77.Our abatement of our rights in the contract trials with our allies, and our
causing them to be decided by impartial laws at Athens, have gained us the
character of being litigious.
And none care to inquire why this reproach is not brought against other
imperial powers, who treat their subjects with less moderation than we do; the secret being that where force can be used, law is not needed.
But our subjects are so habituated to associate with us as equals, that any
defeat whatever that clashes with their notions of justice, whether it
proceeds from a legal judgment or from the power which our empire gives us,
makes them forget to be grateful for being allowed to retain most of their
possessions, and more vexed at a part being taken, than if we had from the
first cast law aside and openly gratified our covetousness.If we had done so, not even would they have disputed that the weaker must
give way to the stronger.
Men's indignation, it seems, is more excited by legal wrong than by violent
wrong; the first looks like being cheated by an equal, the second like being
compelled by a superior.
At all events they contrived to put up with much worse treatment than this
from the Mede, yet they think our rule severe, and this is to be expected,
for the present always weighs heavy on the conquered.This at least is certain.
If you were to succeed in overthrowing us and in taking our place, you
would speedily lose the popularity with which fear of us has invested you,
if your policy of to-day is at all to tally with the sample that you gave of
it during the brief period of your command against the Mede.Not only is your life at home regulated by rules and institutions
incompatible with those of others, but your citizens abroad act neither on
these rules nor on those which are recognized by the rest of Hellas.
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
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