely to overtake, but even to approach their renown. The
     living have envy to contend with, while those who are no longer in our path are honoured
     with a goodwill into which rivalry does not enter. On the other hand, if I must say anything
     on the subject of female excellence to those of you who will now be in widowhood, it will
     be all comprised in this brief exhortation. Great will be your glory in not falling short of
     your natural character; and greatest will be hers who is least talked of among the men,
     whether for good or for bad.

     "My task is now finished. I have performed it to the best of my ability, and in word, at
     least, the requirements of the law are now satisfied. If deeds be in question, those who are
     here interred have received part of their honours already, and for the rest, their children
     will be brought up till manhood at the public expense: the state thus offers a valuable prize,
     as the garland of victory in this race of valour, for the reward both of those who have fallen
     and their survivors. And where the rewards for merit are greatest, there are found the best

     "And now that you have brought to a close your lamentations for your relatives, you may

 The Mitylenian Debate  (Thucydides, Book 3, chapters 36-50)

     Upon the arrival of the prisoners with Salaethus, the Athenians at once put the latter to
     death, although he offered, among other things, to procure the withdrawal of the
     Peloponnesians from Plataea, which was still under siege; and after deliberating as to what
     they should do with the former, in the fury of the moment determined to put to death not
     only the prisoners at Athens, but the whole adult male population of Mitylene, and to make
     slaves of the women and children. It was remarked that Mitylene had revolted without
     being, like the rest, subjected to the empire; and what above all swelled the wrath of the
     Athenians was the fact of the Peloponnesian fleet having ventured over to Ionia to her
     support, a fact which was held to argue a long meditated rebellion. They accordingly sent a
     galley to communicate the decree to Paches, commanding him to lose no time in
     dispatching the Mitylenians. The morrow brought repentance with it and reflection on the
     horrid cruelty of a decree, which condemned a whole city to the fate merited only by the
     guilty. This was no sooner perceived by the Mitylenian ambassadors at Athens and their
     Athenian supporters, than they moved the authorities to put the question again to the vote;
     which they the more easily consented to do, as they themselves plainly saw that most of
     the citizens wished some one to give them an opportunity for reconsidering the matter. An
     assembly was therefore at once called, and after much expression of opinion upon both
     sides, Cleon, son of Cleaenetus, the same who had carried the former motion of putting
     the Mitylenians to death, the most violent man at Athens, and at that time by far the most
     powerful with the commons, came forward again and spoke as follows:

     "I have often before now been convinced that a democracy is incapable of empire, and
     never more so than by your present change of mind in the matter of Mitylene. Fears or
     plots being unknown to you in your daily relations with each other, you feel just the same
     with regard to your allies, and never reflect that the mistakes into which you may be led by
     listening to their appeals, or by giving way to your own compassion, are full of danger to
     yourselves, and bring you no thanks for your weakness from your allies; entirely forgetting
     that your empire is a despotism and your subjects disaffected conspirators, whose
     obedience is ensured not by your suicidal concessions, but by the superiority given you by
     your own strength and not their loyalty. The most alarming feature in the case is the
     constant change of measures with which we appear to be threatened, and our seeming
     ignorance of the fact that bad laws which are never changed are better for a city than good
     ones that have no authority; that unlearned loyalty is more serviceable than quick-witted
     insubordination; and that ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more
     gifted fellows. The latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule
     every proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more
     important matters, and by such behaviour too often ruin their country; while those who
     mistrust their own cleverness are content to be less learned than the laws, and less able to
     pick holes in the speech of a good speaker; and being fair judges rather than rival athletes,
     generally conduct affairs successfully. These we ought to imitate, instead of being led on by
     cleverness and intellectual rivalry to advise your people against our real opinions.

     "For myself, I adhere to my former opinion, and wonder at those who have proposed to
     reopen the case of the Mitylenians, and who are thus causing a delay which is all in favour
     of the guilty, by making the sufferer proceed against the offender with the edge of his anger
     blunted; although where vengeance follows most closely upon the wrong, it best equals it
     and most amply requites it. I wonder also who will be the man who will maintain the
     contrary, and will pretend to show that the crimes of the Mitylenians are of service to us,
     and our misfortunes injurious to the allies. Such a man must plainly either have such
     confidence in his rhetoric as to adventure to prove that what has been once for all decided
     is still undetermined, or be bribed to try to delude us by elaborate sophisms. In such
     contests the state gives the rewards to others, and takes the dangers for herself. The
     persons to blame are you who are so foolish as to institute these contests; who go to see
     an oration as you would to see a sight, take your facts on hearsay, judge of the
     practicability of a project by the wit of its advocates, and trust for the truth as to past
     events not to the fact which you saw more than to the clever strictures which you heard;
     the easy victims of new-fangled arguments, unwilling to follow received conclusions; slaves
     to every new paradox, despisers of the commonplace; the first wish of every man being
     that he could speak himself, the next to rival those who can speak by seeming to be quite
     up with their ideas by applauding every hit almost before it is made, and by being as quick
     in catching an argument as you are slow in foreseeing its consequences; asking, if I may so
     say, for something different from the conditions under which we live, and yet
     comprehending inadequately those very conditions; very slaves to the pleasure of the ear,
     and more like the audience of a rhetorician than the council of a city.

     "In order to keep you from this, I proceed to show that no one state has ever injured you
     as much as Mitylene. I can make allowance for those who revolt because they cannot bear
     our empire, or who have been forced to do so by the enemy. But for those who possessed
     an island with fortifications; who could fear our enemies only by sea, and there had their
     own force of galleys to protect them; who were independent and held in the highest honour
     by you- to act as these have done, this is not revolt- revolt implies oppression; it is
     deliberate and wanton aggression; an attempt to ruin us by siding with our bitterest
     enemies; a worse offence than a war undertaken on their own account in the acquisition of
     power. The fate of those of their neighbours who had already rebelled and had been
     subdued was no lesson to them; their own prosperity could not dissuade them from
     affronting danger; but blindly confident in the future, and full of hopes beyond their power
     though not beyond their ambition, they declared war and made their decision to prefer
     might to right, their attack being determined not by provocation but by the moment which
     seemed propitious. The truth is that great good fortune coming suddenly and unexpectedly
     tends to make a people insolent; in most cases it is safer for mankind to have success in
     reason than out of reason; and it is easier for them, one may say, to stave off adversity than
     to preserve prosperity. Our mistake has been to distinguish the Mitylenians as we have
     done: had they been long ago treated like the rest, they never would have so far forgotten
     themselves, human nature being as surely made arrogant by consideration as it is awed by
     firmness. Let them now therefore be punished as their crime requires, and do not, while
     you condemn the aristocracy, absolve the people. This is certain, that all attacked you
     without distinction, although they might have come over to us and been now again in
     possession of their city. But no, they thought it safer to throw in their lot with the
     aristocracy and so joined their rebellion! Consider therefore: if you subject to the same
     punishment the ally who is forced to rebel by the enemy, and him who does so by his own
     free choice, which of them, think you, is there that will not rebel upon the slightest pretext;
     when the reward of success is freedom, and the penalty of failure nothing so very terrible?
     We meanwhile shall have to risk our money and our lives against one state after another;
     and if successful, shall receive a ruined town from which we can no longer draw the
     revenue upon which our strength depends; while if unsuccessful, we shall have an enemy
     the more upon our hands, and shall spend the time that might be employed in combating
     our existing foes in warring with our own allies.

     "No hope, therefore, that rhetoric may instil or money purchase, of the mercy due to
     human infirmity must be held out to the Mitylenians. Their offence was not involuntary, but
     of malice and deliberate; and mercy is only for unwilling offenders. I therefore, now as
     before, persist against your reversing your first decision, or giving way to the three failings
     most fatal to empire- pity, sentiment, and indulgence. Compassion is due to those who can
     reciprocate the feeling, not to those who will never pity us in return, but are our natural and
     necessary foes: the orators who charm us with sentiment may find other less important
     arenas for their talents, in the place of one where the city pays a heavy penalty for a
     momentary pleasure, themselves receiving fine acknowledgments for their fine phrases;
     while indulgence should be shown towards those who will be our friends in future, instead
     of towards men who will remain just what they were, and as much our enemies as before.
     To sum up shortly, I say that if you follow my advice you will do what is just towards the
     Mitylenians, and at the same time expedient; while by a different decision you will not
     oblige them so much as pass sentence upon yourselves. For if they were right in rebelling,
     you must be wrong in ruling. However, if, right or wrong, you determine to rule, you must
     carry out your principle and punish the Mitylenians as your interest requires; or else you
     must give up your empire and cultivate honesty without danger. Make up your minds,
     therefore, to give them like for like; and do not let the victims who escaped the plot be
     more insensible than the conspirators who hatched it; but reflect what they would have
     done if victorious over you, especially they were the aggressors. It is they who wrong their
     neighbour without a cause, that pursue their victim to the death, on account of the danger
     which they foresee in letting their enemy survive; since the object of a wanton wrong is
     more dangerous, if he escape, than an enemy who has not this to complain of. Do not,
     therefore, be traitors to yourselves, but recall as nearly as possible the moment of suffering
     and the supreme importance which you then attached to their reduction; and now pay them
     back in their turn, without yielding to present weakness or forgetting the peril that once
     hung over you. Punish them as they deserve, and teach your other allies by a striking
     example that the penalty of rebellion is death. Let them once understand this and you will
     not have so often to neglect your enemies while you are fighting with your own

     Such were the words of Cleon. After him Diodotus, son of Eucrates, who had also in the
     previous assembly spoken most strongly against putting the Mitylenians to death, came
     forward and spoke as follows:

     "I do not blame the persons who have reopened the case of the Mitylenians, nor do I
     approve the protests which we have heard against important questions being frequently
     debated. I think the two things most opposed to good counsel are haste and passion; haste
     usually goes hand in hand with folly, passion with coarseness and narrowness of mind. As
     for the argument that speech ought not to be the exponent of action, the man who uses it
     must be either senseless or interested: senseless if he believes it possible to treat of the
     uncertain future through any other medium; interested if, wishing to carry a disgraceful
     measure and doubting his ability to speak well in a bad cause, he thinks to frighten
     opponents and hearers by well-aimed calumny. What is still more intolerable is to accuse a
     speaker of making a display in order to be paid for it. If ignorance only were imputed, an
     unsuccessful speaker might retire with a reputation for honesty, if not for wisdom; while the
     charge of dishonesty makes him suspected, if successful, and thought, if defeated, not only
     a fool but a rogue. The city is no gainer by such a system, since fear deprives it of its
     advisers; although in truth, if our speakers are to make such assertions, it would be better
     for the country if they could not speak at all, as we should then make fewer blunders. The
     good citizen ought to triumph not by frightening his opponents but by beating them fairly in
     argument; and a wise city, without over-distinguishing its best advisers, will nevertheless
     not deprive them of their due, and, far from punishing an unlucky counsellor, will not even
     regard him as disgraced. In this way successful orators would be least tempted to sacrifice
     their convictions to popularity, in the hope of still higher honours, and unsuccessful
     speakers to resort to the same popular arts in order to win over the multitude.

     "This is not our way; and, besides, the moment that a man is suspected of giving advice,
     however good, from corrupt motives, we feel such a grudge against him for the gain which
     after all we are not certain he will receive, that we deprive the city of its certain benefit.
     Plain good advice has thus come to be no less suspected than bad; and the advocate of
     the most monstrous measures is not more obliged to use deceit to gain the people, than the
     best counsellor is to lie in order to be believed. The city and the city only, owing to these
     refinements, can never be served openly and without disguise; he who does serve it openly
     being always suspected of serving himself in some secret way in return. Still, considering
     the magnitude of the interests involved, and the position of affairs, we orators must make it
     our business to look a little farther than you who judge offhand; especially as we, your
     advisers, are responsible, while you, our audience, are not so. For if those who gave the
     advice, and those who took it, suffered equally, you would judge more calmly; as it is, you
     visit the disasters into which the whim of the moment may have led you upon the single
     person of your adviser, not upon yourselves, his numerous companions in error.

     "However, I have not come forward either to oppose or to accuse in the matter of
     Mitylene; indeed, the question before us as sensible men is not their guilt, but our interests.
     Though I prove them ever so guilty, I shall not, therefore, advise their death, unless it be
     expedient; nor though they should have claims to indulgence, shall I recommend it, unless it
     be dearly for the good of the country. I consider that we are deliberating for the future
     more than for the present; and where Cleon is so positive as to the useful deterrent effects
     that will follow from making rebellion capital, I, who consider the interests of the future
     quite as much as he, as positively maintain the contrary. And I require you not to reject my
     useful considerations for his specious ones: his speech may have the attraction of seeming
     the more just in your present temper against Mitylene; but we are not in a court of justice,
     but in a political assembly; and the question is not justice, but how to make the Mitylenians
     useful to Athens.

     "Now of course communities have enacted the penalty of death for many offences far
     lighter than this: still hope leads men to venture, and no one ever yet put himself in peril
     without the inward conviction that he would succeed in his design. Again, was there ever
     city rebelling that did not believe that it possessed either in itself or in its alliances resources
     adequate to the enterprise? All, states and individuals, are alike prone to err, and there is
     no law that will prevent them; or why should men have exhausted the list of punishments in
     search of enactments to protect them from evildoers? It is probable that in early times the
     penalties for the greatest offences were less severe, and that, as these were disregarded,
     the penalty of death has been by degrees in most cases arrived at, which is itself
     disregarded in like manner. Either then some means of terror more terrible than this must
     be discovered, or it must be owned that this restraint is useless; and that as long as poverty
     gives men the courage of necessity, or plenty fills them with the ambition which belongs to
     insolence and pride, and the other conditions of life remain each under the thraldom of
     some fatal and master passion, so long will the impulse never be wanting to drive men into
     danger. Hope also and cupidity, the one leading and the other following, the one
     conceiving the attempt, the other suggesting the facility of succeeding, cause the widest
     ruin, and, although invisible agents, are far stronger than the dangers that are seen. Fortune,
     too, powerfully helps the delusion and, by the unexpected aid that she sometimes lends,
     tempts men to venture with inferior means; and this is especially the case with communities,
     because the stakes played for are the highest, freedom or empire, and, when all are acting
     together, each man irrationally magnifies his own capacity. In fine, it is impossible to
     prevent, and only great simplicity can hope to prevent, human nature doing what it has
     once set its mind upon, by force of law or by any other deterrent force whatsoever.

     "We must not, therefore, commit ourselves to a false policy through a belief in the efficacy
     of the punishment of death, or exclude rebels from the hope of repentance and an early
     atonement of their error. Consider a moment. At present, if a city that has already revolted
     perceive that it cannot succeed, it will come to terms while it is still able to refund
     expenses, and pay tribute afterwards. In the other case, what city, think you, would not
     prepare better than is now done, and hold out to the last against its besiegers, if it is all one
     whether it surrender late or soon? And how can it be otherwise than hurtful to us to be put
     to the expense of a siege, because surrender is out of the question; and if we take the city,
     to receive a ruined town from which we can no longer draw the revenue which forms our
     real strength against the enemy? We must not, therefore, sit as strict judges of the
     offenders to our own prejudice, but rather see how by moderate chastisements we may be
     enabled to benefit in future by the revenue-producing powers of our dependencies; and we
     must make up our minds to look for our protection not to legal terrors but to careful
     administration. At present we do exactly the opposite. When a free community, held in
     subjection by force, rises, as is only natural, and asserts its independence, it is no sooner
     reduced than we fancy ourselves obliged to punish it severely; although the right course
     with freemen is not to chastise them rigorously when they do rise, but rigorously to watch
     them before they rise, and to prevent their ever entertaining the idea, and, the insurrection
     suppressed, to make as few responsible for it as possible.

     "Only consider what a blunder you would commit in doing as Cleon recommends. As
     things are at present, in all the cities the people is your friend, and either does not revolt
     with the oligarchy, or, if forced to do so, becomes at once the enemy of the insurgents; so
     that in the war with the hostile city you have the masses on your side. But if you butcher
     the people of Mitylene, who had nothing to do with the revolt, and who, as soon as they
     got arms, of their own motion surrendered the town, first you will commit the crime of
     killing your benefactors; and next you will play directly into the hands of the higher classes,
     who when they induce their cities to rise, will immediately have the people on their side,
     through your having announced in advance the same punishment for those who are guilty
     and for those who are not. On the contrary, even if they were guilty, you ought to seem not
     to notice it, in order to avoid alienating the only class still friendly to us. In short, I consider
     it far more useful for the preservation of our empire voluntarily to put up with injustice, than
     to put to death, however justly, those whom it is our interest to keep alive. As for Cleon's
     idea that in punishment the claims of justice and expediency can both be satisfied, facts do
     not confirm the possibility of such a combination.

     "Confess, therefore, that this is the wisest course, and without conceding too much either
     to pity or to indulgence, by neither of which motives do I any more than Cleon wish you to
     be influenced, upon the plain merits of the case before you, be persuaded by me to try
     calmly those of the Mitylenians whom Paches sent off as guilty, and to leave the rest
     undisturbed. This is at once best for the future, and most terrible to your enemies at the
     present moment; inasmuch as good policy against an adversary is superior to the blind
     attacks of brute force."

     Such were the words of Diodotus. The two opinions thus expressed were the ones that
     most directly contradicted each other; and the Athenians, notwithstanding their change of
     feeling, now proceeded to a division, in which the show of hands was almost equal,
     although the motion of Diodotus carried the day. Another galley was at once sent off in
     haste, for fear that the first might reach Lesbos in the interval, and the city be found
     destroyed; the first ship having about a day and a night's start. Wine and barley-cakes
     were provided for the vessel by the Mitylenian ambassadors, and great promises made if
     they arrived in time; which caused the men to use such diligence upon the voyage that they
     took their meals of barley-cakes kneaded with oil and wine as they rowed, and only slept
     by turns while the others were at the oar. Luckily they met with no contrary wind, and the
     first ship making no haste upon so horrid an errand, while the second pressed on in the
     manner described, the first arrived so little before them, that Paches had only just had time
     to read the decree, and to prepare to execute the sentence, when the second put into port
     and prevented the massacre. The danger of Mitylene had indeed been great.

     The other party whom Paches had sent off as the prime movers in the rebellion, were upon
     Cleon's motion put to death by the Athenians, the number being rather more than a
     thousand. The Athenians also demolished the walls of the Mitylenians, and took
     possession of their ships. Afterwards tribute was not imposed upon the Lesbians; but all
     their land, except that of the Methymnians, was divided into three thousand allotments,
     three hundred of which were reserved as sacred for the gods, and the rest assigned by lot
     to Athenian shareholders, who were sent out to the island. With these the Lesbians agreed
     to pay a rent of two minae a year for each allotment, and cultivated the land themselves.
     The Athenians also took possession of the towns on the continent belonging to the
     Mitylenians, which thus became for the future subject to Athens. Such were the events that
     took place at Lesbos.

 The Melian Dialogue  (Thucydides, Book 5, chapters 84-116)

     The next summer Alcibiades sailed with twenty ships to Argos and seized the suspected
     persons still left of the Lacedaemonian faction to the number of three hundred, whom the
     Athenians forthwith lodged in the neighbouring islands of their empire. The Athenians also
     made an expedition against the isle of Melos with thirty ships of their own, six Chian, and
     two Lesbian vessels, sixteen hundred heavy infantry, three hundred archers, and twenty
     mounted archers from Athens, and about fifteen hundred heavy infantry from the allies and
     the islanders. The Melians are a colony of Lacedaemon that would not submit to the
     Athenians like the other islanders, and at first remained neutral and took no part in the
     struggle, but afterwards upon the Athenians using violence and plundering their territory,
     assumed an attitude of open hostility. Cleomedes, son of Lycomedes, and Tisias, son of
     Tisimachus, the generals, encamping in their territory with the above armament, before
     doing any harm to their land, sent envoys to negotiate. These the Melians did not bring
     before the people, but bade them state the object of their mission to the magistrates and
     the few; upon which the Athenian envoys spoke as follows:

     Athenians. Since the negotiations are not to go on before the people, in order that we
     may not be able to speak straight on without interruption, and deceive the ears of the
     multitude by seductive arguments which would pass without refutation (for we know that
     this is the meaning of our being brought before the few), what if you who sit there were to
     pursue a method more cautious still? Make no set speech yourselves, but take us up at
     whatever you do not like, and settle that before going any farther. And first tell us if this
     proposition of ours suits you.

     The Melian commissioners answered:
     Melians. To the fairness of quietly instructing each other as you propose there is nothing
     to object; but your military preparations are too far advanced to agree with what you say,
     as we see you are come to be judges in your own cause, and that all we can reasonably
     expect from this negotiation is war, if we prove to have right on our side and refuse to
     submit, and in the contrary case, slavery.

     Athenians. If you have met to reason about presentiments of the future, or for anything
     else than to consult for the safety of your state upon the facts that you see before you, we
     will give over; otherwise we will go on.

     Melians. It is natural and excusable for men in our position to turn more ways than one
     both in thought and utterance. However, the question in this conference is, as you say, the
     safety of our country; and the discussion, if you please, can proceed in the way which you

     Athenians. For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences- either of how
     we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you
     because of wrong that you have done us- and make a long speech which would not be
     believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that
     you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no
     wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you
     know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in
     power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

     Melians. As we think, at any rate, it is expedient- we speak as we are obliged, since you
     enjoin us to let right alone and talk only of interest- that you should not destroy what is our
     common protection, the privilege of being allowed in danger to invoke what is fair and
     right, and even to profit by arguments not strictly valid if they can be got to pass current.
     And you are as much interested in this as any, as your fall would be a signal for the
     heaviest vengeance and an example for the world to meditate upon.

     Athenians. The end of our empire, if end it should, does not frighten us: a rival empire like
     Lacedaemon, even if Lacedaemon was our real antagonist, is not so terrible to the
     vanquished as subjects who by themselves attack and overpower their rulers. This,
     however, is a risk that we are content to take. We will now proceed to show you that we
     are come here in the interest of our empire, and that we shall say what we are now going
     to say, for the preservation of your country; as we would fain exercise that empire over
     you without trouble, and see you preserved for the good of us both.

     Melians. And how, pray, could it turn out as good for us to serve as for you to rule?

     Athenians. Because you would have the advantage of submitting before suffering the
     worst, and we should gain by not destroying you.

     Melians. So that you would not consent to our being neutral, friends instead of enemies,
     but allies of neither side.

     Athenians. No; for your hostility cannot so much hurt us as your friendship will be an
     argument to our subjects of our weakness, and your enmity of our power.

     Melians. Is that your subjects' idea of equity, to put those who have nothing to do with
     you in the same category with peoples that are most of them your own colonists, and some
     conquered rebels?

     Athenians. As far as right goes they think one has as much of it as the other, and that if
     any maintain their independence it is because they are strong, and that if we do not molest
     them it is because we are afraid; so that besides extending our empire we should gain in
     security by your subjection; the fact that you are islanders and weaker than others
     rendering it all the more important that you should not succeed in baffling the masters of the

     Melians. But do you consider that there is no security in the policy which we indicate?
     For here again if you debar us from talking about justice and invite us to obey your
     interest, we also must explain ours, and try to persuade you, if the two happen to coincide.
     How can you avoid making enemies of all existing neutrals who shall look at case from it
     that one day or another you will attack them? And what is this but to make greater the
     enemies that you have already, and to force others to become so who would otherwise
     have never thought of it?

     Athenians. Why, the fact is that continentals generally give us but little alarm; the liberty
     which they enjoy will long prevent their taking precautions against us; it is rather islanders
     like yourselves, outside our empire, and subjects smarting under the yoke, who would be
     the most likely to take a rash step and lead themselves and us into obvious danger.

     Melians. Well then, if you risk so much to retain your empire, and your subjects to get rid
     of it, it were surely great baseness and cowardice in us who are still free not to try
     everything that can be tried, before submitting to your yoke.

     Athenians. Not if you are well advised, the contest not being an equal one, with honour
     as the prize and shame as the penalty, but a question of self-preservation and of not
     resisting those who are far stronger than you are.

     Melians. But we know that the fortune of war is sometimes more impartial than the
     disproportion of numbers might lead one to suppose; to submit is to give ourselves over to
     despair, while action still preserves for us a hope that we may stand erect.

     Athenians. Hope, danger's comforter, may be indulged in by those who have abundant
     resources, if not without loss at all events without ruin; but its nature is to be extravagant,
     and those who go so far as to put their all upon the venture see it in its true colours only
     when they are ruined; but so long as the discovery would enable them to guard against it, it
     is never found wanting. Let not this be the case with you, who are weak and hang on a
     single turn of the scale; nor be like the vulgar, who, abandoning such security as human
     means may still afford, when visible hopes fail them in extremity, turn to invisible, to
     prophecies and oracles, and other such inventions that delude men with hopes to their

     Melians. You may be sure that we are as well aware as you of the difficulty of contending
     against your power and fortune, unless the terms be equal. But we trust that the gods may
     grant us fortune as good as yours, since we are just men fighting against unjust, and that
     what we want in power will be made up by the alliance of the Lacedaemonians, who are
     bound, if only for very shame, to come to the aid of their kindred. Our confidence,
     therefore, after all is not so utterly irrational.

     Athenians. When you speak of the favour of the gods, we may as fairly hope for that as
     yourselves; neither our pretensions nor our conduct being in any way contrary to what men
     believe of the gods, or practise among themselves. Of the gods we believe, and of men we
     know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can. And it is not as
     if we were the first to make this law, or to act upon it when made: we found it existing
     before us, and shall leave it to exist for ever after us; all we do is to make use of it,
     knowing that you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the
     same as we do. Thus, as far as the gods are concerned, we have no fear and no reason to
     fear that we shall be at a disadvantage. But when we come to your notion about the
     Lacedaemonians, which leads you to believe that shame will make them help you, here we
     bless your simplicity but do not envy your folly. The Lacedaemonians, when their own
     interests or their country's laws are in question, are the worthiest men alive; of their
     conduct towards others much might be said, but no clearer idea of it could be given than
     by shortly saying that of all the men we know they are most conspicuous in considering
     what is agreeable honourable, and what is expedient just. Such a way of thinking does not
     promise much for the safety which you now unreasonably count upon.

     Melians. But it is for this very reason that we now trust to their respect for expediency to
     prevent them from betraying the Melians, their colonists, and thereby losing the confidence
     of their friends in Hellas and helping their enemies.

     Athenians. Then you do not adopt the view that expediency goes with security, while
     justice and honour cannot be followed without danger; and danger the Lacedaemonians
     generally court as little as possible.

     Melians. But we believe that they would be more likely to face even danger for our sake,
     and with more confidence than for others, as our nearness to Peloponnese makes it easier
     for them to act, and our common blood ensures our fidelity.

     Athenians. Yes, but what an intending ally trusts to is not the goodwill of those who ask
     his aid, but a decided superiority of power for action; and the Lacedaemonians look to this
     even more than others. At least, such is their distrust of their home resources that it is only
     with numerous allies that they attack a neighbour; now is it likely that while we are masters
     of the sea they will cross over to an island?

     Melians. But they would have others to send. The Cretan Sea is a wide one, and it is
     more difficult for those who command it to intercept others, than for those who wish to
     elude them to do so safely. And should the Lacedaemonians miscarry in this, they would
     fall upon your land, and upon those left of your allies whom Brasidas did not reach; and
     instead of places which are not yours, you will have to fight for your own country and your
     own confederacy.

     Athenians. Some diversion of the kind you speak of you may one day experience, only to
     learn, as others have done, that the Athenians never once yet withdrew from a siege for
     fear of any. But we are struck by the fact that, after saying you would consult for the safety
     of your country, in all this discussion you have mentioned nothing which men might trust in
     and think to be saved by. Your strongest arguments depend upon hope and the future, and
     your actual resources are too scanty, as compared with those arrayed against you, for you
     to come out victorious. You will therefore show great blindness of judgment, unless, after
     allowing us to retire, you can find some counsel more prudent than this. You will surely not
     be caught by that idea of disgrace, which in dangers that are disgraceful, and at the same
     time too plain to be mistaken, proves so fatal to mankind; since in too many cases the very
     men that have their eyes perfectly open to what they are rushing into, let the thing called
     disgrace, by the mere influence of a seductive name, lead them on to a point at which they
     become so enslaved by the phrase as in fact to fall wilfully into hopeless disaster, and incur
     disgrace more disgraceful as the companion of error, than when it comes as the result of
     misfortune. This, if you are well advised, you will guard against; and you will not think it
     dishonourable to submit to the greatest city in Hellas, when it makes you the moderate
     offer of becoming its tributary ally, without ceasing to enjoy the country that belongs to
     you; nor when you have the choice given you between war and security, will you be so
     blinded as to choose the worse. And it is certain that those who do not yield to their
     equals, who keep terms with their superiors, and are moderate towards their inferiors, on
     the whole succeed best. Think over the matter, therefore, after our withdrawal, and reflect
     once and again that it is for your country that you are consulting, that you have not more
     than one, and that upon this one deliberation depends its prosperity or ruin.

     The Athenians now withdrew from the conference; and the Melians, left to themselves,
     came to a decision corresponding with what they had maintained in the discussion, and
     answered: "Our resolution, Athenians, is the same as it was at first. We will not in a
     moment deprive of freedom a city that has been inhabited these seven hundred years; but
     we put our trust in the fortune by which the gods have preserved it until now, and in the
     help of men, that is, of the Lacedaemonians; and so we will try and save ourselves.
     Meanwhile we invite you to allow us to be friends to you and foes to neither party, and to
     retire from our country after making such a treaty as shall seem fit to us both."

     Such was the answer of the Melians. The Athenians now departing from the conference
     said: "Well, you alone, as it seems to us, judging from these resolutions, regard what is
     future as more certain than what is before your eyes, and what is out of sight, in your
     eagerness, as already coming to pass; and as you have staked most on, and trusted most
     in, the Lacedaemonians, your fortune, and your hopes, so will you be most completely

     The Athenian envoys now returned to the army; and the Melians showing no signs of
     yielding, the generals at once betook themselves to hostilities, and drew a line of
     circumvallation round the Melians, dividing the work among the different states.
     Subsequently the Athenians returned with most of their army, leaving behind them a certain
     number of their own citizens and of the allies to keep guard by land and sea. The force
     thus left stayed on and besieged the place.

     About the same time the Argives invaded the territory of Phlius and lost eighty men cut off
     in an ambush by the Phliasians and Argive exiles. Meanwhile the Athenians at Pylos took
     so much plunder from the Lacedaemonians that the latter, although they still refrained from
     breaking off the treaty and going to war with Athens, yet proclaimed that any of their
     people that chose might plunder the Athenians. The Corinthians also commenced hostilities
     with the Athenians for private quarrels of their own; but the rest of the Peloponnesians
     stayed quiet. Meanwhile the Melians attacked by night and took the part of the Athenian
     lines over against the market, and killed some of the men, and brought in corn and all else
     that they could find useful to them, and so returned and kept quiet, while the Athenians
     took measures to keep better guard in future.

     Summer was now over. The next winter the Lacedaemonians intended to invade the
     Argive territory, but arriving at the frontier found the sacrifices for crossing unfavourable,
     and went back again. This intention of theirs gave the Argives suspicions of certain of their
     fellow citizens, some of whom they arrested; others, however, escaped them. About the
     same time the Melians again took another part of the Athenian lines which were but feebly
     garrisoned. Reinforcements afterwards arriving from Athens in consequence, under the
     command of Philocrates, son of Demeas, the siege was now pressed vigorously; and some
     treachery taking place inside, the Melians surrendered at discretion to the Athenians, who
     put to death all the grown men whom they took, and sold the women and children for
     slaves, and subsequently sent out five hundred colonists and inhabited the place

For the unabridged chapters, see
https://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.2.second.html (ch. 6, par. 35-end of ch.)
https://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.3.third.html (ch. 9, par. 36-end of ch.)
https://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.5.fifth.html (ch. 17-end of ch)