50 Thucydides Quotes About The Nature Of War 

Increase your knowledge of the past and present with our Thucydides quotes. 

Thucydides is celebrated as one of the best historians and generals from antiquity. 

Learn more about this multitalented Greek writer with our Thucydides quotes below. 

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Who was Thucydides?

Thucydides was an Athenian historian and general who lived from 460-400 BC.

He is known for writing the History of the Peloponnesian War

Check out these interesting Thucydides facts below: 

  • His work was first translated into Latin during the 15th century. 
  • When not examining military operations, he focused on politics. 
  • He was exiled from Athens for twenty years for losing control of the city to the Spartans. 

In the Western world, Thucydides is sometimes called the father of scientific history because of his commitment to impartial, evidence-based information gathering. 

He is one of the most famous Greek historians not to reference the gods as intervening figures in history.

For these reasons, many consider his efforts the standard of how history should be recorded. 

What else is Thucydides known for?

In addition to his military prowess and acumen, many admire his skills in the political arena. 

Thucydides is also noted as a father of the school of political realism.

Political realism analyzes the behavior of individuals and collectives and the outcomes of their behavior in relation to fear and self-interest. 

Even today, his texts are studied in universities as they relate to international relations theory. 

Thucydides is recognized for his understanding of human nature and ability to explain behaviors impacting our world. 

His work attempts to shed light on local and global challenges such as civil war, genocide, plagues, and even climate phenomena. 

Thucydides and the History of the Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War included the forces of Athens against the forces of Sparta. 

There is not much known about the life of Thucydides.

The account is important because he mentioned his nationality, birthplace, and who his parents were. 

Thucydides fought in the war and contracted the plague while fighting. 

He was exiled for a considerable amount of time and attributed his release to democracy. 

To learn more, check out our Thucydides quotes below. 

Short Thucydides quotes to live by

Check out these awesome quotes about life from Thucydides. 

1. “Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war.” — Thucydides

2. “Knowledge without understanding is useless.” — Thucydides

3. “War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.” — Thucydides

5. “The freaks of chance are not determinable by calculation.” — Thucydides

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6. “I am more afraid of our own blunders than of the enemy’s devices.” — Thucydides

7. “The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage.” — Thucydides

8. “Self-control contains honor as a chief constituent and honor bravery.” — Thucydides

9. “War is an evil thing, but to submit to the dictation of other states is worse.” — Thucydides

10. “Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave.” — Thucydides

Thucydides quotes and sayings about winning and losing

These quotes show how Thucydides understood that life was about balance. 

11. “For it is not right that what was won in want should be lost in plenty.” — Thucydides

12. “Speculation is carried on in safety, but, when it comes to action, fear causes failure.” — Thucydides

13. “Out of the greatest dangers, communities and individuals acquire the greatest glory.” — Thucydides

14. “While a firm refusal will make them clearly understand that they must treat you more as equals.” — Thucydides

15. “For the future, we must provide by maintaining what the present gives us and redoubling our efforts.” — Thucydides

16. “There is, however, no advantage in reflections on the past further than may be of service to the present.” — Thucydides

17. “Indeed, it is right to rest our hopes not on a belief in his blunders, but on the soundness of our provisions.” — Thucydides

18. “In practice, we always base our preparations against an enemy on the assumption that his plans are good.” — Thucydides

19. “Nor ought we to believe that there is much difference between man and man, but to think that the superiority lies with him who is reared in the severest school.” — Thucydides

20. “It is hereditary to us to win virtue as the fruit of labor, and you must not change the habit, even though you should have a slight advantage in wealth and resources.” — Thucydides

The best Thucydides quotes from the History of the Peloponnesian War

Check out these quotes from Thucydides’ famous history book. 

21. “Brasidas and Alcidas began to prepare accordingly.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

22. “After walling off this spot, the fleet sailed off home.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

23. “The news of the men’s death had, of course, not arrived.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

24. “While they delayed there, this battle took place, and so the summer ended.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

25. “Some time back, there had been a war between the Lepreans and some of the Arcadians.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

26. “But it so happened that Brasidas, son of Tellis, a Spartan, was in command of a guard for the defense of the district.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

27. “Going by sea to Pyrrha, and from thence overland, he passed along the bed of a torrent, where the line of circumvallation was passable.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

28. “In the first days of the next summer, there was an eclipse of the sun at the time of new moon, and in the early part of the same month an earthquake.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

29. “Agis accepted their proposals, and sent for Alcamenes, son of Sthenelaidas, and Melanthus from Lacedaemon, to take the command in Euboea.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

30. “For this reason, they pushed forward the construction of their work with posterns and entrances and means of introducing the enemy, being eager to have it finished in time.” — Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

The top Thucydides quotes about war and peace

As a general, Thucydides was an expert on war strategy. 

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31. “The real cause I consider to be the one which was formerly most kept out of sight.” — Thucydides

32. “The strong do what they have to do, and the weak accept what they have to accept.” — Thucydides

33. “To you who call yourselves men of peace, I say: You are not safe unless you have men of action on your side.” — Thucydides

34. “So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand.” — Thucydides

35. “On the whole, however, the conclusions I have drawn from the proofs quoted may, I believe, safely be relied on.” Thucydides

36. “We must remember that one man is much the same as another and that he is best who is trained in the severest school.” Thucydides

37. “It is a common mistake in going to war to begin at the wrong end, to act first, and wait for disasters to discuss the matter.” — Thucydides

38. “Freedom, if we hold fast to it, will ultimately restore our losses, but submission will mean permanent loss of all that we value.” Thucydides

39. “The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.” — Thucydides

40. “But as the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an objective, the revenues of the states increasing, tyrannies were established almost everywhere.” — Thucydides

41. “For the love of gain would reconcile the weaker to the dominion of the stronger, and the possession of capital enabled the more powerful to reduce the smaller cities to subjection.” — Thucydides

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Famous Thucydides quotes about strength and growth

These Thucydides quotes address what it takes to evolve in the face of opposition. 

42. “Yet an examination of the facts will show that it was much greater than the wars which preceded it.” — Thucydides

43. “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired the Lacedaemon, made war inevitable.” — Thucydides

44. “Thus they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their life, with little opportunity for enjoying, being ever engaged in getting.” — Thucydides

44. “In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.” — Thucydides

45. “For the true author of the subjugation of a people is not so much the immediate agent, as the power which permits it having the means to prevent it.” — Thucydides

46. “Concessions to adversaries only end in self-reproach, and the more strictly they are avoided, the greater will be the chance of security.” — Thucydides

47. “The subjects they treat of being out of the reach of evidence, and time having robbed most of them of historical value by enthroning them in the region of legend.” — Thucydides

48. “To come to this war: despite the known disposition of the actors in a struggle to overrate its importance, and when it is over to return to their admiration of earlier events.” — Thucydides

49. “Assuredly they will not be disturbed either by the lays of a poet displaying the exaggeration of his craft or by the compositions of the chroniclers that are attractive at truth’s expense.” — Thucydides

50. “Abstinence from all injustice to other first-rate powers is a greater tower of strength than anything that can be gained by the sacrifice of permanent tranquillity for an apparent temporary advantage.” — Thucydides

Remembering Thucydides today 

History remembers the efforts of this Greek historian and general.

He lived over two thousand years ago, but his efforts prove the pen is mightier than the sword. 

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