Introduction to the war between Athens and Sparta (THUCYDIDES) | Part B’

Introduction to the war between Athens and Sparta (THUCYDIDES) | Part B’

12. For also after the Trojan war the Grecians continued still their shiftings and transplantations; insomuch as never resting, they improved not their power. For the late return of the Greeks from Ilium caused not a little innovation; and in most of the cities there arose seditions; and those which were driven out, built cities for themselves in other places. For those that are now called Bœotians, in the sixtieth year after the taking of Troy, expelled Arne by the Thessalians, seated themselves in that country, which now Bœotia, was then called Cadmeis. (But there was in the same country a certain portion of that nation before, of whom also were they that went to the warfare of Troy). And in the eightieth year, the Dorians together with the Heracleides seized on Peloponnesus. And with much ado, after long time, Greece had constant rest; and shifting their seats no longer, at length sent colonies abroad. And the Athenians planted Ionia and most of the islands; and the Peloponnesians most of Italy and Sicily, and also certain parts of the rest of Greece. But these colonies were all planted after the Trojan war.
13. But when the power of Greece was now improved, and the desire of money withal, their revenues being enlarged, in most of the cities there were erected tyrannies: (for before that time, kingdoms with honours limited were hereditary): and the Grecians built navies, and became more seriously addicted to the affairs of the sea. The Corinthians are said to have been the first that changed the form of shipping into the nearest to that which is now in use; and at Corinth are reported to have been made the first gallies of all Greece. Now it is well known that Aminocles, the ship-wright of Corinth, built four ships at Samos: and from the time that Aminocles went to Samos until the end of this present war, are at the most but three hundred years. And the most ancient naval battle that we know of, was fought between the Corinthians and the Corcyræans; and from that battle to the same time, are but two hundred and sixty years. For Corinth, seated on an isthmus, had been always a place of traffic; (because the Grecians of old, from within and without Peloponnesus, trading by land more than by sea, had no other intercourse one to another but through the Corinthians’ territory); and was also wealthy in money, as appears by the poets, who have surnamed this town the rich. And after the Grecians had commerce also by sea, then likewise having furnished themselves with a navy, they scoured the sea of pirates; and affording traffic both by sea and land, mightily increased their city in revenue of money. After this, the Ionians, in the times of Cyrus first king of the Persians, and of his son Cambyses, got together a great navy; and making war on Cyrus, obtained for a time the dominion of that part of the sea that lieth on their own coast. Also Polycrates, who in the time of Cambyses tyrannised in Samos, had a strong navy, wherewith he subdued divers of the islands; and amongst the rest having won Rhenea, he consecrated the same to Apollo of Delos. The Phocæans likewise, when they were building the city of Marseilles, overcame the Carthaginians in a fight at sea.
14. These were the greatest navies extant. And yet even these, though many ages after the time of Troy, consisted, as it seems, but of a few galleys, and were made up with vessels of fifty oars and with long boats, as well as those of former times. And it was but a little before the Medan war and death of Darius, successor of Cambyses in the kingdom of Persia, that the tyrants of Sicily and the Corcyræans had of galleys any number. For these last were the only navies worth speaking of in all Greece, before the invasion of the Medes. And the people of Ægina and the Athenians had but small ones, and the most of them consisting but of fifty oars a-piece; and that so lately, as but from the time that the Athenians making war on Ægina, and withal expecting the coming of the barbarian, at the persuasion of Themistocles built those ships which they used in that war. And these also not all had decks.
15. Such were then the navies of the Greeks, both ancient and modern. Nevertheless, such as applied themselves to naval business gained by them no small power, both in revenue of money and in dominion over other people. For with their navies (especially those men that had not sufficient land, where they inhabited, to maintain themselves) they subdued the islands. But as for war by land, such as any state might acquire power by, there was none at all: and such as were, were only between borderer and borderer. For the Grecians had never yet gone out with any army to conquer any nation far from home; because the lesser cities neither brought in their forces to the great ones, as subjects, nor concurred as equals in any common enterprise; but such as were neighbours warred against each other hand to hand. For the war of old between the Chalcideans and the Eretrians was it wherein the rest of Greece was most divided and in league with either party.
16. As others by other means were kept back from growing great, so also the Ionians by this: that the Persian affairs prospering, Cyrus and the Persian kingdom, after the defeat of Crœsus, made war upon all that lieth from the river Halys to the sea-side, and so subdued all the cities which they possessed in the continent: and Darius afterward, when he had overcome the Phœnician fleet, did the like unto them in the islands.
17. And as for the tyrants that were in the Grecian cities, who forecasted only for themselves, how with as much safety as was possible to look to their own persons and their own families, they resided for the most part in the cities and did no action worthy of memory, unless it were against their neighbours. For as for the tyrants of Sicily, they were already arrived at greater power. Thus was Greece for a long time hindered, that neither jointly it could do anything remarkable, nor the cities singly be adventurous.
18. But after that the tyrants, both of Athens and of the rest of Greece where tyrannies were, were the most and last of them, excepting those of Sicily, put down by the Lacedæmonians; (for Lacedæmon, after that it was built by the Dorians that inhabited the same, though it hath been longer troubled with seditions than any other city we know, yet hath it had for the longest time good laws, and been also always free from tyrants: for it is unto the end of this war four hundred years and something more, that the Lacedæmonians have used one and the same government, and thereby being of power themselves, they also ordered the affairs in the other cities); I say, after the dissolution of tyrannies in Greece, it was not long before the battle was fought by the Medes against the Athenians in the fields of Marathon. And in the tenth year again after that, came the barbarian with the great fleet into Greece, to subdue it. And Greece being now in great danger, the leading of the Grecians that leagued in that war was given to the Lacedæmonians, as to the most potent state. And the Athenians, who had purposed so much before and already stowed their necessaries, at the coming in of the Medes went a ship-board and became seamen. When they had jointly beaten back the barbarian, then did the Grecians, both such as were revolted from the king and such as had in common made war upon him, not long after divide themselves into leagues, one part with the Athenians and the other with the Lacedæmonians; these two cities appearing to be the mightiest; for this had the power by land, and the other by sea. But this confederation lasted but awhile: for afterwards the Lacedæmonians and the Athenians, being at variance, warred each on other together with their several confederates. And the rest of Greece, where any discord chanced to arise, had recourse presently to one of these. In so much, that from the war of the Medes to this present war being continually exercised. somtimees in peace sometimes in war, either one against the other or against revolted confederates, they arrived at this war, both well furnished with military provisions and also expert; because their practice was with danger.
19. The Lacedæmonians governed not their confederates so as to make them tributaries, but only taking heedful care that their constitutions should be oligarchic to suit themselves.. But the Athenians, having with time taken into their hands the galleys of all those that stood out, (except the Chians and Lesbians), reigned over them, and ordained every of them to pay a certain tribute of money. By which means, their own particular provision was greater in the beginning of this war, than when in their flourishing time, the league between them and the rest of Greece remaining whole, it was at the most.




Part A’:




History of the Peloponnesian Wars – The first book
translated by Thomas Hobbes



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