That Thucydides Knew What He Was Talking About

dewitI was part of the examination committee for this PhD thesis today: Writing under wartime conditions : North and South Korean writers during the Korean war (1950-1953), by Jerôme de Wit (now Dr de Wit!). The thesis is an exhaustive analysis of wartime literature, both from North and South Korea, and has unearthed a number of works previously thought lost. The thesis is open access and on-line: read it here. I recommend you do so!

One of the chapters starts with a quote from The Peloponnesian War by the archfather of European historians Thucydides. It is a great quote and worth quoting in the present-day climate. Jerôme, excuse me, Dr de Wit put it in, I imagine, to illustrate how difficult life is under wartime conditions. The suitability of the quote for today should give pause to think:

“Any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfit for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect.”

(Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner (New York: Penguin Books, 1954), p. 147).

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