126.‘Men of Peloponnesus, if I did not mistrust, in respect you are thus abandoned by the Macedonians and that the barbarians which come upon you are many, that you were afraid, I should not [at this time] instruct you and encourage you as I do.But now, against this desertion of your companions and the multitude of your enemies, I will endeavour with a short instruction and hortative to give you encouragement to the full.
For to be good soldiers is unto you natural, not by the presence of any confederates, but by your own valour;and not to fear others for the number, seeing you are not come from a city where the many bear rule over the few, but the few over the many;and have gotten this for power by no other means than by overcoming in fight.
And as to these barbarians, whom through ignorance you fear, you may take notice, both by the former battles fought by us against them before, in favour of the Macedonians, and also by what I myself conjecture and have heard by others, that they have no great danger in them.
For when any enemy whatsoever maketh show of strength, being indeed weak, the truth once known doth rather serve to embolden the other side;whereas, against such as have valour indeed, a man will be the boldest when he knoweth the least.These men here, to such as have not tried them, do indeed make terrible offers;
for the sight of their number is fearful, the greatness of their cry intolerable, and the vain shaking of their weapons on high is not without signification of menacing.But they are not answerable to this when with such as stand them they come to blows.For fighting without order they will quit their place without shame if they be once pressed;and seeing it is with them honourable alike to fight or run away, their valours are never called in question;and a battle wherein every one may do as he lists, affords them a more handsome excuse to save themselves.But they trust rather in their standing out of danger and terrifying us afar off than in coming to hands with us;for else they would rather have taken that course than this.
And you see manifestly that all that was before terrible in them is in effect little, and serves only to urge you to be going with their show and noise.Which if you sustain at their first coming on, and again withdraw yourselves still, as you shall have leisure, in your order and places, you shall not only come the sooner to a place of safety, but shall learn also against hereafter that such a rabble as this, to men prepared to endure their first charge, do but make a flourish of valour with threats from afar before the battle;but to such as give them ground, they are eager enough to seem courageous where they may do it safely.’
The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. Thucydides. Thomas Hobbes. translator. London. Bohn. 1843.
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