previous next

Let us first take Courage. We have already seen1 that Courage is the observance of the mean in respect of fear and confidence. [2] Now it is clear that the things we fear are fearful things, which means, broadly speaking, evil things; so that fear is sometimes defined as the anticipation of evil. [3] It is true then that we fear all evil things, for example, disgrace, poverty, disease, lack of friends, death; but it is not thought that Courage is related to all these things, for there are some evils which it is right and noble to fear and base not to fear, for instance, disgrace. One who fears disgrace is an honorable man, with a due sense of shame; one who does not fear it is shameless: though some people apply the term courageous to such a man by analogy, because he bears some resemblance to the courageous man in that the courageous man also is a fearless person. [4]

Again, it is no doubt right not to fear poverty, disease, or in general any evil not caused by vice and not due to ourselves. But one who is fearless in regard to these things is not courageous either (although the term is applied to him, too, by analogy); since some men who are cowards in war are liberal with money, and face loss of fortune boldly. [5]

Nor yet is a man cowardly if he fears insult to his wife and children, or envy, or the like; nor courageous if he shows a bold face when about to undergo a flogging. [6]

What then are the fearful things in respect of which Courage is displayed? I suppose those which are the greatest, since there is no one more brave in enduring danger than the courageous man. Now the most terrible thing of all is death; for it is the end, and when a man is dead, nothing, we think, either good or evil can befall him any more. [7] But even death, we should hold, does not in all circumstances give an opportunity for Courage: for instance we do not call a man courageous for facing death by drowning or disease. [8] What form of death then is a test of Courage? Presumably that which is the noblest. Now the noblest form of death is death in battle, for it is encountered in the midst of the greatest and most noble of dangers. [9] And this conclusion is borne out by the principle on which public honors are bestowed in republics and under monarchies. [10]

The courageous man, therefore, in the proper sense of the term, will be he who fearlessly confronts a noble death, or some sudden2 peril that threatens death; and the perils of war answer this description most fully. [11] Not that the courageous man is not also fearless in a storm at sea (as also in illness), though not in the same way as sailors are fearless, for he thinks there is no hope of safety, and to die by drowning is revolting to him,3 whereas sailors keep up heart because of their experience. [12] Also Courage is shown in dangers where a man can defend himself by valor or die nobly, but neither is possible in disasters like shipwreck.

1 2.7.2.

2 Or perhaps ‘imminent,’ but cf. 8.15.

3 i.e., he resents it as inglorious.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: