The Age of Pericles: A History of the Politics and Arts of Greece from the Persian to the Peloponnesian War - Vol. 2

By William Watkiss Lloyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVIII.
THE FIVE YEARS' TRUCE OF ATHENS AND SPARTA.--THE PEACE OF CIMON.
B.C. 450-445; Ol. 82. 2-83. 2-3.

IN the relative position of Athens and Sparta at the present time, the peace which had been concluded for no longer term than five years, could amount to little more than a suspension of the violence of war in favour of unchecked development of some of its still greater evils. It is one of the lesser, because necessarily one of the transitory, mischiefs of war, that it consecrates the slaughter of man by man, making murder a sacrifice and organised pillage a religious duty. As a more miserable consequence, it reverses for unlimited time the fundamental obligation of truthfulness, and gives the natural honours of virtue to imposture and fraud. So long as active warfare continues, the constancy which can encounter mutilation or death without a tremor asserts itself as heroic virtue, and even dignifies what is often little better than the insurgent instinct of the latent carnivore; but it diverts attention utterly from the baseness of intriguers who are watching in the background for the spoil that is to reward their mischief-making, while it sheds the halo which is known as glory over carnage, and misery, and mire. When peace supervenes, it is too often only for mistrust and deception to have the field of politics entirely to themselves.

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