Thucydides (or Thoukydides) (c. 460 BC - c. 400 BC) was an ancient Greek historian, author of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens. This work is widely regarded a classic and represents the first work of its kind.
- On the whole, however, the conclusions I have drawn from the proofs quoted may, I believe, safely be relied on. Assuredly they will not be disturbed either by the lays of a poet displaying the exaggeration of his craft, or by the compositions of the chroniclers that are attractive at truth's expense; the subjects they treat of being out of the reach of evidence, and time having robbed most of them of historical value by enthroning them in the region of legend.
- Book I, 21
- I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.
- Book I, 22
- Abstinence from all injustice to other first-rate powers is a greater tower of strength than anything that can be gained by the sacrifice of permanent tranquillity for an apparent temporary advantage.
- Book I, 42
- When one is deprived of ones liberty, one is right in blaming not so much the man who puts the shackles on as the one who had the power to prevent him, but did not use it.
- Book I, 69
- 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 provisions. Nor ought we to believe that there is much difference between man and man, but to think that the superiority lies with him who is reared in the severest school.
- Book I, 84
- The country on the sea coast, now called Macedonia, was first acquired by Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his ancestors, originally Temenids from Argos...The whole is now called Macedonia, and at the time of the invasion of Sitalces, Perdiccas, Alexander's son, was the reigning king.
- Book I, 99
- There is, however, no advantage in reflections on the past further than may be of service to the present. For the future we must provide by maintaining what the present gives us and redoubling our efforts; it is hereditary to us to win virtue as the fruit of labour, and you must not change the habit, even though you should have a slight advantage in wealth and resources; for it is not right that what was won in want should be lost in plenty.
- Book I, 123
- If you give way, you will instantly have to meet some greater demand, as having been frightened into obedience in the first instance; while a firm refusal will make them clearly understand that they must treat you more as equals.
- Book I, 140
- It is from the greatest dangers that the greatest glory is to be won.
- Book I, 144
- I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth. On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity.
- Book II, 35
- In our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons; although usually decision is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally singular, acquiring our friends by conferring, not by receiving, favours.
- Book II, 39
- Disdain is the privilege of those who, like us, have been assured by reflection of their superiority to their adversary. And where the chances are the same, knowledge fortifies courage by the contempt which is its consequence, its trust being placed, not in hope, which is the prop of the desperate, but in a judgment grounded upon existing resources, whose anticipations are more to be depended upon.
- Book II, 62
- That which makes the splendour of the present and the glory of the future remains for ever unforgotten.
- Book II, 64
- Hope leads men to venture, and no one ever yet put himself in peril without the inward conviction that he would succeed in his design.
- Book III, 35
- The fate of those of their neighbours who had already rebelled and had been subdued was no lesson to them; their own prosperity could not dissuade them from affronting danger; but blindly confident in the future, and full of hopes beyond their power though not beyond their ambition, they declared war and made their decision to prefer might to right, their attack being determined not by provocation but by the moment which seemed propitious. The truth is that great good fortune coming suddenly and unexpectedly tends to make a people insolent; in most cases it is safer for mankind to have success in reason than out of reason; and it is easier for them, one may say, to stave off adversity than to preserve prosperity.
- Book III, 39
- You can now, if you choose, employ your present success to advantage, so as to keep what you have got and gain honour and reputation besides, and you can avoid the mistake of those who meet with an extraordinary piece of good fortune, and are led on by hope to grasp continually at something further, through having already succeeded without expecting it.
- Book IV, 17
- Many before now have tried to chastise a wrongdoer, and failing to punish their enemy have not even saved themselves; while many who have trusted in force to gain an advantage, instead of gaining anything more, have been doomed to lose what they had. Vengeance is not necessarily successful because wrong has been done, or strength sure because it is confident; but the incalculable element in the future exercises the widest influence, and is the most treacherous, and yet in fact the most useful of all things, as it frightens us all equally, and thus makes us consider before attacking each other.
- Book IV, 62
- We must march against the enemy, and teach him that he must go and get what he wants by attacking someone who will not resist him, but that men whose glory it is to be always ready to give battle for the liberty of their own country, and never unjustly to enslave that of others, will not let him go without a struggle.
- Book IV, 92
- Their judgment was based more upon blind wishing than upon any sound prevision; for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.
- Book IV, 108
- Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
- Book V, 89
- Hope, that comforter in danger!
- Book V, 103
- We bless your simplicity but do not envy your folly.
- Book V, 105
- It is certain that those who do not yield to their equals, who keep terms with their superiors, and are moderate towards their inferiors, on the whole succeed best.
- Book V, 111
- Contempt for an assailant is best shown by bravery in action.
- Book VI, 34
- The rarest dangers are those in which failure brings little loss and success the greatest advantage.
- Book VII, 68
- Ignorance is bold and knowledge reserved.
- Men naturally despise those who court them, but respect those who do not give way to them.
- Variant translation: It is a general rule of human nature that people despise those who treat them well and look up to those who make no concessions.
- The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.
- The secret of freedom, courage.
- Variant translations:
The secret of happiness is freedom.
The secret of freedom is courage.
- Variant translations:
- The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.
- Variant translations:
For the majority, to be educated is to be a coward, and to be strong is to be a fool.
If a man does not appreciate the importance of both knowledge and strength, he is condemed to be a coward or a fool.
- Variant translations:
- The standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel it.
- Those who are politically apathetic can only survive if they are supported by people who are capable of taking action.
- Those who make wise decisions are more formidable to their enemies than those who rush madly into strong action.
- War takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes.
- Wars spring from unseen and generally insignificant causes, the first outbreak being often but an explosion of anger.