Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thucydides NULL

Greek Historian and Author

"Few things are brought to a successful issue by impetuous desire, but most by calm and prudent forethought."

"An avowal of poverty is no disgrace to any man; to make no effort to escape it is indeed disgraceful."

"Men naturally despise those who court them, but respect those who do not give way to them."

"Mankind apparently find it easier to drive away adversity than to retain prosperity."

"Rashness is the result of ignorance, hesitation of thought."

"So little trouble do men take in the search after truth; so readily do they accept whatever comes first to hand."

"To be an object of hatred and aversion to their contemporaries has been the usual fate of all those whose merit has raised them above the common level. The man who submits to the shafts of envy for the sake of noble objects pursues a judicious course for his own lasting fame. Hatred dies with its object, while merit soon breaks forth in full splendor, and his glory is handed down to posterity in never-dying strains."

"The doer of the favor is the firmer friend of the two, in order by continued kindness to keep the recipient in his debt; while the debtor feels less keenly from the very consciousness that the return he makes will be a payment, not a free gift."

"We secure our friends not by accepting favors but by doing them."

"Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can the weak suffer what they must."

"War is the father of all things."

"Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness: ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any."

"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 tranquility for an apparent temporary advantage."

"And 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."

"A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools."

"Again, 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."

"And the rarest dangers are those in which failure brings little loss and success the greatest advantage."

"An Athenian citizen does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own household; and even those of us who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as a harmless, but as a useless character, and if few of us are originators, we are all sound judges of a policy."

"Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave. Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war."

"A collision at sea will ruin your entire day."

"As for democracy, the men of sense among us knew what it was, and I perhaps as well as any, as I have more cause to complain of it; but there is nothing new to be said of a patent absurdity-meanwhile we did not think it safe to alter it under the pressure of your hostility."

"Boasting and bravado may exist in the breast even of the coward, if he is successful through a mere lucky hit; but a just contempt of an enemy can alone arise in those who feel that they are superior to their opponent by the prudence of their measures."

"But the prize for courage will surely be awarded most justly to those who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger."

"By day certainly the combatants have a clearer notion, though even then by no means of all that takes place, no one knowing much of anything that does not does not go on in his own immediate neighborhood; but in a night engagement ( and this was the only one that occurred between great armies during the war) how could anyone know anything for certain?"

"But what most oppressed them was that they had two wars at once, and has thus reached a pitch of frenzy which no one would have believed possible if he had heard of it before it had come to pass."

"But as the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an objective, the revenues of the states increasing, tyrannies were established almost everywhere."

"Contempt for an assailant is best shown by bravery in action."

"Fire signals of an attack were also raised toward Thebes, but the Plataeans in the city at once displayed a number of others, prepared beforehand for this very purpose, in order to render the enemy's signals unintelligible, and to prevent his friends from getting a true idea of what was happening and coming to his aid before their comrades who had gone out should have made good their escape and be in safety."

"Concessions to adversaries only end in self-reproach, and the more strictly they are avoided the greater will be the chance of security."

"Fix your eyes on the greatness of Athens as you have it before you day by day, fall in love with her, and when you feel her great, remember that this greatness was won by men with courage, with knowledge of their duty, and with a sense of honor in action... So they gave their bodies to the commonwealth and received, each for his own memory, praise that will never die, and with it the grandest of all sepulchers, not that in which their mortal bones are laid, but a home in the minds of men, where their glory remains fresh to stir to speech or action as the occasion comes by. For the whole earth is the sepulcher of famous men; and their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives. For you now it remains to rival what they have done and, knowing the secret of happiness to be freedom and the secret of freedom a brave heart, not idly to stand aside from the enemy's onset."

"For so remarkably perverse is the nature of man that he despises whoever courts him, and admires whoever will not bend before him."

"Difficulty of subsistence made the invaders reduce the numbers of the army to a point at which it might live on the country during the prosecution of the war."

"For the love of gain would reconcile the weaker to the dominion of the stronger, and the possession of capital enabled the more powerful to reduce the smaller cities to subjection."

"Hatred also is short lived; but that which makes the splendor of the present and the glory of the future remains forever unforgotten"

"He who voluntarily confronts tremendous odds must have very great internal resources to draw upon."

"For we both alike know that into the discussion of human affairs the question of justice enters only where the pressure of necessity is equal, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must."

"Having done what men could, they suffered what men must."

"He who graduates the harshest school, succeeds."

"Here we bless your simplicity but do not envy your folly."

"I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperiled 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."

"History is philosophy learned from examples."

"Hope, danger's comforter."

"I have often before now been convinced that a democracy is incapable of empire."

"I think the two things most opposed to good counsel are haste and passion; haste usually goes hand in hand with folly, passion with coarseness and narrowness of mind."

"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."

"Ignorance is bold and knowledge reserved."

"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."

"I think, therefore, that we ought to take great numbers of hoplites, both from Athens and from our allies, and not merely from our subjects, but also any we may be able to get for love or money in the Peloponnesus, and great numbers also of archers and slingers, to oppose the Sicilian horse."

"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."

"In a word I claim that our city as a whole is an education to Greece."