[8.141] Such were the words of Alexander. Now the Lacedaemonians, when tidings reached them that Alexander was gone to Athens to bring about a league between the Athenians and the barbarians, and when at the same time they called to mind the prophecies which declared that the Dorian race should one day be driven from the Peloponnese by the Medes and the Athenians, were exceedingly afraid lest the Athenians might consent to the alliance with Persia. They therefore lost no time in sending envoys to Athens; and it so happened that these envoys were given their audience at the same time with Alexander: for the Athenians had waited and made delays, because they felt sure that the Lacedaemonians would hear that an ambassador was come to them from the Persians, and as soon as they heard it would with all speed send an embassy. They contrived matters therefore of set purpose, so that the Lacedaemonians might hear them deliver their sentiments on the occasion.
[8.142] As soon as Alexander had finished speaking, the ambassadors from Sparta took the word and said,-
"We are sent here by the Lacedaemonians to entreat of you that ye will not do a new thing in Greece, nor agree to the terms which are offered you by the barbarian. Such conduct on the part of any of the Greeks were alike unjust and dishonourable; but in you 'twould be worse than in others, for divers reasons. 'Twas by you that this war was kindled at the first among us - our wishes were in no way considered; the contest began by your seeking to extend your empire - now the fate of Greece is involved in it. Besides it was surely an intolerable thing that the Athenians, who have always hitherto been known as a nation to which many men owed their freedom, should now become the means of bringing all other Greeks into slavery. We feel, however, for the heavy calamities which press on you - the loss of your harvest these two years, and the ruin in which your homes have lain for so long a time. We offer you, therefore, on the part of the Lacedaemonians and the allies, sustenance for your women and for the unwarlike portion of your households, so long as the war endures. Be ye not seduced by Alexander the Macedonian, who softens down the rough words of Mardonius. He does as is natural for him to do - a tyrant himself, he helps forward a tyrant's cause. But ye, Athenians, should do differently, at least if ye be truly wise; for ye should know that with barbarians there is neither faith nor truth."
[8.143] Thus spake the envoys. After which the Athenians returned this answer to Alexander:-
"We know, as well as thou dost, that the power of the Mede is many times greater than our own: we did not need to have that cast in our teeth. Nevertheless we cling so to freedom that we shall offer what resistance we may. Seek not to persuade us into making terms with the barbarian - say what thou wilt, thou wilt never gain our assent. Return rather at once, and tell Mardonius that our answer to him is this:- 'So long as the sun keeps his present course, we will never join alliance with Xerxes. Nay, we shall oppose him unceasingly, trusting in the aid of those gods and heroes whom he has lightly esteemed, whose houses and whose images he has burnt with fire.' come not thou again to us with words like these; nor, thinking to do us a service, persuade us to unholy actions. Thou art the guest and friend of our nation - we would not that thou shouldst receive hurt at our hands."
[8.144] Such was the answer which the Athenians gave to Alexander. To the Spartan envoys they said:-
"'Twas natural no doubt that the Lacedaemonians should be afraid we might make terms with the barbarian; but nevertheless It was a base fear in men who knew so well of what temper and spirit we are. Not all the gold that the whole earth contains - not the fairest and most fertile of all lands - would bribe us to take part with the Medes and help them to enslave our countrymen. Even could we anyhow have brought ourselves to such a thing, there are many very powerful motives which would now make it impossible. The first and chief of these is the burning and destruction of our temples and the images of our gods, which forces us to make no terms with their destroyer, but rather to pursue him with our resentment to the uttermost. Again, there is our common brotherhood with the Greeks: our common language, the altars and the sacrifices of which we all partake, the common character which we bear - did the Athenians betray all these, of a truth it would not be well. Know then now, if ye have not known it before, that while one Athenian remains alive, we will never join alliance with Xerxes. We thank you, however, for your forethought on our behalf, and for your wish to give our families sustenance, now that ruin has fallen on us - the kindness is complete on your part; but for ourselves, we will endure as we may, and not be burdensome to you. Such then is our resolve. Be it your care with all speed to lead out your troops; for if we surmise aright, the barbarian will not wait long ere he invade our territory, but will set out so soon as he learns our answer to be, that we will do none of those things which he requires of us. Now then is the time for us, before he enters Attica, to go forth ourselves into Boeotia, and give him battle."
When the Athenians had thus spoken, the ambassadors from Sparta departed, and returned back to their own country.