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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   

advantage of private citizens, than any individual well-being
coupled with public humiliation. A man may be personally ever so
well off, and yet if his country be ruined he must be ruined with
it; whereas a flourishing commonwealth always affords chances of
salvation to unfortunate individuals. Since then a state can support
the misfortunes of private citizens, while they cannot support hers,
it is surely the duty of every one to be forward in her defence, and
not like you to be so confounded with your domestic afflictions as
to give up all thoughts of the common safety, and to blame me for
having counselled war and yourselves for having voted it. And yet if
you are angry with me, it is with one who, as I believe, is second
to no man either in knowledge of the proper policy, or in the
ability to expound it, and who is moreover not only a patriot but an
honest one. A man possessing that knowledge without that faculty of
exposition might as well have no idea at all on the matter: if he
had both these gifts, but no love for his country, he would be but a
cold advocate for her interests; while were his patriotism not proof
against bribery, everything would go for a price. So that if you
thought that I was even moderately distinguished for these qualities
when you took my advice and went to war, there is certainly no
reason now why I should be charged with having done wrong.
"For those of course who have a free choice in the matter and
whose fortunes are not at stake, war is the greatest of follies. But
if the only choice was between submission with loss of independence,
and danger with the hope of preserving that independence, in such a
case it is he who will not accept the risk that deserves blame, not he
who will. I am the same man and do not alter, it is you who change,
since in fact you took my advice while unhurt, and waited for
misfortune to repent of it; and the apparent error of my policy lies
in the infirmity of your resolution, since the suffering that it
entails is being felt by every one among you, while its advantage is
still remote and obscure to all, and a great and sudden reverse having
befallen you, your mind is too much depressed to persevere in your
resolves. For before what is sudden, unexpected, and least within
calculation, the spirit quails; and putting all else aside, the plague
has certainly been an emergency of this kind. Born, however, as you
are, citizens of a great state, and brought up, as you have been, with
habits equal to your birth, you should be ready to face the greatest
disasters and still to keep unimpaired the lustre of your name. For
the judgment of mankind is as relentless to the weakness that falls
short of a recognized renown, as it is jealous of the arrogance that
aspires higher than its due. Cease then to grieve for your private
afflictions, and address yourselves instead to the safety of the
"If you shrink before the exertions which the war makes necessary,
and fear that after all they may not have a happy result, you know the
reasons by which I have often demonstrated to you the groundlessness
of your apprehensions. If those are not enough, I will now reveal an
advantage arising from the greatness of your dominion, which I think
has never yet suggested itself to you, which I never mentioned in my
previous speeches, and which has so bold a sound that I should
scarce adventure it now, were it not for the unnatural depression
which I see around me. You perhaps think that your empire extends only
over your allies; I will declare to you the truth. The visible field
of action has two parts, land and sea. In the whole of one of these
you are completely supreme, not merely as far as you use it at
present, but also to what further extent you may think fit: in fine,
your naval resources are such that your vessels may go where they
please, without the King or any other nation on earth being able to
stop them. So that although you may think it a great privation to lose
the use of your land and houses, still you must see that this power is
something widely different; and instead of fretting on their
account, you should really regard them in the light of the gardens and
other accessories that embellish a great fortune, and as, in

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