25 T.E. Lawrence Quotes from the Real Lawrence of Arabia

Read these T.E. Lawrence quotes, and you will see that in the annals of history, some figures transcend their time and enter folklore.  

T.E. Lawrence, commonly known as Lawrence of Arabia, was a British archaeologist, military officer, diplomat, and writer who achieved legendary status during World War I due to his exploits in the Arabian Peninsula.

Born in Wales in 1888, Lawrence’s life is marked by extraordinary achievements and a complex personality.

Lawrence’s most famous role came during World War I when he was assigned to work with Arab rebels in the Middle East against the Ottoman Empire

His knowledge of the region, fluency in Arabic, and understanding of guerrilla warfare made him a key figure in the Arab Revolt.

Lawrence’s leadership and military strategies played a crucial role in the revolt’s success, and his legend grew as he led daring raids and campaigns in the desert.

These T.E. Lawrence quotes offer a glimpse into the human spirit and the intricacies of the world at that time.

Did T.E. Lawrence Gight in World War I?

Sent away from mainland Europe during WWI, T.E. Lawrence’s experience with war happened in the Middle East. 

These quotes shed light on his feelings about war.

1. “Half a calamity is better than a whole one.” — T.E. Lawrence

2. “To make war upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.” — T.E. Lawrence

3. “The logical end of a war of creeds is the final destruction of one, and Salammbo is the classical text-book instance.” — T.E. Lawrence

4. “Mankind has had ten thousand years of experience at fighting, and if we must fight, we have no excuse for not fighting well.” — T.E. Lawrence

5. “As long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel.” — T.E. Lawrence

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6. “Do not try and do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.” — T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence Quotes on His Role in the War

T.E. Lawrence led guerilla campaigns in the war against the Ottoman Empire. 

Read on for quotes from T.E. Lawrence about military strategy and command.

7. “The greatest commander is he whose intuitions most nearly happen.” — T.E. Lawrence

8. “To me an unnecessary action, or shot, or casualty, was not only waste but sin.” — T.E. Lawrence

9. “The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander.” — T.E. Lawrence

10. “There could be no honor in a sure success, but much might be wrested from a sure defeat.” — T.E. Lawrence

11. “Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals.” — T.E. Lawrence

12. “It is difficult to keep quiet when everything is being done wrong, but the less you lose your temper, the greater your advantage. Also, then you will not go mad yourself.” — T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence Quotes About The Desert

A trained archeologist, T.E. Lawrence, could see the beauty in the desert. 

These quotes highlight his relationship to a place most view as hostile and barren.

13. “The desert is an ocean in which no oar is dipped.” — T.E. Lawrence

14. “This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, and indeed in thought.” — T.E. Lawrence

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15. “The desert was held in a crazed communism by which Nature and the elements were for the free use of every known friendly person for his own purposes and no more.” — T.E. Lawrence

16. “Men have looked upon the desert as barren land, the free holding of whoever chose; but in fact, each hill and valley in it had a man who was its acknowledged owner and would quickly assert the right of his family or clan to it, against aggression.” — T.E. Lawrence

How did T.E. Lawrence earn the nickname “Lawrence of Arabia?”

Working in deep partnership with those living on the Arabian Peninsula, T.E. Lawrence understood the importance of embracing their customs. 

These quotes discuss what he learned about assimilating to that culture.

17. “The beginning and ending of the secret of handling Arabs is unremitting study of them.” — T.E. Lawrence

18. “A thick headcloth forms a good protection against the sun, and if you wear a hat, your best Arab friends will be ashamed of you in public.” — T.E. Lawrence

19. “They taught me that no man could be their leader except he ate the ranks’ food, wore their clothes, lived level with them, and yet appeared better in himself.” — T.E. Lawrence

20. “Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven.” — T.E. Lawrence

21. “If you wear Arab things, wear the best. Clothes are significant among the tribes, and you must wear the appropriate, and appear at ease in them. Dress like a Sherif, if they agree to it.” — T.E. Lawrence

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Was T.E. Lawrence a writer?

After the war, T.E. Lawrence wrote extensively about his exploits in the war. 

Here are a few quotes in which he discusses his work as an author.

22. “I could write for hours on the lustfulness of moving Swiftly.” — T.E. Lawrence

23. “Your success will be proportioned to the amount of mental effort you devote to it.”  — T.E. Lawrence

24. “All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft: for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come, in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail and ornament, alas!” — T.E. Lawrence

25. “I’ve been and am absurdly over-estimated. There are no supermen, and I’m quite ordinary and will say so whatever the artistic results. In that point, I’m one of the few people who tell the truth about myself.” — T.E. Lawrence

Leaving a Mark on History

These T.E. Lawrence quotes give us a taste of his life as he built his reputation as Lawrence of Arabia. 

Tragically, his life was cut short when he died in a motorcycle accident in 1935 at the age of 46. 

A biographical film titled Lawrence of Arabia was released in 1962 that depicted his life and great work.

His legacy endures not only for his military accomplishments and writings but also for his complex and enigmatic persona, which continues to fascinate people worldwide. 

Lawrence of Arabia remains a symbol of both the romance and the complexity of the Middle East.

Have you ever seen the film Lawrence of Arabia?

Do you have a favorite quote from this list?

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