"Nothing sweeter than one's native land" is already a commonplace. If nothing is sweeter, then is anything more holy or divine? Truly of all that men count holy and divine their native land is cause and teacher, in that she bears, nurtures and educates them. To be sure, many admire cities for their size, their splendour and the magnificence of their public works, but everyone loves his own country; and even among men completely overmastered by the lust of the eye, no one is so misguided as to be forgetful of it because of the greater of the number of wonders in other countries. Therefore a man who prides himself on being citizen of a prosperous state does not know, it seems to me, what sort of honour one should pay his native land, and such an one would clearly take it ill if his lot had fallen in a less pretentious place. For my part I prefer to honour the mere name of native land. In attempting to compare states, it is proper, of course, to investigate their size and beauty and the abundance of their supplies; but when it is a question of choosing between them, nobody would choose the more splendid and give up her own. He would pray that it too might be as prosperous as any, but would choose it, no matter what it was. Upright children and good fathers do just the same thing. A lad of birth and breeding would not honour anyone else above his father, and a father would not neglect his son and cherish some other lad. In fact, fathers, influenced by their affection, give their sons so much more than their due that they think them the best-looking, the tallest and the most accomplished in every way. One who does not judge his son in this spirit does not seem to me to have a father's eyes.
In the first place, then, the name of fatherland is closer to one's heart than all else, for there is nothing closer than a father. If one pays his father proper honour, as law and nature direct, then one should honour his fatherland still more, for his father himself belonged to it and his father's father and all their forebears, and the name of father goes back until it reaches the father-gods. Even the gods have countries that they rejoice in, and although they watch over all the abodes of man, deeming that every land and every sea is theirs, nevertheless each honours the place in which he was born above all other states. Cities are holier when they are homes of the gods, and islands are more divine if legends are toldof the birth of gods in them. Indeed, sacrifices are accounted pleasing to the gods when one goes to their native places to perform the ceremony. If, then, the name of native land is in honour with the gods, should it not be far more so with mankind? Each of us had his first sight of the sun from his native land, and so that god, universal though he be, is nevertheless accounted by everyone a home-god, because of the place from which he saw him first. Moreover, each of us began to speak there, learning first to talk his native dialect, and came to know the gods there. If a man's lot has been cast in such a land that he required another for his higher education, he should still be thankful for these early teachings, for he would not have known even the meaning of "state" if his country had not taught him that there was such a thing.
The reason, I take it, for which men amass education and learning is that they may thereby make them selves more useful to their native land, and they likewise acquire riches out of ambition to contribute to its common funds. With reason, I think: for men should not be ungrateful when they have received the greatest favours. On the contrary, if a man returns thanks to individuals, as is right, when he has been well treated by them, much more should he requite his country with its due. To wrong one's parents is against the law of different states; but counting our native land the common mother of us all, we should give her thank-offerings for our nurture and for our knowledge of the law itself.
No one was ever known to be so forgetful of his country as to care nothing for it when he was in another state. No, those who get on badly in foreign parts continually cry out that one's own country is the greatest of all blessings, while those who get on well, however successful they may be in all else, think that they lack one thing at least, a thing of the greatest importance, in that they do not live in their own country but sojourn in a strange land; for thus to sojourn is a reproach! And men who during their years abroad have become illustrious through acquirement of wealth, through renown from office-holding, through testimony to their culture, or through praise of their bravery, can be seen hurrying one and all to their native land, as if they thought they could not anywhere else find better people before whom to display the evidences of their success. The more a man is esteemed elsewhere, the more eager is he to regain his own country.
Even the young love their native land; but aged men, being wiser, love it more. In fact, every aged man yearns and prays to end his life in it, that there in the place where he began to live he may deposit his body in the earth which nurtured him and may share the graves of his fathers. He thinks it a calamity to be guilty of being an alien even after death, through lying buried in a strange land.
How much affection real, true citizens have for their native land can be learned only among a people sprung from the soil. Newcomers, being but bastard children, as it were, transfer their allegiance easily, since they neither know nor love the name of native land, but expect to be well provided with the necessities of life wherever they may be, measuring happiness by their appetites! On the other hand, those who have a real mother-country love the soil on which they were born and bred, even if they own but little of it, and that be rough and thin. Though they be hard put to it to praise the soil, they will not lack words to extol their country. Indeed, when they see others priding themselves on their open plains and prairies diversified with all manner of growing things, they themselves do not forget the merits of their own country, and pass over its fitness for breeding horses to praise its fitness for breeding men. One hastens to his native land though he be an islander, and though he could lead a life of ease elsewhere. If immortality be offered him he will ot accept it, preferring a grave in his native land, and the smoke thereof is brighter to his eyes than fire elsewhere.
To such an extent do all men seem to prize their own country that lawgivers everywhere, as one may note, have prescribed exile as the severest penalty for the greatest transgressions. And it cannot be said that in this view lawgivers differ from commanders. On the contrary, in battle no other exhortation of the marshalled men is so effective as "You are fighting for your native land!" No man who hears this is willing to be a coward, for the name of native land makes even the dastard brave.
"My Native Land"
Lucian of Samosata