History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides

Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.

And to say nothing of the danger of such a step, none of our foreign sailors would consent to become an outlaw from his country, and to take service with them and their hopes, for the sake of a few days' high pay.

This, I think, is a tolerably fair account of the position of the Peloponnesians; that of Athens is free from the defects that I have criticized in them, and has other advantages of its own, which they can show nothing to equal.

If they march against our country we will sail against theirs, and it will then be found that the desolation of the whole of Attica is not the same as that of even a fraction of Peloponnese; for they will not be able to supply the deficiency except by a battle, while we have plenty of land both on the islands and the continent.

The rule of the sea is indeed a great matter.

Consider for a moment.

Suppose that we were islanders: can you conceive a more impregnable position?

Well, this in future should, as far as possible, be our conception of our position.

Dismissing all thought of our land and houses, we must vigilantly guard the sea and the city.

No irritation that we may feel for the former must provoke us to a battle with the numerical superiority of the Peloponnesians.

A victory would only be succeeded by another battle against the same superiority: a reverse involves the loss of our allies, the source of our strength, who will not remain quiet a day after we become unable to march against them.

We must cry not over the loss of houses and land but of men's lives; since houses and land do not gain men, but men them.

And if I had thought that I could persuade you, I would have bid you go out and lay them waste with your own hands, and show the Peloponnesians that this at any rate will not make you submit.