A Laconic Answer by James Baldwin
Many miles beyond Rome there was a famous country which we call
Greece. The people of Greece were not u-nit-ed like the Romans; but
instead there were sev-er-al states, each of which had its own rulers.
Some of the people in the southern part of the country were called
Spar-tans, and they were noted for their simple habits and their
brav-er-y. The name of their land was La-co´ni-a, and so they were
sometimes called La-cons.
One of the strange rules which the Spartans had, was that they should
speak briefly, and never use more words than were needed. And so a
short answer is often spoken of as being la-con-ic; that is, as
being such an answer as a Lacon would be likely to give.
There was in the northern part of Greece a land called Mac´e-don; and
this land was at one time ruled over by a war-like king named Philip.
Philip of Mac-e-don wanted to become the master of all Greece. So he
raised a great army, and made war upon the other states, until nearly
all of them were forced to call him their king. Then he sent a letter
to the Spartans in La-co-ni-a, and said, "If I go down into your
country, I will level your great city to the ground."
In a few days, an answer was brought back to him. When he opened the
letter, he found only one word written there.
That word was "IF."
It was as much as to say, "We are not afraid of you so long as the
little word 'if' stands in your way."