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c. 335 BC / Athens

Pledge of Allegiance

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We will never bring disgrace to this, our city, by any act of dishonesty or cowardice, nor ever desert our suffering comrades in the ranks. We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many; we will revere and obey the city’s law and do our best to incite a like respect and reverence in those above us who are prone to annul and set them at naught. We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty, that thus, in all these ways, we will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.

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The City
About the Text

From the Athenian ephebic oath. The term “ephebes” designated males who had reached the age of puberty. In ancient Athens boys from ages eighteen to twenty were required to undergo two years of military training, receiving a state-sponsored sword and shield after the first year, at which time it is presumed they pledged their oath.

Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.
John Berger, 1987
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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