Thucydides’ History Book 2: The Funeral Oration

Chapter 37

For we observe a form of government that does not vie with the customs of any nearby, being more a paradigm for some than imitating others. And by name, because the governing is not for the few but rather for the many, it is called democracy1 ; but equality has a share in the whole, both according to laws for disputed individual interests, but also according to merit, so that each man in the way he is distinguished, not from his lotteried service but rather from virtue is given greater preference for public office, and further, not according to his poverty, while having any good to do the city, has he been hindered by obscurity from worthy honour. And we freely take part in governance of affairs both for the common weal but also for the suspicion toward each other of pursuits against our own interest, nor hold against our neighbour, should he act according to his pleasure, any anger, nor do we—while it is harmless, it is nevertheless a burden—show our vexation on our faces. But although we conduct private business without offense, concerning public business we especially do not transgress the law through fear, in obedience, both of those ever who are in power and also of the laws, especially those whichsoever are laid down for assistance of the wronged and whichsoever, although they are unwritten, carry undisputed shame.

Chapter 38

And furthermore we procured the greatest respite for the mind from our toils, customarily holding contests and sacrifices throughout the year, and suitable private establishments, the day by day enjoyment of which drives out sorrow. And coming in alongside these, due to the greatness of the city, are all things from all lands, and it so happens that the good things that occur here bear us fruit with no enjoyment in the more domestic than those from other men, too.

1. Democracy, in Greek, δημοκρατία (demokratia) is derived from δῆμος, “the people”, and κρατέω, “to be strong; have control”.

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