By Nicholas Gehan
Word Count: 1418
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: A outraged man defends Sparti speaking against Athens and her faults in a humorous yet serious speech
Doritos of Sparti
I, Doritos of Sparti, son of Fritos, have read the recording of the famous funeral speech by Pericles, and have seen his claims of greatness for Athens. I write now in order to reveal the falsehoods that riddle your claims, Pericles! I shall uncover the evils of Athens and her pomp, and show Sparti to be the true champion of all that is good!
The first of these lies I wish to attend is your so beloved democracy, which, you claim, is a rule of the majority. It would seem fair, oh yes, very fair and very just, to let the common man have a say in government and let him decide for himself how he wants to be ruled. However, I have seen the results of this kind of governing. Instead of political intrigue you have silver-tongued serpents who sway the crowd this way and that, so that your precious democracy becomes nothing more than a fickle mob subject to the whims of a Sophist. I can think of no better example than the one in which you yourself, Pericles, were directly involved. The city of Athens was enjoying good times in our war, and she, in her infinite hubris, came to the idea to occupy Sicily, our close and powerful friend. You tried to stop them, oh yes my friend, and you almost succeeded, but they were ultimately swayed by a more eloquent speaker than even you. We all know how things ended up after that: the expedition failed miserably and your forces were crushed because of Athenian pride. Thus, the worst defeats Athens suffers are often affected by her own democracy. Even in decisions that have nothing whatever to do with war, your ruling mob is swayed by whoever pleases them, and cares nothing for obedience or real leadership. You yourself, who are the only real leader among them, were rejected.
In Sparti, however, we take a much more efficient and dignified approach to the governance of our people. Our government does everything for the wellbeing of the people as a whole, rather than cater to the interests of one side or the other. Decisions are made much more easily, because there are less people to make them. There is less fear of corruption, because our government cannot be swayed so easily by an orator. Everything is more efficient, because we obey the law and do not have to worry about unruly or slow-moving stragglers if a public action is being taken. We need no written law to keep us, for our law is so beloved that it is inscribed on our hearts. We are happier; one reason for which is this government, which makes us all equal and makes us all brothers.
The second lie which I have found in your speaking is the happiness you claim comes from your wealth and prosperity. What you call high living and extreme pleasure, such as at your continuous games and “elegant private houses,” we here in Sparti call extravagance and decadence. You present these material pleasures and goods without even a reason as to why they are good, leaving the answer that they are good because they are pleasurable. With this sumptuousness, a city, just as a man, will grow fat, lethargic, soft, and weak. There is no beauty in excess. What’s more, you make the claim that you are tolerant toward each other’s implied decadent pleasures in private life. What follows necessarily is that you do not care about the moral wellbeing of your fellow Athenians, or otherwise just do not acknowledge the existence of morality. You do not push yourselves to grow in strength and self-mastery, but rather let each other rot each in his own filth. We in Sparti, however, realize that self-mastery is key to happiness and a life worth living. No, we have not the liberties that you sea dogs have, but we don’t need them to be strong, glorious, famous, or content.
I have noticed, based on your speech, Pericles, that you hold the same apathetic attitude in your military as you do in your private life. You speak in your speech about how Athenian soldiers are never defeated in their full force, and how this is something to be proud of. To hear you say it, it is impossible for the Athenian military to be destroyed, so high has your hubris brought you. I counter again with the famous Sicilian expedition. If I recall correctly, it was the Athenian navy and army that were annihilated by a superior force. Again, I recall the invasion of the Persians, when Athens burned empty after Leonidas stood and fought, and held the pass until his men were wiped out. And yet, even though you are defeated by Spartan forces time and again on land, you say “If then we choose to approach dangers in an easy frame of mind, not with constant practice in hardship, and to meet them with the courage which is born of character rather than compulsion, the result is that we do not have to suffer in advance the pain which we shall face later, and when we do face it we show ourselves just as courageous as those who have spent a lifetime of labour.”
So, you’re saying that Athens can never suffer a real defeat simply because you are superior by nature? That you do not need to train for war or seek self-betterment, but rather, when the time comes, all you must do is believe in yourselves and you will win? Courage may be a natural trait in some, but skill is not, and no amount of courage is going to keep your troops alive on the battlefield if they have no skill. We in Sparti, on the other hand, train hard all our lives for battle, not just in order to defend ourselves physically, but to build character. The way of the warrior is precisely this: to be fit in mind, body, and soul. Each complements the other, and none of them is better off without the other. This is why we train our whole lives. There is nothing courageous or virtuous about being lazy and neglecting training “in an easy frame of mind, not with constant practice or hardship.” This lack of discipline, much like I have said above about your decadence, makes one fat, weak, and timid.
The final thing I wish to tear apart as with the teeth of a wolf is your statement of obvious Athenian hubris. You say that Athens is “an education to Greece.” Again, you say that “the subjects of her empire (have) no cause to complain of undeserving rulers.” I seem to recall that the reason we are in this present war was precisely because so many Athenian “allies” were rebelling because of cruel lordship, and they were being quashed. This leads to the righteous intervention of Sparti, of course. We choose not to keep a large empire, because we take joy in simplicity and we know that, in order for people to become great, they cannot be slaves. Yes, we have our Helots, but what are the Helots compared to the enslavement of the entirety of the Ionian Sea and the near coast of Asia? I see here nothing of benevolence toward them as you say, but rather a ravenous hunger for power, fed by the belief that Athens is inhabited by gods.
But why are you so stuck on yourselves, if you believe that every man should have equal say in government? Should this not apply to everyone in your empire and not just those within your walls? If you are truly an education to Greece, then why don’t you let your “allies” (whom you called subjects) rule themselves the same way you do? Why do you insist on throwing morality to the wind? Just because you are powerful, you think you are superior to the rest of the human race! Remember how we sent Xerxes running back to Susa with his tail between his legs so short a time ago? That is exactly what happens to those who assume this attitude about themselves. This is why Sparti is greatest. We do not puff ourselves up like you Athenians, but rather we know our own strength through using it, and we remember humility through obedience and respect. In Sparti, there is no room for big heads such as yours.