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Archidamos’s speech consists of two basic sections. The first (Thuc. 1.80–82) is a cool estimation of Sparta’s relative weaknesses in a war against Athens. Athens is a qualitatively different kind of power, against which Sparta cannot bring to bear its usual overwhelming force (80.3). Sparta is inferior to Athens in ships and especially in financial resources (80.4). Athens can survive land invasions by importing what it needs by sea (81.2), and Sparta will have to have its own navy if it is to break up the Athenian empire (81.3). For these reasons, Archidamos urges caution. The Lakedaimonians should temporize, neither threatening war too clearly nor implying that they will accept arbitration (82.1). Two or three years would put them in a much better position for war, and they should in the meantime play for time. If Athens should choose to resolve matters diplomatically in the meantime, so much the better (82.2).

In at least one regard, Archidamos’s speech views the world from a typically Thucydidean perspective. The Spartan king is obsessed with paraskeuê, a concept to which Thucydides gave great emphasis. An entire monograph has been devoted to this term, which describes both the process of accumulating power and the accumulated power itself.[15] Thucydides uses the verbal form paraskeuazo substantially more frequently (163 examples) than Xenophon (149 examples), Plato (121), or Demosthenes (121), each of whose surviving opus is larger than Thucydides’ History. Most striking, though, is Thucydides’ interest in the noun paraskeuê. The verb tends to be very concrete: one “prepares” a march (e.g., Hdt. 1.71.2), a feast (Hdt. 1.126.2), or 200 triremes (Hdt. 5.32.1). The noun, however, can stand by itself without a concrete object to supplement its meaning, not “preparation for ” but simply “the accumulated power that allows one to take action.” The noun paraskeuê appears in Thucydides 104 times as opposed to 12 times in Xenophon, 23 times in Plato, and 44 times in Demosthenes.[16]

Thucydides found the term paraskeuê useful because Athenian power increased over time. Where the Peloponnesians could conduct a rapid levy en masse and descend with crushing force upon an opponent, they were less well prepared to maintain such a force—their troops needed to return and maintain their homes. As long as their financial resources lasted, the Athenians, by contrast, could maintain their forces in the field. And, unlike the resources of their Peloponnesian adversaries, Athenian financial resources could grow with each year’s tribute. Archidamos establishes a clear hierarchical relationship between military force and financial power: “War is not so much an issue of arms as it is of the expense (dapanê) on account of which arms are of help” (Thuc. 1.83.2). The Athenians “have outfitted themselves excellently in all things: they have…ships, horses, arms, and a swarm of men greater than any single polis contains.” Badly outclassed at sea, the Peloponnesians are even more inferior to Athens in monetary resources, chrêmata (1.80.4). Above all, the Athenians have “wealth (ploutos), both private and public” (80.3), and from this flows all of Athens’s material advantages. The Athenians have just as many allies as do the Spartans, but their allies contribute money (80.3, 83.2), whereas the Peloponnesian allies neither have a common store of wealth nor readily contribute money from their own individual resources (80.4). If the Peloponnesians cannot cut off the flow of money to Athens from its empire, then in the coming war, Archidamos argues, “we will only do ourselves greater harm.”

Later in book 1, the Corinthians and Perikles would, in their curious, oblique “debate,” each point out that the Peloponnesians could, if pressed, commandeer the financial resources stored at Olympia and Delphi (Thuc. 1.121.3, 1.143.1). Archidamos’s speech, however, focuses on the general difference between the accumulated power of Athens and that of Sparta and its allies. The Spartans should avoid the fate of the clever fool who “in his analysis neatly scorns the paraskeuai [plural] of his enemies and then falls short when it comes time for action (ergon)” (1.84.3). Twice Archidamos implores his fellow citizens not to rush into this war a-paraskeuoi, “without sufficient paraskeuê ”(80.3, 84.1). The Peloponnesians must take time to develop their own counter-paraskeuê by building a navy (80.4: antiparaskeuasometha). Once they begin serious preparations for war, the Peloponnesians will be able to back their words with their paraskeuê, and the Athenians may choose to yield (81.3). The king exhorts his fellow Spartans to follow their natural tendencies: “We always make our preparations (84.4: paraskeuazometha) on the assumption that their adversaries are also making careful plans.” Archidamos concludes his speech by arguing that the Spartans should give diplomacy an opportunity to work, but “at the same time, prepare for the war” (85.2: paraskeuazesthe).

Thus Archidamos, at least in part, analyzes the war in Thucydidean terms, and his argument accepts the fundamental categories that Thucydides introduces in the Archaeology. War with Athens will turn on monetary and material advantages. The Spartans can control the Peloponnesians and their neighbors because “our strength is similar.” The Athenians are a naval power, and their true strength—subject lands across the sea—is inaccessible to Peloponnesian attack (Thuc. 1.80.3). “This war” that confronts the Spartans is the subject for calculation, which one should “reason through in a self-possessed fashion (sô phronôs)” (80.2). How many ships are available? How long can they be supported? The sums and figures of empire, by an accountant’s logic, determine whether or when the Spartans should or should not fight. War is not a good thing, and diplomacy is preferable; if diplomacy does not succeed, wait until the balance of power tilts in our favor and then attack.

We have discussed Pindar’s second Isthmian ode and its exploration of the theme “money, money, makes the man” (Pind. Isthm. 2.11: see chapter 3 above). Money determines the social position of an individual, Pindar’s speaker bleakly fears, and Archidamos applies a similar principle to the affairs of city-states. In war, “money, money, makes the state.” When Archidamos argues that any allies, Greek or barbarian, will suffice if they bring with them “the power of money” (Thuc. 1.82.1: chrêmatôn dunamis), he embraces that aspect of monetary exchange most antithetical to social continuity: money overcomes any social obstacle and gives power to anyone, whatever their background.[17] Archidamos largely subordinates his foreign policy to the calculus of power. In so doing, he accepts a materialistic perspective that terrified the old elites of the archaic period. The Spartans had defined themselves, at least in part, by rejecting the symbols and practices by which money sought to transmute itself into prestige. To fight Athens, Archidamos argues from a paradigm that was ultimately corrosive to the Spartan mirage. Archidamos’s arguments could win the war but destroy the delicate environment in which the Herodotean Sparta could prosper. Some observers (such as Xenophon; cf. Lak. Pol. 14) might argue that this is precisely what did happen.

But Archidamos himself is acutely sensitive to the true source of Spartan authority, and he develops his argument further in the second section of his speech (Thuc. 1.83–85). Archidamos’s speech is remarkable in that it attempts to synthesize the calculus of power with the traditional, antimonetary, socially embedded values upon which Sparta’s preeminent position within the Greek world rested. The shrewd gambits to win time and the inexorable accumulation of paraskeuê are tactics that, in Archidamos’s hopeful analysis, touch only the surface of things, like the feigned panics at Thermopylai with which they tricked their opponents (Hdt. 7.211). Archidamos uses his speech to present, with great eloquence, a vision of the Spartan character that proudly rejects the criticisms of the Corinthians and anticipates the proud exposition of Athenian character in the Funeral Oration. The Spartans may dissemble, temporize, collect money from any source—even from non-Greeks (the Persians at Thuc. 1.82.1)—but the core of the Spartan soul remains untouched and in fact demands the stratagems that Archidamos outlines.

Archidamos opens his speech by recalling his own extensive experience in past wars. Neither he nor any of his contemporaries have any illusions about warfare or, he implies, any need to prove their valor with a new conflict (Thuc. 1.80.1). The Corinthians in their speech scourged their Spartan allies, harshly goading them into action. They castigated them for being sluggish. Archidamos confronts this charge directly: “If you undertake the war without proper paraskeuê, you may by rushing only delay its conclusion” (84.1). Twice elsewhere he implores his audience not to “rush off without the proper paraskeuê,” with no clear basis for confidence (80.3), or goaded by the accusations of their allies (82.5). “Let us not,” he insists at 1.85.1, “make our plans about many men, monies, and cities, rushed in the brief space of a day.”

Archidamos does not restrict himself to defending his position. Those who wish for war, he counters, have let their feelings cloud their judgment. Three times he implores his fellow Spartans not to let their emotions “get the better of them” (epairesthai, a very negative term). “Let us not be carried away (epairômetha) by that hope, at any rate, that the war will end quickly” (Thuc. 1.81.6). The seductive power of elpis, hope, and its ability to draw mortals on to destruction is a familiar theme in archaic literature. A few sentences later, Archidamos enjoins his fellows: “Let us not be carried away (epairômetha) too soon by the arguments of our allies” (83.3). In the following chapter, he reminds them of traditional Spartan behavior: “We are not carried away (epairometha) with pleasure” (84.2).

Although Archidamos’s arguments may not convince the Spartans, the Corinthians in their next speech address the fear that Sparta might be “carried away.” They seek not only to deflect this criticism, but to appropriate it for their own purposes and to use it to help justify war. They concede that no one should be “carried away (epairesthai) by good fortune in war” (Thuc. 1.120.3), for the one who glories in such good fortune “does not understand that he is carried away (epairomenos) by a boldness that deserves no trust” (120.4). This war, they argue, has been forced upon them and is not the product of temporary excitement.

Appeals to calculation and morality run throughout Archidamos’s speech, but about halfway through, Archidamos begins to shift the focus of his argument to a defence of Spartan character. Having opened his speech by alluding to his own solid military record, he returns at Thucydides 1.83.1 to the theme of courage: “Let no one think that the many do not immediately attack a single city because of cowardice (anandria:).” At 83.3, he undercuts the appeals of the allies: “Since we shall, for better or worse, end up with the greater share of the responsibility for whatever happens, let us be the ones to consider ahead of time any of these things in a calm fashion (kath’ hêsuchian).” The Corinthians can demand rapid action because they do not have primary responsibility for its consequences. Spartan caution and calculuation are products of Spartan authority.

The Lakedaimonians can dismiss the criticisms of their allies because “we inhabit a city that is in every way free (eleuthera) and possessing the best reputation (eudoxôtatê)” (Thuc. 1.84.1). Archidamos’s language here is forceful and slightly poetic.[18] At first, he accepts negative terms to describe Spartan caution, thus setting his initial defence in the framework set by the Corinthians: “Do not,” he argues, “be ashamed of the “slowness” (to bradu) and ‘hesitancy’ (to mellon), for which they blame us the most” (84.1). He then goes on to redefine this Spartan quality, defining it in his own terms:

The quality that they condemn is really nothing but sôphrosunê lodged within the mind (emphrôn); on account of this, we alone do not become insolent in success and give way less than others in misfortune. If people cheer us on with praise (epainos), we are not carried away by the pleasure to risks that our judgment condemns; nor, if someone goads us into action with an accusation (katêgoria), are we any the more convinced because we have been exasperated.

Archidamos lays claim to sôphrosunê, “self-possession,” that is based on good sense (emphrôn). This quality is internal and allows the Spartans to construct their view of the world and their reactions from the inside out. Neither good fortune (eupragiai) nor disasters (sumphorai) can overcome this self-possession, and the Spartans maintain their equilibrium under all circumstances. Likewise, Archidamos claims that Spartans are immune to social pressures and that their values are not, as one might now put it, socially constructed. The Spartans decide what to do based on their estimation of the situation and without regard to the praise or blame that others may lay upon them. Archidamos does not claim that the Spartans are insensitive to these emotions. Rather, he states that whether they feel pleasure, hêdonê, or are annoyed, achthesthentes, they are nevertheless able to come to the best decision.

The Spartan character, as outlined by Archidamos, refines and intensifies general qualities for which archaic Greek sources express admiration. In discussing the speech of the Corinthians, we touched upon the mistrust of haste and rushing that appears in archaic literature. “Do not,” Theognis urges Kyrnos, “rush anything too much (mêden agan speudein). Of all things, those in the middle are best, and thus, Kyrnos, you will possess aretê, which is difficult to acquire” (Theog. 335–336). And again: “Do not rush too much (mêden agan speudein). Timing is the best in all mortal affairs. Often a mortal rushes after aretê, seeking profit, but a god (daimôn) eagerly leads him astray into a great error (amplakia) and makes what is good seem bad to him and what is bad good” (Theog. 401–406). Solon mocks the insatiable rush of humankind after profit (frag. 13.43ff., 71ff. [= Theog. 227–232] West).

Likewise, the even judgment of which Archidamos boasts is a prized quality, as a fragment of Archilochus illustrates:

My heart, my heart (thumos), that are confounded with troubles that are beyond help (amêchanoi), defend yourself…standing securely near to the foe. Do not exult openly if you are victorious, and if you are not victorious, do not fall down in your home and weep. Do not rejoice overmuch in delightful things nor be vexed overmuch in troubles, knowing what sort of condition possesses human beings!

This even temperament wins praise elsewhere in archaic literature (e.g., Theog. 657–658). Its roots lie in the oppressive sense of amêchania, the “helplessness” of all mortals before the rise and fall of fortune. “What is Zeus doing?” Aisop reportedly asked Chilon of Lakedaimon, one of the Seven Wise Men of Greek tradition. “He is bringing low the lofty humble, and raising high the humble,” came the answer (Diog. Laert. 1.69). The rise and fall of humans is one of the most pervasive themes of archaic literature (e.g., Archil. frag. 130 West). Human beings have no control over their external condition: prosperity or death can arrive without warning.

Mortals can, however, define their own internal states. If they cannot control what the external world does to them, they can determine their own reactions. The individual agent contains a moral space that is autonomous. For Archidamos, the true locus of control resides within human beings. What happens to them—even death—are mere epiphenomena that cannot touch this secure core. Herodotus’s picture of Kroisos on the pyre is perhaps the most extreme example.[19] Herodotus distinguishes his account sharply from that which appears in Bacchylides. In that poem, written for the Sicilian tyrant Hieron, Apollo spirits Kroisos away to a life among the Hyperboreans that extends into eternity the luxurious existence that Kroisos had enjoyed among mortals. The wealthy despot shares his material prosperity with Apollo, who repays his mortal benefactor in kind. In Herodotus, Kroisos receives no such reward from Apollo. In Herodotus, Kroisos ascends the pyre a defeated king and descends it as a sage who has faced a terrible death and, in that instant, received a flash of insight and understood that his earlier perceived good fortune had been an illusion.

In Thucydides, of course, malicious divinities do not lurk immediately beneath the surface of human misfortunes. Archidamos’s Spartans base their character on sôphrosunê, the autonomous, internal quality of self-possession:

We are both warlike (polemikoi) and wise (eubouloi) because of our sense of order (to eukosmon). We are warlike because sôphrosunê is the greatest part of shame (aidôs), and a sense of shame (aischunê = aidôs) is the greatest part of courage (eupsuchia).

The language is, as often in Thucydides, slippery, but the argument is clear. The Spartans have sôphrosunê, or self-control, and sôphrosunê provides the main foundation for aidôs/aischunê, the shame that we feel before others.[20] This sense of shame, in turn, provides the foundation for courage, for it keeps us from running away or shirking duty in war. The distinction is subtle but important: the Spartans are not brave simply because they fear what their fellows may say of them. The sense of shame depends on sôphrosunê lodged in the Spartan heart. Sôphrosunê thus radiates outward from the central core of the Spartan character and makes possible shame, which in turn grounds courage.

Archidamos also attributes the wisdom of the Spartans (eubouloi) to sôphrosunê, but he reverses the relationship of internal and external. Spartans are not good at war because they fear what others might say or do, but they are wise because of what others have in the past said or done to them and because of the harsh experiences they have endured:

And we are wise (eubouloi), because we are educated with too little learning to despise the laws, and with too much emphasis on self-control (sôphronesteron) to disobey them, and are brought up not to be too knowing in useless matters—such as the knowledge that can give a specious criticism of an enemy’s plans in theory but fails to assail them with equal success in practice—but are taught to consider that the schemes of our enemies are not dissimilar to our own, and that those accidents that occur are not determinable by calculation. [4] In practice we always base our preparations against an enemy on the assumption that his plans are good; indeed, it is right to rest our hopes not on a belief in his blunders, but on the soundness of our plans. Nor ought we to believe that there is much difference between one person and another, but to think that the superiority lies with the one who is reared in the severest school ἐν τοῖς ἀναγκαιοτάτοῖς παιδεύεται

The Spartan upbringing does not make its products so clever that they disdain customary usages. The harshness of this education prepares them for the “freaks of chance” that defy rational planning and make them independent of their adversaries. They do not need to depend upon the mistakes their enemies will make. They can focus their attention on their own plans, and if these are good enough, then all will be well. In effect Archidamos argues that the Spartans do not depend upon misfortune striking others, but they do expect such misfortune to transpire. Their unflappable ability to function in the face of adversity means that the unexpected will affect them less than it does their adversaries and that this self-possession will allow them to prevail. Harshness in the past has thus rendered them more “self-possessed” (sôphronesteron), and this added sôphrosunê is the tough core on which they rely. Thus they are wise for the same reason that they are warlike, because their internal character renders them as autonomous of external events or stresses as possible.

Archidamos does not present a picture of universal success in the short term. Courage does not guarantee victory, and Archidamos integrates the unpredictable nature of events into Spartan ideology. The Spartans may lose a particular battle or suffer setbacks, but the Spartan character, tough and self-possessed, cannot be defeated. Archidamos’s speech thus gives a rationale for Demaratos’s warnings to Xerxes about Spartan valor a half-century before (Hdt. 7.101–104). Xerxes may overwhelm the Spartans in the end, but he will have to kill them all. He cannot subjugate them and make them bow to his will. In the Prometheus Bound and in the plays of Sophokles, conventional sôphrosunê implies accommodation and a willingness to yield to circumstances that the hero despises. Archidamos’s speech, by contrast, is important not least because it allows us to see sôphrosunê as a resilient, heroic quality and to understand why it could exercise such a fascination.

The opening chapters of Archidamos’s speech (Thuc. 1.80–82) display “simplicity and directness…both in thought and expression in marked contrast with the elaboration of the Corinthian, as well as the Athenian” speeches,[21] and Daniel Tompkins has recently pointed out that the speech as a whole seems to “portray a character who is not only cautious and prudent but who to some extent does not participiate in the major stylistic changes of the late fifth century.” [22] Archidamos’s analysis of sôphrosunê at 84.2–3 has, indeed, been criticized for “its unrealistically intellectual form,” [23] and the most recent commentator has endorsed the view that 1.84 is “undisguisedly the product of the sophistic age.” [24] Certainly, the style of Archidamos’s speech belongs to Thucydides—as does that of every speech, even the “Lakonic” harangue of Sthenelaidas. The reasoning of 84.2–3 is dense, and the language slippery.

Nevertheless, it is important to stress that what Archidamos says and the role that he assumes are both deeply conservative. Archidamos is playing a well-known, traditional role in Greek literature, that of the “warner,” a wise individual whose advice will be ignored (cf. the following in Herodotus: Solon at 1.29–33, Artabanos at 7.10, Artemisia at 8.68).[25] The dense and aphoristic reasoning may reflect sophistic influence, but it belongs to a venerable tradition of authoritative moral speech. The first book of Diogenes Laertius, for example, preserves dozens of pithy aphorisms attributed to the various wise men of the early sixth century. In reply to the question “Who is fortunate (eudaimôn)?” Thales answered: “The one who is healthy in body, well equipped with respect to his psuchê and well trained with respect to his nature (phusis)” (Diog. Laert. 1.37). Pittakos, the tyrant of Lesbos more than a century and a half before the Peloponnesian War, is associated with decidedly Archidamian sentiments. “It is characteristic of wise (sunetoi) men that, before difficulties should arise, they foresee how they should not take place, and of courageous (andreioi) men that they set these difficulties right once they do occur” (Pittakos at Diog. Laert. 1.78). Likewise, Bias of Priene is reported to have said: “Be slow to take a hand in affairs, but whatever you choose, watch over it securely and stay with it through to the end” (Diog. Laert. 1.87). The denser the saying, the better. “Know yourself” (gnôthi seauton) and “Nothing in excess” (mêden agan) are only the most famous; others include “Love intelligence” (Diog. Laert. 1.88: phronêsin agapa), “Master pleasure” (Diog. Laert. 1.92: hêdonês kratein), and “Profit is shameful” (Diog. Laert. 1.97: kerdos aischron). A statement such as “ Sôphrosunê is the greatest part of shame (aidôs), and a sense of shame (aischunê = aidôs) is the greatest part of courage (eupsuchia)” may extend, but nevertheless falls squarely within, this linguistic tradition.[26]

The content of Archidamos’s analysis is even more important than the style. Gorgias’s Helen is perhaps the classic example of sophistic logic, for it uses argumentation to stand traditional values on their head. Archidamos subjects Spartan character to analysis, but, as we have already noted, the Spartan character has firm roots in traditional values. Archidamos may well agree with Demokritos and “take education to be the more important, and [be] optimistic about its capacity to provide a firm foundation for civic life,” [27] but the Spartans based their prestige to an extraordinary degree on their peculiarly demanding way of life. An admiration of Sparta assumed, explicitly or not, that society could decisively shape human character. It is more likely that Demokritos bolstered his argument by the example of Sparta than that Archidamos—even Thucydides’ Archidamos—needed to draw upon Demokritos.

The qualities of aidôs and sôphrosunê are often found associated with one another (e.g., Pl. Leg. 772a; Isoc. 1.15; Xen. Cyr. 8.1.31; Arist. Eth. Eud. 1234a32). When, however, Archidamos defines the relationship between these two qualities and states that sôphrosunê is largely responsible for aidôs, he seems to be presenting a conventional idea of the time. The dramatic date of Plato’s Charmides is the same as that of Archidamos’s speech, the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. In the dialogue, Sokrates and the handsome youth Charmides explore the meaning of sôphrosunê. When asked to define sôphrosunê, Charmides replies: “Well, I think…that sôphrosunê makes people feel a sense of shame (aischunesthai) or be bashful (aischuntelos), and that sôphrosunê is the same as aidôs ”(Chrm. 160e). Charmides’ position (which Sokrates immediately makes him abandon) is clearly presented as a piece of conventional wisdom. Archidamos is not presenting a new or unexpected interpretation of sôphrosunê but uses a well-known idea associated with sôphrosunê as part of an argument to praise the Spartan character. The authority of Archidamos’s argument flows, at least in part, from the traditionality of its individual sentiments.

Overall, the speech of Archidamos is a brilliant response to the equally brilliant attack of the Corinthians. On the one hand, the Corinthians have complained: “Your customs are old-fashioned (archaiotropa) when compared to them” (Thuc. 1.71.2). The “unchanging customs” (71.3: akinêta nomima) of Sparta are no longer adequate. The time has come for “innovation” (epitechnêsis). Archidamos does not deny but urgently affirms the fact that the Athenians are a qualitatively different kind of enemy. Archidamos pushes his analysis even farther in one direction than do the Corinthians, who, after chastising the Spartans for being old-fashioned, call for an “antediluvian” reaction, a traditional invasion of Attika:[28]

In a struggle with Peloponnesians and neighbors our strength is of the same character, and it is possible to move swiftly on the different points. But a struggle with a people who live in a distant land, who have also an extraordinary familiarity with the sea, and who are in the highest state of preparation in every other department; with wealth private and public, with ships and horses and heavy infantry, and a population such as no one other Hellenic place can equal, and lastly a number of tributary allies—what can justify us in rashly beginning such a struggle?

The Spartans and their allies are woefully behind Athens in two major categories: ships and money. Archidamos exhorts the allies to play for time and put off war for two or three years, but only so that they can make up this shortfall in named, “material” resources. The Spartans must raise money from any and all quarters, build ships, and learn how to use these ships in war, but this process will take time (1.80.4).

But if Archidamos recognizes a difference between his own people and the Athenians, he does not represent it in the same way as the Corinthians. The Corinthians had based their critique on the difference between Athenian and Spartan temperaments. The Athenians simply viewed the world in a more aggressive, risk-taking, and dynamic fashion than their opponents, and this habit of thought ultimately produced the accumulated power at Athens’s disposal. The Spartans need, according to the Corinthians, in some degree to match Athens’s peculiar strengths of character if they are going to defeat the Athenians.

Archidamos, however, locates the crucial advantage of Athenian power in externalized factors such as money, ships, and the skill to sail them. The Spartans do not need to change their character. They need a navy and the wherewithal to support it. Arms, not the man, are the problem, and once the Spartans and their allies have built the ships, piled up the silver, and learned the new tactics of war, they will be more than ready. Archidamos concedes Spartan disadvantage but then turns this concession into a calculating argument for delay and a springboard to his main point, the vindication of Spartan character and the implicit legitimacy of Sparta’s claim to a preeminent position in the Greek world. The proud analysis of sôphrosunê and Spartan power at Thucydides 1.84 rejects the notion that Spartan character is a weakness, and boldly claims that this character, once it has at its disposal the new tools of conflict, will prove a fundamental and decisive advantage.

Thus Archidamos climaxes his argument with an appeal to the ancestral values of the Spartans:

These practices, then, which our fathers have handed down to us, and by whose maintenance we have always profited, must not be given up. And we must not be hurried into deciding in a day’s brief space a question that concerns many lives and fortunes and many cities, and in which honor is deeply involved—but we must decide calmly. And this course is possible for us more than for others on account of our strength.

Archidamos thus dismisses out of hand the claim that Sparta’s customs are “old-fashioned” or obsolescent. They should above all hold fast to the practices, meletai, that their fathers have given them, for these habits have been the source of their strength. Archidamos reaffirms with all the force at his disposal the theme that we saw already in Herodotus, that Sparta owed its preeminence less to its raw ability to project force than to the peculiar character that it had developed.

Why then does Archidamos’s speech fail?

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