but none the less the law ought to try by some means to distinguish case from case. In illustration we may cite the story of Patroclus:1
suppose that he had been brought to his tent without his arms and had recovered—as has happened in the case of thousands,—while the arms he had had (which, as the poet relates, had been given to Peleus by the gods, as a dowry with Thetis) were in the hands of Hector,—then all the base men of those days would have been free to abuse Menoetios' son for loss of arms. Moreover, there are instances
of men losing their arms through being flung down from cliffs, or on the sea, or in ravines, when overwhelmed by a sudden great rush of water, or from other mishaps, countless in number, which one could mention by way of consolation, and thereby justify an evil which lends itself to calumny. It is right, therefore, to separate, as best one can, the greater and more serious evil from its opposite. As a rule, indeed, the employment of the names in question by way of abuse admits of a distinction; for the term “shield-flinger” would not properly be applied in all cases, but rather the term “arms-dropper.”
For the man who by a fair amount of violence is stripped of his arms will not be as much of a “shield-flinger” as the man who has voluntarily thrown them away—rather there is a vast difference between the two cases. So let the pronouncement of the law be this:—If a man is overtaken by his enemies and, having arms, instead of turning and defending himself, voluntarily drops his arms or flings them away, thereby gaining for himself a life that is shameful by speed of foot, rather than by bravery a noble and blessed death,—concerning the arms flung away in a loss of this sort a trial shall be held, but the judge shall pass over in his enquiry a case of the kind previously described.
For the bad man one must always punish, in order to better him, but not the luckless man; for that profits not. What, then, would be a proper penalty for the man who has thrown away for naught such powerful weapons of defence? A god, it is said, once changed Kaineus the Thessalian2
from woman's shape to man's; but it is beyond human power to do the opposite of this; otherwise,
the converse transformation—changing him from a man into a woman—would be, perhaps, the most appropriate of all penalties for a “shield-flinger.” As it is, to get the nearest possible approach to this, because of the man's love of life at any price, and to secure that for the rest of his life he may run no risk, but may live saddled with this disgrace as long as possible,—the law dealing with such cases shall be this:—If any man be convicted on a charge of shamefully throwing away his military weapons, no general or other military officer shall ever employ him as a soldier