Very off topic, looking for a quote

Discussion in 'H.I. Cantina' started by alexs, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. alexs


    Nov 26, 2009
    What's happening, forum?

    I recently saw, and managed to forget already, a quote that went very roughly something like this: "it is terrible for a country to have its fighting done by illiterates and its ruling done by cowards."

    The gist was that we should educate our soldiers and have them rule the country; at least that's how I interpreted it out of context.

    Does anyone know who said that, or at least how the saying goes? I am not really asking for a discussion on the topic or anything like that, unless you feel like it, of course. It is, after all, an interesting issue.

  2. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    You can't be off topic here.

    The idea of warriors as rulers is endorsed by the Hindu caste system, where rulers are drawn from the warrior caste.

    I'm not convinced that is a good idea.
  3. knochelbiter


    Aug 1, 2010
    Could the quote be Latin? The construction of that sentence and the use of the word terrible (terribilis?) makes me think of Latin.

    Might be a reference to the Emperor Trajan, the original "educated soldier". He did a pretty solid job, especially compared to the run of weak leaders that preceded him.
  4. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    "A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors
    will have its thinking being done by cowards
    and its fighting done by fools."
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  5. killa_concept


    May 19, 2009
    Beat me to it
  6. alexs


    Nov 26, 2009
    Thanks, that's exact the quote I was looking for. This time I will make a note of it.
  7. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    It's 30+ years since I read the History of the Peloponnesian War. There's some very good stuff in there, athough I didn't remember that quote. I do remember learning about the fickleness of mob rule, and the power of orators to sway them.

    The old guy still has a lot to teach us.
  8. captlid


    Feb 23, 2002
    The danger lies if the warriors are ignorant. The words military and intelligence shouldn't be in the same sentence let alone right next to each other. :D

    I always though its best for a country to be run by it's business people who ideally have a moral compass to go along with their business acumen. :)

  9. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    It may be that the real danger is in generalization. There have certainly been warriors who have become wise. And some became, or perhaps remained, bloodthirsty. The same might be said of merchants or any other grouping of people.

    Plato in The Republic suggested that the best rulers would be ones that were raised and educated for that purpose by the state. It is an interesting, if questionable, thesis. The Tibetians also followed a similar approach with the Dalai Lamas, who were generally recognized as young children and from that point specially educated to rule in both the spiritual and secular realms. Plato wanted his philosopher kings to own no property, while the Tibetans went with making the Dalai Lama a celibate monk. An underlying theme seems to be to remove the leader from the temptations of wealth and of the flesh that would lead to government corruption and abuse of the citizenry.

    The real dillemma was pointed out by the Chinese philosophers long ago, that being that the best qualified to rule have little or no desire to do so.
  10. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    The author of the quotation may be William Francis Butler (1838–1910); it is almost certainly not Thucydides.

    Google "William Francis Butler" and you will find that military and military-historical web sites attribute this to Butler, although none that I've seen give their source. Butler was an admirable soldier and scholar, and a prolific writer. It sounds like something he would have said or written. Besides the Wikipedia article (useful links) there is a good biographical page here:

    I don't know who started the Thucydides ball rolling, but Wikiquotes does not attribute this to Thucydides, and that is the only web site I found which gives chapter and paragraph numbers for its quotations from The Peoloponesian War.

    What would "scholar" have meant to Thucydides? Sophist? His frame of reference was completely different. He was an Athenian general, and Athens elected its generals from the Athenian upper class: they were all well educated, and they finished their education with sophists to learn speech, rhetoric, law, and what we call political science, to prepare themselves for public life and to represent themselves in court (no lawyers then).

    This is now off topic, but I would like to come back later and write something about Thucydides, the best historian I have read.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  11. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Hmm... and I thought Google was my friend.
    A search for "a nation that draws too broad" brings up a bunch of references to Thucydides. Thanks for the additional info.
  12. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    Google searches by volume of traffic, so it goes to the general quotation sites first, and most of them copy each other. Run a search on William Francis Butler and see what you get.

    Thucydides was an Athenian general. He didn't expect his soldiers to share his extensive education. He expected them to be in damn good physical condition and proficient in hoplite weapons and tactics, and he expected them to obey his orders. He thought Athenians were the best-informed and most enterprising people in the world. He didn't think that would win the Great War for them, and he was right.
  13. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    I'll be looking forward to your post. It was my impression that Thucydides had mixed feelings about the sophistication of the Athenians. It will be interesting to read your viewpoint.

    There are many lessons to be learned from that great historical work. Many long burried and forgotton in this age. Always of interest to hear them discussed.
  14. heinlein


    Aug 23, 2010
    Unfortunately egomaniacs and the corrupt have a great desire to do so.
  15. captlid


    Feb 23, 2002
    The ones best qualified only care about ruling themselves and want to be left alone.
    Lording it over others is hard work! :p

    What is surprising that historically dictators have always found willing soldiers to help them out. It's like we never learn. Maybe we don't live long enough to do so?
    Even though people were nice enough to write all this stuff down for us thousands years ago.

    My elders tell me its just primal fear playing out over and over again. :confused:

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