The Second and Third Years of the Peloponnesian War – 429 BC
An Audience with Archidamus
In the beginning of the summer 429 B.C., a Peloponnesian army was again assembled at the isthmus, under the command of Archidamus. But instead of invading Attica, which was perhaps thought dangerous on account of the pestilence, he gratified the wishes of the Thebans, by marching into the territory of Plataea, where he encamped, and prepared to lay it waste. But before he had committed any acts of hostility, envoys from Plataea demanded an audience, and, being admitted, made a solemn remonstrance against his proceedings in the name of religion. They reminded the Spartans that, after the glorious battle which secured the liberty of Greece, Pausanias in the presence of the allied army, and in the public place of Plataea, where he had just offered a sacrifice in honour of the victory, formally reinstated the Plataeans in the independent possession of their city and territory, which he placed under the protection of all the allies, with whom they had shared the common triumph, to defend them from unjust aggression. They complained that the Spartans were now about to violate this well-earned privilege, which had been secured to Plataea by solemn oaths, at the instigation of her bitterest enemies, the Thebans. And they adjured him, by the gods who had been invoked to witness the engagement of Pausanias, as well as by those of Sparta, and of their violated territory, to desist from his enterprise.
Archidamus in reply admitted the claim of the Plataeans, but desired them to reflect that the rights on which they insisted implied some corresponding duties; that, if the Spartans were pledged to protect their independence, they were themselves no less bound to assist the Spartans in delivering those who had once been their allies in the struggle with Persia, from the tyranny of Athens. Yet Sparta, as she had already declared, did not wish to force them to take a part in the war which she was waging for the liberties of Greece, but would be satisfied if they would remain neutral, and would admit both parties alike to amicable intercourse, without aiding either. The envoys returned with this answer, and, after laying it before the people, came back, instructed to reply: that it was impossible for them to accede to the proposal of Archidamus, without the consent of the Athenians, who had their wives and children in their hands; and they should have reason to fear either the resentment of their present allies, who on the retreat of the Spartans might come and deprive them of their city; or the treachery of the Thebans, who under the cover of neutrality, might find another opportunity of surprising them. But the Spartan, without noticing the ties that bound them to Athens, met the last objection with a new offer.
“Let them commit their city, houses, and lands, to the custody of the Spartans, with an exact account of the boundaries, the number of their trees, and all other things left behind, which it was possible to number. Let them withdraw, and live elsewhere until the end of the war. The Spartans would then restore the deposit entrusted to them, and in the meanwhile would provide for the cultivation of the land, and pay a fair rent.”
Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World Volume 3 by Henry Smith Williams – 1907
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