Epigraphē

Καὶ οἵδε μὲν προσηκόντως τῇ πόλει τοιοίδε ἐγένοντο· τοὺς δὲ λοιποὺς χρὴ ἀσφαλεστέραν μὲν εὔχεσθαι, ἀτολμοτέραν δὲ μηδὲν ἀξιοῦν τὴν ἐς. τοὺς πολεμίους διάνοιαν ἔχειν, σκοποῦντας μὴ λόγῳ μόνῳ τὴν ὠφελίαν, ἣν ἄν τις πρὸς οὐδὲν χεῖρον αὐτοὺς ὑμᾶς εἰδότας μηκύνοι, λέγων ὅσα ἐν τῷ τοὺς πολεμίους ἀμύνεσθαι ἀγαθὰ ἔνεστιν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον τὴν τῆς πόλεως δύναμιν καθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἔργῳ θεωμένους καὶ ἐραστὰς γιγνομένους αὐτῆς, καὶ ὅταν ὑμῖν μεγάλη δόξῃ εἶναι, ἐνθυμουμένους ὅτι τολμῶντες καὶ γιγνώσκοντες τὰ δέοντα καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις αἰσχυνόμενοι ἄνδρες αὐτὰ ἐκτήσαντο, καὶ ὁπότε καὶ πείρᾳ του σφαλεῖεν, οὐκ οὖν καὶ τὴν πόλιν γε τῆς σφετέρας ἀρετῆς ἀξιοῦντες στερίσκειν, κάλλιστον δὲ ἔρανον αὐτῇ προϊέμενοι. κοινῇ γὰρ τὰ σώματα διδόντες ἰδίᾳ τὸν ἀγήρων ἔπαινον ἐλάμβανον καὶ τὸν τάφον ἐπισημότατον, οὐκ ἐν ᾧ κεῖνται μᾶλλον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐν ᾧ ἡ δόξα αὐτῶν παρὰ τῷ ἐντυχόντι αἰεὶ καὶ λόγου καὶ ἔργου καιρῷ αἰείμνηστος καταλείπεται. ἀνδρῶν γὰρ ἐπιφανῶν πᾶσα γῆ τάφος, καὶ οὐ στηλῶν μόνον ἐν τῇ οἰκείᾳ σημαίνει ἐπιγραφή, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῇ μὴ προσηκούσῃ ἄγραφος μνήμη παρ᾿ ἑκάστῳ τῆς γνώμης μᾶλλον ἢ τοῦ ἔργου ἐνδιαιτᾶται. οὓς νῦν ὑμεῖς ζηλώσαντες καὶ τὸ εὔδαιμον τὸ ἐλεύθερον, τὸ δ᾿ ἐλεύθερον τὸ εὔψυχον κρίναντες, μὴ περιορᾶσθε τοὺς πολεμικοὺς κινδύνους. οὐ γὰρ οἱ κακοπραγοῦντες δικαιότερον ἀφειδοῖεν ἂν τοῦ βίου, οἷς ἐλπὶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθοῦ, ἀλλ᾿ οἷς ἡ ἐναντία μεταβολὴ ἐν τῷ ζῆν ἔτι κινδυνεύεται καὶ ἐν οἷς μάλιστα μεγάλα τὰ διαφέροντα, ἤν τι πταίσωσιν. ἀλγεινοτέρα γὰρ ἀνδρί γε φρόνημα ἔχοντι ἡ μετὰ τοῦ μαλακισθῆναι κάκωσις ἢ ὁ μετὰ ῥώμης καὶ κοινῆς ἐλπίδος ἅμα γιγνόμενος ἀναίσθητος θάνατος.
(Thucydides, Hist. 2.43)

Such were these men, and they proved worthy of their city. The rest of us may pray for a safer outcome, but should demand of ourselves a determination against the enemy no less courageous than theirs. The benefit of this is not simply an intellectual question. Do not simply listen to people telling you at length of all the virtues inherent in resisting the enemy, when you know them just as well yourselves: but rather look day after day on the manifest power of our city, and become her lovers. And when you realize her greatness, reflect that it was men who made her great, by their daring, by their recognition of what they had to do, and by their pride in doing it. If ever they failed in some attempt, they would not have the city share their loss, but offered her their courage as the finest contribution they could make. Together they gave their lives, and individually they took as their reward the praise which does not grow old and the most glorious of tombs — not where their bodies lie, but where their fame lives on in every occasion for speech and ceremony, an everlasting memory. Famous men have the whole earth as their tomb. Their record is not only the inscription on gravestones in their own land, but in foreign countries too the unwritten memorial which lives in individual hearts, the remembrance of their spirit rather than their achievement. You should now seek to emulate these men. Realize that happiness is freedom, and freedom is courage, and do not be nervous of the dangers of war. The unfortunate, with no hope of improvement, have better reason to husband their lives than those who risk reversal of fortune if they live on and have the most to lose should they fail. To a man with any pride cowardice followed by disaster is more painful than a death which comes in the vigour of courage and the fellowship of hope, and is hardly felt.

(tr. Martin Hammond)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s