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He is also deficient in confidence; but his excessive fear in face of pain is more apparent. [11] The coward is therefore a despondent person, being afraid of everything; but the courageous man is just the opposite, for confidence belongs to a sanguine temperament. [12]

The coward, the rash man, and the courageous man are therefore concerned with the same objects, but are differently disposed towards them: the two former exceed and fall short, the last keeps the mean and the right disposition. The rash, moreover, are impetuous, and though eager before the danger comes they hang back at the critical moment; whereas the courageous are keen at the time of action but calm beforehand. [13]

As has been said then, Courage is the observance of the mean in relation to things that inspire confidence or fear, in the circumstances stated1; and it is confident and endures2 because it is noble to do so or base not to do so. But to seek death in order to escape from poverty, or the pangs of love, or from pain or sorrow, is not the act of a courageous man, but rather of a coward; for it is weakness to fly from troubles, and the suicide does not endure death because it is noble to do so, but to escape evil.8.

Such is the nature of Courage; but the name is also applied to five divergent types of character.

(1) First, as most closely resembling true Courage comes the citizen's courage.3 Citizen troops appear to endure dangers because of the legal penalties and the reproach attaching to cowardice, and the honors awarded to bravery; hence those races appear to be the bravest among which cowards are degraded and brave men held in honor. [2] It is this citizen courage which inspires the heroes portrayed by Homer, like Diomede and Hector: “ Polydamas will be the first to flout me;4

” and Diomede says “ Hector will make his boast at Troy hereafter:
“By me was Tydeus' son . . .”5

” [3]

This type of courage most closely resembles the one described before, because it is prompted by a virtue, namely the sense of shame,6 and by the desire for something noble, namely honor, and the wish to avoid the disgrace of being reproached. [4]

The courage of troops forced into battle by their officers may be classed as of the same type, though they are inferior inasmuch as their motive is not a sense of shame but fear, and the desire to avoid not disgrace but pain. Their masters compel them to be brave, after Hector's fashion: “ Let me see any skulking off the field—
He shall not save his carcase from the dogs!7

” [5]

The same is done by commanders who draw up their troops in front of them and beat them if they give ground,

1 See 6.10.

2 The mss. have ‘it chooses and endures.’

3 ‘Political courage’: Plato uses this phrase (Plat. Rep. 430c) of patriotic courage, based on training and ‘right opinion about what is terrible and what is not,’ and in contrast with the undisciplined courage of slaves and brute beasts. Elsewhere, on the other hand, he contrasts ‘popular and citizen virtue’ in general with the philosopher's virtue, which is based on knowledge.

4 Hom. Il. 22.100 ( Hector)—‘Alas, should I retire within the gates, Polydamas, . . .’

5 Hom. Il. 8.148—‘By me was Tydeus's son routed in flight Back to the ships.’

6 For this emotion see 2.7.14, 4.9.1, where it is said not to be, strictly speaking, a virtue.

7 Hom. Il. 2.391, but the words are Agamemnon's, and are slightly different in our Homer.

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hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (3):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 156
    • E.C. Marchant, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 2, 2.40
    • C.E. Graves, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 4, CHAPTER CXXIV
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