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Mistaken Policy of the Messenians

The Messenians again, on whose account the war began, answered the commissioners sent to
Timidity of the Messenians.
them that, seeing Phigalia was on their frontier and was in the power of the Aetolians, they would not undertake the war until that city was wrested from them. This decision was forcibly carried, much against the will of the people at large, by the Ephors Oenis and Nicippus, and some others of the oligarchical party: wherein they showed, to my thinking, great ignorance of their true interests. I admit, indeed, that war is a terrible thing; but it is less terrible than to submit to anything whatever in order to avoid it.
B. C. 480-479. Pindar fr.
For what is the meaning of our fine talk about equality of rights, freedom of speech, and liberty, if the one important thing is peace? We have no good word for the Thebans, because they shrunk from fighting for Greece and chose from fear to side with the Persians,—nor indeed for Pindar who supported their inaction in the verses—1 “A quiet haven for the ship of state
Should be the patriot's aim,
And smiling peace, to small and great
That brings no shame.
” For though his advice was for the moment acceptable, it was not long before it became manifest that his opinion was as mischievous as it was dishonourable. For peace, with justice and honour, is the noblest and most advantageous thing in the world; when joined with disgrace and contemptible cowardice, it is the basest and most disastrous.2

1 See Stobaeus Floril. 58, 9, who gives three more lines.

2 Cf. ch. 74.

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