So bloody was the march of the revolution,
and the impression which it made was the greater as it was one of the first
Later on, one may say, the whole Hellenic world was convulsed; struggles being everywhere made by the popular chiefs to bring in the
Athenians, and by the oligarchs to introduce the Lacedaemonians.
In peace there would have been neither the pretext nor the wish to make
such an invitation; but in war, with an alliance always at the command of either faction for
the hurt of their adversaries and their own corresponding advantage,
opportunities for bringing in the foreigner were never wanting to the
The sufferings which revolution entailed upon the cities were many and
terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur, as long as the nature
of mankind remains the same; though in a severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms,
according to the variety of the particular cases.
In peace and prosperity states and individuals have better sentiments,
because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious
necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough
master, that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes.
Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it
arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before carried to a
still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in
the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals.
Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now
Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any.
Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence.
The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.
To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still
shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your
party and to be afraid of your adversaries.
In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a
crime where it was wanting, was equally commended,
until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior
readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from
established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any
religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.
The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the
stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence.
Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation.
Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an
immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take
his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an
open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won
him the palm of superior intelligence.
Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever
than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are
proud of being the first.
The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and
ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in
The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on
the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other
of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public
interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in
their struggles for ascendancy, engaged in the direct excesses; in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping
at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party
caprice of the moment their only standard, and invoking with equal readiness
the condemnation of an unjust verdict or the authority of the strong arm to
glut the animosities of the hour.
Thus religion was in honor with neither party; but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high
Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two,
either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them