‘Peloponnesians and allies, our
fathers made many campaigns both within and without Peloponnese, and the
elder men among us here are not without experience in war.Yet we have never set out with a larger force than the present; and if our numbers and efficiency are remarkable, so also is the power of
the state against which we march.
We ought not then to show ourselves inferior to our ancestors, or unequal
to our own reputation.For the hopes and attention of all Hellas are bent upon the present effort,
and its sympathy is with the enemy of the hated Athens.
Therefore, numerous as the invading army may appear to be, and certain as
some may think it that our adversary will not meet us in the field, this is
no sort of justification for the least negligence upon the march; but the officers and men of each particular city should always be prepared
for the advent of danger in their own quarters.
The course of war cannot be foreseen, and its attacks are generally
dictated by the impulse of the moment; and where overweening self-confidence has despised preparation, a wise
apprehension has often been able to make head against superior numbers.
Not that confidence is out of place in an army of invasion, but in an
enemy's country it should also be accompanied by the precautions of
apprehension: troops will by this combination be best inspired for dealing a
blow, and best secured against receiving one.
In the present instance, the city against which we are going, far from
being so impotent for defence, is on the contrary most excellently equipped
at all points; so that we have every reason to expect that they will take the field
against us, and that if they have not set out already before we are there,
they will certainly do so when they see us in their territory wasting and
destroying their property.
For men are always exasperated at suffering injuries to which they are not
accustomed, and on seeing them inflicted before their very eyes; and where least inclined for reflection, rush with the greatest heat to
The Athenians are the very people of all others to do this, as they aspire
to rule the rest of the world, and are more in the habit of invading and
ravaging their neighbors' territory, than of seeing their own treated in the
Considering, therefore, the power of the state against which we are
marching, and the greatness of the reputation which, according to the event,
we shall win or lose for our ancestors and ourselves, remember as you follow
where you may be led to regard discipline and vigilance as of the first
importance, and to obey with alacrity the orders transmitted to you; as nothing contributes so much to the credit and safety of an army as the
union of large bodies by a single discipline.’
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
An XML version of this text is available for download,
with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted
changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.