You only love talking of death and the dead and I have wearied of all that.Naguib Mahfuz
The endless Peloponnesian War led to such an erosion of moral values, remarked Greek historian Thucydides, that the “revolutionary passions” it unleashed broke the time-honored boundaries of civility, decency, and respect for human life:
Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places were it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater extent the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning. […] In the confusion into which life was now thrown in the cities, human nature, always rebelling against the law and now its master, gladly showed itself ungoverned in passion, above respect for justice … doing away with those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity.
By exalting the most evil passions, the never-ending war dissolved society into anomie. But what happens if such an inversion of values, instead of a temporary aberration, becomes permanent, if it becomes an influential doctrine, if it reshapes the minds of many? In the modern world, the fateful phrase uttered by Friedrich Nietzsche, “God is dead,” turned anomie into nihilism, it turned social cataclysm into doctrine.