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"All men sturdily oppose the enemy which is lined up for battle but fall back when he has surrendered, wearing down the hardihood of the former and showing pity for the misfortune of the latter. For our ardour is broken whenever the former enemy, having by a change of fortune become a suppliant, submits to suffer whatever suits the pleasure of his conquerors. [2] And the spirits of civilized men are gripped, I believe, most perhaps by mercy, because of the sympathy which nature has planted in all. The Athenians, for example, although in the Peloponnesian War they had blockaded many Lacedaemonians on the island of Sphacteria1 and taken them captive, released them to the Spartans on payment of ransom. [3] On another occasion the Lacedaemonians, when they had taken prisoner many of the Athenians and their allies, disposed of them in the same manner. And in so doing they both acted nobly. For hatred should exist between Greeks only until victory has been won and punishment only until the enemy has been overcome. [4] And whoever goes farther and wreaks vengeance upon the vanquished who flees for refuge to the leniency of his conqueror is no longer punishing his enemy but, far more, is guilty of an offence against human weakness. [5] For against harshness such as this one may mention the adages of the wise men of old: 'O man, be not high-spirited'; 'Know thyself'; 'Observe how Fortune is lord of all.' For what reason did the ancestors of all the Greeks ordain that the trophies set up in celebrating victories in war should be made, not of stone, but of any wood at hand? [6] Was it not in order that the memorials of the enmity, lasting as they would for a brief time, should quickly disappear? Speaking generally, if you wish to establish the quarrel for all time, know that in doing so you are treating with disdain human weakness; for a single moment, a slight turn of Fortune, often brings low the arrogant.

1 Cp. Book 12.61 ff.

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