Early Greek Philosophy & Other Essays Collected Works, Volume Two

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 31

who as jealousy,
spite, envy, incites men to activity but not to the action of war to
the knife but to the action of _contest._ The Greek is _envious_ and
conceives of this quality not as a blemish, but as the effect of a
_beneficent_ deity. What a gulf of ethical judgment between us and him?
Because he is envious he also feels, with every superfluity of honour,
riches, splendour and fortune, the envious eye of a god resting on
himself, and he fears this envy; in this case the latter reminds him
of the transitoriness of every human lot; he dreads his very happiness
and, sacrificing the best of it, he bows before the divine envy.
This conception does not perhaps estrange him from his gods; their
significance on the contrary is expressed by the thought that with them
man in whose soul jealousy is enkindled against every other living
being, is _never_ allowed to venture into contest. In the fight of
Thamyris with the Muses, of Marsyas with Apollo, in the heart-moving
fate of Niobe appears the horrible opposition of the two powers, who
must never fight with one another, man and god.

The greater and more sublime however a Greek is, the brighter in him
appears the ambitious flame, devouring everybody who runs with him on
the same track. Aristotle once made a list of such contests on a large
scale; among them is the most striking instance how even a dead person
can still incite a living one to consuming jealousy; thus for example
Aristotle designates the relation between the Kolophonian Xenophanes
and Homer. We do not understand this attack on the national hero of
poetry in all its strength, if we do not imagine, as later on also with
Plato, the root of this attack to be the ardent desire to step into
the place of the overthrown poet and to inherit his fame. Every great
Hellene hands on the torch of the contest; at every great virtue a new
light is kindled. If the young Themistocles could not sleep at the
thought of the laurels of Miltiades so his early awakened bent released
itself only in the long emulation with Aristides in that uniquely
noteworthy, purely instinctive genius of his political activity, which
Thucydides describes. How characteristic are both question and answer,
when a notable opponent of Pericles is asked, whether he or Pericles
was the better wrestler in the city, and he gives the answer: "Even if
I throw him down he denies that he has fallen, attains his purpose and
convinces those who saw him fall."

If one wants

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