History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides

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

‘Most of my predecessors in this place have commended him who made this speech part of the law, telling us that it is well that it should be delivered at the burial of those who fall in battle.

For myself, I should have thought that the worth which had displayed itself in deeds, would be sufficiently rewarded by honors also shown by deeds; such as you now see in this funeral prepared at the people's cost.

And 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 fulness 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.

However, since our ancestors have stamped this custom with their approval, it becomes my duty to obey the law and to try to satisfy your several wishes and opinions as best I may.