it is good to make a bridge of gold to a flying enemy

The rationale is ‘an enemy closely pursued may become desperate... By all means, then, let the vanquished have a free course’ (T. Fielding Proverbs of all Nations (1824) 14). The idea is attributed to Aristides (480 BC), who warned Themistocles not to destroy the bridge of boats which Xerxes had built across the Hellespont in order to invade Greece (PLUTARCH Themistocles xvi); cf. also 2005. Cf. ERASMUS Apophthegms viii. Hostibus fugientibus pontem argenteum exstruendum esse, for a fleeing enemy one should construct a bridge of silver.

1576 W. LAMBARDE Perambulation of Kent 323 It was well sayde of one..If thine enemie will flye, make him a bridge of Golde.

1642 T. FULLER Holy State IV. xvii. He [the good general] makes his flying enemy a bridge of gold, and disarms them of their best weapon, which is necessity to fight whether they will or no.

1889 R. L. STEVENSON Master of Ballantrae iv. You may have heard a military proverb: that it is a good thing to make a bridge of gold to a flying enemy. I trust you will take my meaning.

2005 Mideast Mirror 22 July (online) Bar-Lev, a former commander of the IDF’s elite Duvdevan unit who lost a leg when he stepped on a mine.., preferred to cite Mao Tse Tung, who spoke about laying down a bridge of gold for the enemy’s retreat.


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