Code of the Citizen Soldier

November 15, 2007

I would not say anything for a man nor take account of him For any speed of his feet or wrestling skill he might have, not if he had the size of a Cyclops and strength to go with it. Not if he could outrun Boreas, the North Wind of Thrace, not if he were more handsome and gracefully formed than Tithonos, or had more riches than Midas had, or Kinyras too, not if he were more a king than Tantalid Pelops, or had the power of speech and persuasion Adrastos had, not if he had all splendours except for a fighting spirit. For no man ever proves himself a good man in war Unless he can endure to face the blood and the slaughter, go close against the enemy and fight with his hands. Here is courage, mankind’s finest possession, here is the noblest prize that a young man can endeavour to win, and it is a good thing his polis and all the people share with him when a man plants his feet and stands in the foremost spears relentlessly, all thought of foul flight completely forgotten, and has trained his heart to be steadfast and to endure, and with his words encourages the man who is stationed beside him. Here is a man who proves himself to be valiant in war. With a sudden rush he turns to flight the rugged battalions of the enemy, and sustains the beating waves of assault.And he who so falls among the champions and loses his sweet life, so blesses with honour his polis, his father, and all his people,with wounds in his chest, where the spear that he was facing has transfixed that massive guard of his shield, and gone though his breastplate as well, Why such a man is lamented alike by the young and the elders, and all his polis goes into mourning and grieves for his loss, His tomb is pointed out with pride, and so are his children,and his children’s children, and afterwards all the race that is his. His shining glory is never forgotten, his name is remembered,and he becomes immortal, though he lies under the ground, when one who was a brave man has been killed by the furious War Godstanding his ground and fighting hard for his children and land. But if he escapes the doom of death, the destroyer of bodies, and wins his battle, and bright renown for the work of his spear,all men give place to him, the youth and the elders, and much joy comes his way before he goes down to the dead. Aging he has reputation among his citizens. No one tries to interfere with his honours or all he deserves; All men withdraw before his presence, and yield their seats to him, the youth, and the men of age, and even those older than he. Thus a man should endeavour to reach this high place of courage with all his heart, and, so trying, never be backward in war.

Tyrtaeus – 6th Century Spartan soldier and poet