Quotations by Polybius


In military operations what is done openly and by force is much less than what is done by stratagem and the use of opportunity.

Polybius (203?-120 BC) Greek historian
Histories, 9.12 [tr. Paton (1925)]
Added on 2-Oct-14 | Last updated 2-Oct-14
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It is not the object of war to annihilate those who have given provocation for it, but to cause them to mend their ways; not to ruin the innocent and guilty alike, but to save both.

Polybius (203?-120 BC) Greek historian
Histories, Bk. V, 11.3


On Philip V of Macedon, conquering the Aetolians.

Alt trans:

  • "But to destroy what neither can do him any prejudice, nor will contribute to the defeat of the enemy; to burn temples, to break statues, and similar ornaments of a city, in pieces; certainly nothing but the wildest and most extravagant fury can be capable of such violence. It is not merely to ruin and destroy those who have done us injury, that we ought to declare war, in case we desire to be thought just and equitable; but only to oblige such people to acknowledge and make amends for their faults. The true end of war is not to involve in the same ruin the innocent and guilty, but rather to save both."
  • "When men proceed to wreak their fury on sense less objects, whose destruction will neither be of advantage to themselves nor in. the slightest degree disable their opponent from carrying on the war, especially if they burn the temples of the gods, destroy their statues, and waste their ornamental furniture, what else can. we say of such proceedings except that they are the acts of men devoid of all feelings of propriety, and infected by frenzy? For it is in no way the object of war, at least among men who have just notions of their duty, to annihilate and utterly subvert those from whom they may have received provocation, but to induce them to amend that in which they acted amiss; not to involve the innocent and guilty in one common ruin, but rather to save them both."
  • (Loeb Classical Library): "But to do wanton damage to temples, statues and all such works with absolutely no prospect of any resulting advantage in the war to our own cause or detriment to that of the enemy must be characterized as the work of a frenzied mind at the height of its fury. For good men should not make war on wrong-doers with the object of destroying and exterminating them, but with that of correcting and reforming their errors, nor should they involve the guiltless in the fate of the guilty, but rather extend to those whom they think guilty the mercy and deliverance they offer to the innocent."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Nov-10
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