Ever since wars have existed, great military leaders have known how to use the power of the pulpit to motivate their troops. The right words spoken in the right way at the right time helped turn the tide when morale was low, casualties were high and ammunition was scarce.
Here are 16 excerpts from the best orations delivered to key audiences at pivotal moments in history:
1. Pericles calling for war against the Spartans, 432 BC.
"When our fathers faced the Persians, they did not have the resources we have today; in fact, they even gave up what they had, and so it was by wisdom rather than luck, through audacity rather than material might, they repelled foreign invasion and made our city what it is today.
We must live up to what they have done: we must resist our enemies in every way possible, and try to leave Athens as great as ever for those who come after us."
2. HANNIBAL addressing his soldiers after crossing the Alps, 218 BC.
"Right and left two seas enclose you, without you possessing a single ship to escape. His soldiers, where you first met the enemy, you must conquer or die; and the same fortune who has imposed on you the necessity of fighting reserves for you, if you are victorious, rewards which men are not accustomed to desire greater, even from the immortal gods".
3. ST. BERNARD rallying the troops before the second crusade, 1146
"Christian warriors, He who gave his life for you today demands yours in return. These are battles worthy of you, battles in which it is glorious to win and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the Cross , remember the example of your fathers who conquered Jerusalem and whose names are written in heaven."
4. QUEEN ELIZABETH I supporting her military against the Spanish Armada, July 1588
"I am among you at this time, not for entertainment or amusement, but because I am resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die among you all; to sacrifice, for my God, for my kingdom and for my people, my honor and my blood."
5. GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON calming down his increasingly rebellious and doubtful army, March 15, 1783
By the dignity of your conduct you will give posterity the opportunity to say, speaking of the glorious example which you have given to mankind: "If this day had not existed, the world would never have seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining".
6. GENERAL NAPOLEON BONAPARTE assembling his forces before the Battle of Marengo in Italy, June 14, 1800.
"Will you allow our daring enemies to violate the territory of the Republic with impunity? Will you allow the army to escape which has brought terror to your families? his forehead the laurels he has won.
Teach the world that the curse falls on those who violate the territory of the Great People. The result of our efforts will be unclouded glory, and lasting peace."
7. PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN addressing the 166th Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864
"For the service you have rendered in this great struggle in which we are engaged, I present to you sincere thanks on my part and on that of the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I address soldiers, to make them understand, in a few brief remarks, the importance of success in this struggle.
It is not only for today, but for all time to come, that we must perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, from which we have enjoyed all our lives. Please remember this, not only for me, but also for you... . . The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such a priceless gem."
8. PRIME MINISTER WINSTON CHURCHILL in front of the House of Commons as the French retreat from Hitler, 13 May 1940
"We have before us a most painful ordeal. We have before us many long months of struggle and suffering. You ask: what is our policy?
I can say it: It is to make war, by sea, by land and by air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalog of human crime. This is our policy."
9. The FIRST JOSEPH STALIN calling on the Russian people to defend their soil against the advancing German army, July 3, 1941
"It is a question of life and death for the Soviet state, for the peoples of the USSR. It is a question of whether the peoples of the Soviet Union will remain free or fall into slavery. ... There must be no place in our ranks for whiners and cowards, for panic mongers and deserters. Our people must know no fear in battle and must selflessly join in our patriotic war. of liberation, our war against the fascist enslavers."
10. GENERAL SIR BERNARD MONTGOMERY addressing his demoralized troops before defeating Rommel's Afrika Corps, 13 August 1942
"Here we will stand and fight; there will be no further withdrawal. I have ordered that all plans and instructions for a further withdrawal be burned immediately. We will stand here and fight. .If we can't stay here alive, then let's stay here dead."
11. GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON urging the Third Army, Spring 1944
I do not want to receive messages saying: "I maintain my position". We hold nothing at all. Let the Germans do it. We are constantly advancing and we don't feel like clinging to anything except the balls of the enemy. We're gonna twist his balls and kick his ass all the time. Our basic plan of operation is to move forward and keep moving forward, whether we have to go over, under or through the enemy."
12. GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER ordering the invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944
16 of the best excerpts from the greatest military speeches ever given
"You are about to embark on the Great Crusade, towards which we have struggled for many months. The eyes of the whole world are upon you.
The hopes and prayers of freedom-loving people everywhere walk with you. Together with our brave allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will achieve the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world."
13. MENACHEM BEGIN speaks to the people of Israel on the radio, preparing them for an Arab attack, May 14, 1948
"We will go into battle in our own way...And we will be accompanied by the spirit of millions of our martyrs, our ancestors tortured and burned for their faith, our fathers murdered and our mothers slaughtered, our brothers murdered and of our strangled children.
And in this battle we will smash the enemy and bring salvation to our people, tried in the furnace of persecution, thirsting only for freedom, righteousness and justice."
14. GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR speaking at West Point, May 12, 1962
"Let the civil voices debate the merits or demerits of our processes of government; if our strength is undermined by deficit financing, which has been indulged in for too long, by federal paternalism that has become too powerful, has become too rampant, by morals become too low, by taxes become too high, by extremists become too violent . . .
These great national problems are not within the purview of your professional involvement or your military solution. Your guide stands like a tenfold beacon in the night: Duty, honor, country."
15. President JOHN F. KENNEDY prepares the nation for the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 22, 1962.
"The path we have chosen for the present is fraught with danger, as all paths are; but it is the one that is most in keeping with our character and our courage as a nation and with our commitments in the world. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.
And there is one path we will never choose, and that is surrender or submission. Our objective is not the victory of force, but the vindication of right; not peace at the expense of freedom, but peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, this goal will be achieved."
16. President RONALD REAGAN hastens the fall of communism during a speech at the Berlin Wall, June 12, 1987.
"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would dramatically advance the cause of freedom and peace. Secretary General Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Union Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation: Come here to this door! Mr. Gorbachev, open this door! Mr. Gorbachev, destroy this wall!"