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
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