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Plato: Socrates on the eulogizing of war heroes

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plato: Selections on war

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Plato

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From Cleitophon
Translated by R.G. Bury

[Socrates] “Whither haste ye, O men? Yea, verily ye know not that ye are doing none of the things ye ought, seeing that you spend your whole energy on wealth and the acquiring of it…Yet it is because of this dissonance and sloth…that brother with brother and city with city clash together without measure or harmony and are at strife, and in their warring perpetrate and suffer the uttermost horrors…

From Menexenus
Translated by R.G. Bury

[Socrates] In truth, Menexenus, to fall in battle seems to be a splendid thing in many ways. For a man obtains a splendid and magnificent funeral even though at his death he be but a poor man; and though he be but a worthless fellow, he wins praise and that by the mouth of accomplished men who do not praise at random, but in speeches prepared long beforehand. And they praise in such splendid fashion, that, what with their ascribing to each one both what he has and what he has not, and the variety and splendour of their diction, they bewitch our souls; and they eulogize the State in every possible fashion, and they praise those who died in the war and all our ancestors of former times and ourselves who are living still; and so that I am myself, Menexenus, when thus praised by them feel mightily ennobled, and every time I listen fascinated I am exalted and imagine myself to have become all at once taller and and nobler and more handsome. And as I am generally accompanied by some strangers, who listen along with me, I become in their eyes also all at once majestic; for they also manifestly share in my feelings with regard to both to me and to the rest of the City, believing it to be more marvellous than before, owing to the persuasive eloquence of the speaker. And this majestic feeling remains with me for over three days: so persistently does the speech and voice of the orator ring in my ears that it is scarcely on the fourth or fifth day that I recover myself and remember that I am really hear on earth, whereas till then I almost imagined myself to be living in the Islands of the Blessed… 

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