Just finished reading "Gates of Fire". Incredible book. I'm not usually one for this genre but I had heard so many others speak highly of it and I have enjoyed Mr. Pressfield's other works so I sought it out at the library. If you have the chance, please do read it.
There were a few passages that hit me and I wanted to share them...
Can you envision a world without war?
Can you imagine clemency from an enemy?
Describe the condition of Lakedaemon without her army, without her warriors, to defend her.
Which is better, victory or defeat?
To rule or be ruled?
To make widow of the enemy's wife or to have one's own wife widowed?
What is the supreme virtue of a man? Why? Whom of all in the city do you admire most? Why?
Define the word "mercy". Define "compassion". Are these the virtues of war or of peace? Or men or of women? Are they virtues at all?
"Mankind as it is constituted," Polynikes said, "is as a boil and a canker. Observe the specimens in any nation other than Lakedaemon. Man is weak, greedy, craven, lustful, prey to every species of vice and depravity. He will lie, steal, cheat, murder, melt down the very statues of the gods and coin their gold as money for whores. This is man. This is his nature, as all the poets attest.
Fortunately God in his mercy has provided a counterpoise to our specoes' innate depravity. That gift, my young friend is war.
War, not peace, produces virtue. War, not peace, purges vice. War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love, eradicating in the crucible of necessity all which is base and ignoble. There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods. Do not despise war, my young friend, nor delude yourself that mercy and compassion are virtuessuperior to andreia, to manly valor.
Man's courage, to give his life for his country, is great but unextraordinary. Is it not intrinsic to the nature of the male, beasts as well as men, to fight and to contend? It's what we were born to do, it's in our blood. Watch any boy. Before he can even speak, he reaches, impelled by instinct, for the staff and the sword - while his sisters unprompted shun these implements of contention and instead cuddle to their bosom the kitten and the doll.
What is more natural to a man than to fight, or a woman to love? Is this not the imperative of a mother's blood, to give and to nuture, above all the produce of her own womb, the children she has borne in pain? We know that a lioness or she-wolf will cast away her life without hesitation to preserve her cubs or pups. Women the same. Now consider, friends, that which we call women's courage:
What could be more contrary to female nature, to motherhood, than to stand unmoved and unmoving as her sons march off to death? Must not every sinew of the mother's flesh call out in agony and affront at such an outrage? Must not her heart seek to cry in its passion, 'No! Not my son! Spare him!' That women, from some source unknown to us, summon the will to conquer this their own deepest nature is, I believe, the reason we stand in awy of our mothers and sisters, and wives. This, I believe, Dienekes, is the essence of women's courage and why it, as you suggested, is superior to men's.
Like I said, a good book.