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30+ quotes from History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

Quotes from History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides ·  648 pages

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“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Most people, in fact, will not take the trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war."

[Funeral Oration of Pericles]”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“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.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“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.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest, but if it is judged worthy by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content.
In fine I have written my work not as an essay with which to win the applause of the moment but as a possession for all time.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the needs of an immediate public, but was done to last for ever.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Men's indignation, it seems, is more exited by legal wrong than by violent wrong; the first looks like being cheated by an equal, the second like being compelled by a superior.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Think, too, of the great part that is played by the unpredictable in war: think of it now, before you are actually comitted to war. The longer a war lasts, the more things tend to depend on accidents. Neither you nor we can see into them: we have to abide their outcome in the dark. And when people are entering upon a war they do things the wrong way round. Action comes first, and it is only when they have already suffered that they begin to think.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Men who are capable of real action first make their plans and then go forward without hesitation while their enemies have still not made up their minds.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“If it had not been for the pernicious power of envy, men would not so have exalted vengeance above innocence and profit above justice... in these acts of revenge on others, men take it upon themselves to begin the process of repealing those general laws of humanity which are there to give a hope of salvation to all who are in distress.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Three of the greatest failings, want of sense, of courage, or of vigilance.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question incapacity to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self-defense. [5] The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In short, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was lacking was equally commended, [6] until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations sought not the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition to overthrow them; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“And do not imagine that what we are fighting for is simply the question of freedom or slavery: there is also involved the loss of our empire and the dangers arising from the hatred which we have incurred in administering it. Nor is it any longer possible for you to give up this empire, though there may be some people who in a mood of sudden panic and in a spirit of political apathy actually think that this would be a fine and noble thing to do. Your empire is now like a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“A man who has the knowledge but lacks the power clearly to express it is no better off than if he never had any ideas at all.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“I think the two things most opposed to good counsel are haste and passion; haste usaully goes hand in hand with folly, passion with coarseness and narrowness of mind.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“...good deeds can be shortly stated but where wrong is done a wealth of language is needed to veil its deformity.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“People are inclined to accept all stories of ancient times in an uncritical way – even when these stories concern their own native countries.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Most people, in fact, will not take trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“And yet, Lacedaemonians, you still delay, and fail to see that peace stays longest with those, who are not more careful to use their power justly than to show their determination not to submit to injustice. On the contrary, your ideal of fair dealing is based on the principle that, if you do not injure others, you need not risk your own fortunes in preventing others from injuring you.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“What we should lament is not the loss of houses or of land, but the loss of men’s lives. Men come first; the rest is the fruit of their labour.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“To feel pity, to be carried away by the pleasure of hearing a clever argument, to listen to the claims of decency are three things that are entirely against the interests of an imperial power.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“For famous men have the whole earth as their memorial: it is not only the inscriptions on their graves in their own country that mark them out; no, in foreign lands also, not in any visible form but in people's hearts, their memory abides and grows. It is for you to try to be like them. Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“We all look with distaste on people who arrogantly pretend to a reputation to which they are not entitled; but equally to be condemned are those who, through lack of moral fibre, fail to live up to the reputation which is theirs already.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“The way that most men deal with traditions, even traditions of their own country, is to receive them all alike as they are delivered, without applying any critical test whatever.”
― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


“You may be sure that we are as well aware as you of the difficulty of contending against your power and fortune, unless the terms be equal. But we trust that the gods may grant us fortune as good as yours, since we are just men fighting against unjust, and that what we want in power will be made up by the alliance of the Lacedaemonians, who are bound, if only for very shame, to come to the aid of their kindred. Our confidence, therefore, after all is not so utterly irrational.

― Thucydides, quote from History of the Peloponnesian War


About the author

Thucydides
Born place: Athens (Ancient), Greece
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