Thucydides 3.82-83

Crawley Translation

Hobbes Translation

82 Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended, until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime. The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention. The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy, engaged in the direct excesses; in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard, and invoking with equal readiness the condemnation of an unjust verdict or the authority of the strong arm to glut the animosities of the hour. Thus religion was in honor with neither party; but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high reputation. Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape.

83 Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles. The ancient simplicity into which honor so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow. To put an end to this, there was neither promise to be depended upon, nor oath that could command respect; but all parties dwelling rather in their calculation upon the hopelessness of a permanent state of things, were more intent upon self-defense than capable of confidence. In this contest the blunter wits were most successful. Apprehensive of their own deficiencies and of the cleverness of their antagonists, they feared to be worsted in debate and to be surprised by the combinations of their more versatile opponents, and so at once boldly had recourse to action: while their adversaries, arrogantly thinking that they should know in time, and that it was unnecessary to secure by action what policy afforded, often fell victims to their want of precaution.

82 The cities therefore being now in sedition and those that fell into it later having heard what had been done in the former, they far exceeded the same in newness of conceit, both for the art of assailing and for the strangeness of their revenges. The received value of names imposed for signification of things was changed into arbitrary. For inconsiderate boldness was counted true-hearted manliness; provident deliberation, a handsome fear; modesty, the cloak of cowardice; to be wise in everything, to be lazy in everything. A furious suddenness was reputed a point of valor. To readvise for the better security was held for a fair pretext of tergiversation. He that was fierce was always trusty, and he that contraried such a one was suspected. He that did insidiate, if it took, was a wise man; but he that could smell out a trap laid, a more dangerous man than he. But he that had been so provident as not to need to do the one or the other was said to be a dissolver of society and one that stood in fear of his adversary. In brief, he that could outstrip another in the doing of an evil act or that could persuade another thereto that never meant it was commended. To be kin to another was not to be so near as to be of his society because these were ready to undertake anything and not to dispute it. For these societies were not made upon prescribed laws of profit but for rapine, contrary to the laws established. And as for mutual trust amongst them, it was confirmed not so much by divine law as by the communication of guilt. And what was well advised of their adversaries, they received with an eye to their actions to see whether they were too strong for them or not, and not ingenuously. To be revenged was in more request than never to have received injury. And for oaths (when any were) of reconcilement, being administered in the present for necessity, were of force to such as had otherwise no power; but upon opportunity, he that first durst thought his revenge sweeter by the trust than if he had taken the open way. For they did not only put to account the safeness of that course but, having circumvented their adversary by fraud, assumed to themselves withal a mastery in point of wit. And dishonest men for the most part are sooner called able than simple men honest, and men are ashamed of this title but take a pride in the other.

The cause of all this is desire of rule out of avarice and ambition, and the zeal of contention from those two proceeding. For such as were of authority in the cities, both of the one and the other faction, preferring under decent titles, one, the political equality of the multitude, the other, the moderate aristocracy, though in words they seemed to be servants of the public, they made it in effect but the prize of their contention; and striving by whatsoever means to overcome both ventured on most horrible outrages and prosecuted their revenges still farther without any regard of justice or the public good, but limiting them, each faction, by their own appetite, and stood ready, whether by unjust sentence or with their own hands, when they should get power, to satisfy their present spite. So that neither side made account to have anything the sooner done for religion, but he was most commended that could pass a business against the hair with a fair oration. The neutrals of the city were destroyed by both factions partly because they would not side with them and partly for envy that they should so escape.

83 Thus was wickedness on foot in every kind throughout all Greece by the occasion of their sedition. Sincerity (whereof there is much in a generous nature) was laughed down; and it was far the best course to stand diffidently against each other with their thoughts in battle array, which no speech was so powerful nor oath terrible enough to disband. And being all of them the more they considered the more desperate of assurance, they rather contrived how to avoid a mischief than were able to rely on any man's faith. And for the most part, such as had the least wit had the best success; for both their own defect and the subtlety of their adversaries putting them into a great fear to be overcome in words, or at least in pre-insidiation, by their enemies' great craft, they therefore went roundly to work with them with deeds. Whereas the other, not caring though they were perceived and thinking they needed not to take by force what they might do by plot, were thereby unprovided and so the more easily slain.