The Volokh Conspiracy

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"So died these men as became Athenians"


The cover of the first post-massacre issue of Charlie Hebdo is out and, of course, Mohammed is depicted (see this Washington Post article). And this brings to mind an excerpt from Thucydides' account of Pericles' funeral oration—though written about literal warriors, I think it also works well for the other defenders of what ancient Athens stands for today:

Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face ….

So died these men as became Athenians. You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue ….

[Y]ou must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this ….

[H]eroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart.

These take as your model [and judge] happiness to be the fruit of freedom and freedom of courage ….