XENOPHON – THE MEMORABLE THOUGHTS OF SOCRATES
Xenophon. The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates. Translated by Edward Bysshe. CASSELL & COMPANY, Limited: LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK & MELBOURNE. 1888. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg, 2006. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17490/17490-h/17490-h.htm
CHAPTER I. SOCRATES NOT A CONTEMNER OF THE GODS OF HIS COUNTRY, NOR AN INTRODUCER OF NEW ONES.
I have often wondered by what show of argument the accusers of Socrates could persuade the Athenians he had forfeited his life to the State. For though the crimes laid unto his charge were indeed great—“That he did not acknowledge the gods of the Republic; that he introduced new ones”—and, farther, “had debauched the youth;” yet none of these could, in the least, be proved against him.
For, as to the first, “That he did not worship the deities which the Republic adored,” how could this be made out against him, since, instead of paying no homage to the gods of his country, he was frequently seen to assist in sacrificing to them, both in his own family and in the public temples?—perpetually worshipping them in the most public, solemn, and religious manner.
What, in my opinion, gave his accusers a specious pretext for alleging against him that he introduced new deities was this—that he had frequently declared in public he had received counsel from a divine voice, which he called his Demon. But this was no proof at all of the matter. All that Socrates advanced about his demon was no more than what is daily advanced by those who believe in and practise divination; and if Socrates, because he said he received intelligence from his genius, must be accused of introducing new divinities, so also must they; for is it not certain that those who believe in divination, and practise that belief, do observe the flight of birds, consult the entrails of victims, and remark even unexpected words and accidental occurrences? But they do not, therefore, believe that either the birds whose flight they observe or the persons they meet accidentally know either their good or ill fortune—neither did Socrates—they only believe that the gods make use of these things to presage the future; and such, too, was the belief of Socrates. The vulgar, indeed, imagine it to be the very birds and things which present themselves to them that excite them to what is good for them, or make them avoid what may hurt them; but, as for Socrates, he freely owned that a demon was his monitor; and he frequently told his friends beforehand what they should do, or not do, according to the instructions he had received from his demon; and they who believed him, and followed his advice, always found advantage by it; as, on the contrary, they who neglected his admonitions, never failed to repent their incredulity. Now, it cannot be denied but that he ought to have taken care not to pass with his friends either for a liar or a visionary; and yet how could he avoid incurring that censure if the events had not justified the truth of the things he pretended were revealed to him? It is, therefore, manifest that he would not have spoken of things to come if he had not believed he said true; but how could he believe he said true, unless he believed that the gods, who alone ought to be trusted for the knowledge of things to come, gave him notice of them? and, if he believed they did so, how can it be said that he acknowledged no gods?
He likewise advised his friends to do, in the best manner they could, the things that of necessity they were to do; but, as to those whose events were doubtful, he sent them to the oracles to know whether they should engage in them or not. And he thought that they who design to govern with success their families or whole cities had great need of receiving instructions by the help of divinations; for though he indeed held that every man may make choice of the condition of life in which he desires to live, and that, by his industry, he may render himself excellent in it, whether he apply himself to architecture or to agriculture, whether he throw himself into politics or economy, whether he engage himself in the public revenues or in the army, yet that in all these things the gods have reserved to themselves the most important events, into which men of themselves can in no wise penetrate. Thus he who makes a fine plantation of trees, knows not who shall gather the fruit; he who builds a house cannot tell who shall inhabit it; a general is not certain that he shall be successful in his command, nor a Minister of State in his ministry; he who marries a beautiful woman in hopes of being happy with her knows not but that even she herself may be the cause of all his uneasinesses; and he who enters into a grand alliance is uncertain whether they with whom he allies himself will not at length be the cause of his ruin. This made him frequently say that it is a great folly to imagine there is not a Divine Providence that presides over these things, and that they can in the least depend on human prudence. He likewise held it to be a weakness to importune the gods with questions which we may resolve ourselves; as if we should ask them whether it be better to take a coachman who knows how to drive than one who knows nothing of the matter? whether it be more eligible to take an experienced pilot than one that is ignorant? In a word, he counted it a kind of impiety to consult the oracles concerning what might be numbered or weighed, because we ought to learn the things which the gods have been pleased to capacitate us to know; but that we ought to have recourse to the oracles to be instructed in those that surpass our knowledge, because the gods are wont to discover them to such men as have rendered them propitious to themselves.
Socrates stayed seldom at home. In the morning he went to the places appointed for walking and public exercises. He never failed to be at the hall, or courts of justice, at the usual hour of assembling there, and the rest of the day he was at the places where the greatest companies generally met. There it was that he discoursed for the most part, and whoever would hear him easily might; and yet no man ever observed the least impiety either in his actions or his words. Nor did he amuse himself to reason of the secrets of nature, or to search into the manner of the creation of what the sophists call the world, nor to dive into the cause of the motions of the celestial bodies. On the contrary, he exposed the folly of such as give themselves up to these contemplations; and he asked whether it was, after having acquired a perfect knowledge of human things, that they undertook to search into the divine, or if they thought themselves very wise in neglecting what concerned them to employ themselves in things above them? He was astonished likewise that they did not see it was impossible for men to comprehend anything of all those wonders, seeing they who have the reputation of being most knowing in them are of quite different opinions, and can agree no better than so many fools and madmen; for as some of these are not afraid of the most dangerous and frightful accidents, while others are in dread of what is not to be feared, so, too, among those philosophers, some are of opinion that there is no action but what may be done in public, nor word that may not freely be spoken before the whole world, while others, on the contrary, believe that we ought to avoid the conversation of men and keep in a perpetual solitude. Some have despised the temples and the altars, and have taught not to honour the gods, while others have been so superstitious as to worship wood, stones, and irrational creatures. And as to the knowledge of natural things, some have confessed but one only being; others have admitted an infinite number: some have believed that all things are in a perpetual motion; others that nothing moves: some have held the world to be full of continual generations and corruptions; others maintain that nothing is engendered or destroyed. He said besides that he should be glad to know of those persons whether they were in hopes one day to put in practice what they learned, as men who know an art may practise it when they please either for their own advantage or for the service of their friends; or whether they did imagine that, after they found out the causes of all things that happen, they should be able to cause winds and rains, and to dispose the times and seasons as they had occasion for them; or whether they contented themselves with the bare knowledge without expecting any farther advantage.
This was what he said of those who delight in such studies. As for his part, he meditated chiefly on what is useful and proper for man, and took delight to argue of piety and impiety, of honesty and dishonesty, of justice and injustice, of wisdom and folly, of courage and cowardice, of the State, and of the qualifications of a Minister of State, of the Government, and of those who are fit to govern; in short, he enlarged on the like subjects, which it becomes men of condition to know, and of which none but slaves should be ignorant.
It is not strange, perhaps, that the judges of Socrates mistook his opinion in things concerning which he did not explain himself; but I am surprised that they did not reflect on what he had said and done in the face of the whole world; for when he was one of the Senate, and had taken the usual oath exactly to observe the laws, being in his turn vested with the dignity of Epistate, he bravely withstood the populace, who, against all manner of reason, demanded that the nine captains, two of whom were Erasinides and Thrasilus, should be put to death, he would never give consent to this injustice, and was not daunted at the rage of the people, nor at the menaces of the men in power, choosing rather not to violate the oath he had taken than to yield to the violence of the multitude, and shelter himself from the vengeance of those who threatened him. To this purpose he said that the gods watch over men more attentively than the vulgar imagine; for they believe there are some things which the gods observe and others which they pass by unregarded; but he held that the gods observe all our actions and all our words, that they penetrate even into our most secret thoughts, that they are present at all our deliberations, and that they inspire us in all our affairs.
It is astonishing, therefore, to consider how the Athenians could suffer themselves to be persuaded that Socrates entertained any unworthy thoughts of the Deity; he who never let slip one single word against the respect due to the gods, nor was ever guilty of any action that savoured in the least of impiety; but who, on the contrary, has done and said things that could not proceed but from a mind truly pious, and that are sufficient to gain a man an eternal reputation of piety and virtue.
CHAPTER II. SOCRATES NOT A DEBAUCHER OF YOUTH.
What surprises me yet more is, that some would believe that Socrates was a debaucher of young men! Socrates the most sober and most chaste of all men, who cheerfully supported both cold and heat; whom no inconvenience, no hardships, no labours could startle, and who had learned to wish for so little, that though he had scarce anything, he had always enough. Then how could he teach impiety, injustice, gluttony, impurity, and luxury? And so far was he from doing so, that he reclaimed many persons from those vices, inspiring them with the love of virtue, and putting them in hopes of coming to preferment in the world, provided they would take a little care of themselves. Yet he never promised any man to teach him to be virtuous; but as he made a public profession of virtue, he created in the minds of those who frequented him the hopes of becoming virtuous by his example.
He neglected not his own body, and praised not those that neglected theirs. In like manner, he blamed the custom of some who eat too much, and afterwards use violent exercises; but he approved of eating till nature be satisfied, and of a moderate exercise after it, believing that method to be an advantage to health, and proper to unbend and divert the mind. In his clothes he was neither nice nor costly; and what I say of his clothes ought likewise to be understood of his whole way of living. Never any of his friends became covetous in his conversation, and he reclaimed them from that sordid disposition, as well as from all others; for he would accept of no gratuity from any who desired to confer with him, and said that was the way to discover a noble and generous heart, and that they who take rewards betray a meanness of soul, and sell their own persons, because they impose on themselves a necessity of instructing those from whom they receive a salary. He wondered, likewise, why a man, who promises to teach virtue, should ask money; as if he believed not the greatest of all gain to consist in the acquisition of a good friend, or, as if he feared, that he who, by his means, should become virtuous, and be obliged to him for so great a benefit, would not be sufficiently grateful for it. Quite different from Socrates, who never boasted of any such thing, and who was most certain that all who heard him and received his maxims would love him for ever, and be capable of loving others also. After this, whosoever says that such a man debauched the youth, must at the same time say that the study of virtue is debauchery.
But the accuser says that Socrates taught to despise the constitution that was established in the Republic, because he affirmed it to be a folly to elect magistrates by lots; since if anyone had occasion for a pilot, a musician, or an architect, he would not trust to chance for any such person, though the faults that can be committed by men in such capacities are far from being of so great importance as those that are committed in the government of the Republic. He says, therefore, that such arguments insensibly accustom the youth to despise the laws, and render them more audacious and more violent. But, in my opinion, such as study the art of prudence, and who believe they shall be able to render themselves capable of giving good advice and counsel to their fellow-citizens, seldom become men of violent tempers; because they know that violence is hateful and full of danger; while, on the contrary, to win by persuasion is full of love and safety. For they, whom we have compelled, brood a secret hatred against us, believing we have done them wrong; but those whom we have taken the trouble to persuade continue our friends, believing we have done them a kindness. It is not, therefore, they who apply themselves to the study of prudence that become violent, but those brutish intractable tempers who have much power in their hands and but little judgment to manage it.—He farther said that when a man desires to carry anything by force, he must have many friends to assist him: as, on the contrary, he that can persuade has need of none but himself, and is not subject to shed blood; for who would rather choose to kill a man than to make use of his services, after having gained his friendship and goodwill by mildness?
The accuser adds, in proof of the ill tendency of the doctrine of Socrates, that Critias and Alcibiades, who were two of his most intimate friends, were very bad men, and did much mischief to their country. For Critias was the most insatiable and cruel of all the thirty tyrants; and Alcibiades the most dissolute, the most insolent, and the most audacious citizen that ever the Republic had. As for me, I pretend not to justify them, and will only relate for what reason they frequented Socrates. They were men of an unbounded ambition, and who resolved, whatever it cost, to govern the State, and make themselves be talked of. They had heard that Socrates lived very content upon little or nothing, that he entirely commanded his passions, and that his reasonings were so persuasive that he drew all men to which side he pleased. Reflecting on this, and being of the temper we mentioned, can it be thought that they desired the acquaintance of Socrates, because they were in love with his way of life, and with his temperance, or because they believed that by conversing with him they should render themselves capable of reasoning aright, and of well-managing the public affairs? For my part, I believe that if the gods had proposed to them to live always like him, or to die immediately, they would rather have chosen a sudden death. And it is easy to judge this from their actions; for as soon as they thought themselves more capable than their companions, they forsook Socrates, whom they had frequented, only for the purpose I mentioned, and threw themselves wholly into business.
It may, perhaps, be objected that he ought not to have discoursed to his friends of things relating to the government of the State, till after he had taught them to live virtuously. I have nothing to say to this; but I observe that all who profess teaching do generally two things: they work in presence of their scholars, to show them how they ought to do, and they instruct them likewise by word of mouth. Now, in either of these two ways, no man ever taught to live well, like Socrates; for, in his whole life, he was an example of untainted probity; and in his discourses he spoke of virtue and of all the duties of man in a manner that made him admired of all his hearers. And I know too very well that Critias and Alcibiades lived very virtuously as long as they frequented him; not that they were afraid of him, but because they thought it most conducive to their designs to live so at that time.
Many who pretend to philosophy will here object, that a virtuous person is always virtuous, and that when a man has once come to be good and temperate, he will never afterwards become wicked nor dissolute; because habitudes that can be acquired, when once they are so, can never more be effaced from the mind. But I am not of this opinion; for as they who use no bodily exercises are awkward and unwieldy in the actions of the body, so they who exercise not their minds are incapable of the noble actions of the mind, and have not courage enough to undertake anything worthy of praise, nor command enough over themselves to abstain from things that are forbid. For this reason, parents, though they be well enough assured of the good natural disposition of their children, fail not to forbid them the conversation of the vicious, because it is the ruin of worthy dispositions, whereas the conversation of good men is a continual meditation of virtue. Thus a poet says,
“By those whom we frequent, we’re ever led:
Example is a law by all obeyed.
Thus with the good, we are to good inclined,
But vicious company corrupts the mind.”
And another in like manner:
“Virtue and vice in the same man are found,
And now they gain, and now they lose their ground.”
And, in my opinion, they are in the right: for when I consider that they who have learned verses by heart forget them unless they repeat them often, so I believe that they who neglect the reasonings of philosophers, insensibly lose the remembrance of them; and when they have let these excellent notions slip out of their minds, they at the same time lose the idea of the things that supported in the soul the love of temperance; and, having forgot those things, what wonder is it if at length they forget temperance likewise?
I observe, besides, that men who abandon themselves to the debauches of wine or women find it more difficult to apply themselves to things that are profitable, and to abstain from what is hurtful. For many who live frugally before they fall in love become prodigal when that passion gets the mastery over them; insomuch that after having wasted their estates, they are reduced to gain their bread by methods they would have been ashamed of before. What hinders then, but that a man, who has been once temperate, should be so no longer, and that he who has led a good life at one time should not do so at another? I should think, therefore, that the being of all virtues, and chiefly of temperance, depends on the practice of them: for lust, that dwells in the same body with the soul, incites it continually to despise this virtue, and to find out the shortest way to gratify the senses only.
Thus, whilst Alcibiades and Critias conversed with Socrates, they were able, with so great an assistance, to tame their inclinations; but after they had left him, Critias, being retired into Thessaly, ruined himself entirely in the company of some libertines; and Alcibiades, seeing himself courted by several women of quality, because of his beauty, and suffering himself to be corrupted by soothing flatterers, who made their court to him, in consideration of the credit he had in the city and with the allies; in a word, finding himself respected by all the Athenians, and that no man disputed the first rank with him, began to neglect himself, and acted like a great wrestler, who takes not the trouble to exercise himself, when he no longer finds an adversary who dares to contend with him.
If we would examine, therefore, all that has happened to them; if we consider how much the greatness of their birth, their interest, and their riches, had puffed up their minds; if we reflect on the ill company they fell into, and the many opportunities they had of debauching themselves, can we be surprised that, after they had been so long absent from Socrates, they arrived at length to that height of insolence to which they have been seen to arise? If they have been guilty of crimes, the accuser will load Socrates with them, and not allow him to be worthy of praise, for having kept them within the bounds of their duty during their youth, when, in all appearance, they would have been the most disorderly and least governable. This, however, is not the way we judge of other things; for whoever pretended that a musician, a player on the lute, or any other person that teaches, after he has made a good scholar, ought to be blamed for his growing more ignorant under the care of another master? If a young man gets an acquaintance that brings him into debauchery, ought his father to lay the blame on the first friends of his son among whom he always lived virtuously? Is it not true, on the contrary, that the more he finds that this last friendship proves destructive to him, the more reason he will have to praise his former acquaintance. And are the fathers themselves, who are daily with their children, guilty of their faults, if they give them no ill example? Thus they ought to have judged of Socrates; if he led an ill life, it was reasonable to esteem him vicious; but if a good, was it just to accuse him of crimes of which he was innocent?
And yet he might have given his adversaries ground to accuse him, had he but approved, or seemed to approve those vices in others, from which he kept himself free: but Socrates abhorred vice, not only in himself, but in everyone besides. To prove which, I need only relate his conduct toward Critias, a man extremely addicted to debauchery. Socrates perceiving that this man had an unnatural passion for Euthydemus, and that the violence of it would precipitate him so far a length as to make him transgress the bounds of nature, shocked at his behaviour, he exerted his utmost strength of reason and argument to dissuade him from so wild a desire. And while the impetuosity of Critias’ passion seemed to scorn all check or control, and the modest rebuke of Socrates had been disregarded, the philosopher, out of an ardent zeal for virtue, broke out in such language, as at once declared his own strong inward sense of decency and order, and the monstrous shamefulness of Critias’ passion. Which severe but just reprimand of Socrates, it is thought, was the foundation of that grudge which he ever after bore him; for during the tyranny of the Thirty, of which Critias was one, when, together with Charicles, he had the care of the civil government of the city, he failed not to remember this affront, and, in revenge of it, made a law to forbid teaching the art of reasoning in Athens: and having nothing to reproach Socrates with in particular, he laboured to render him odious by aspersing him with the usual calumnies that are thrown on all philosophers: for I have never heard Socrates say that he taught this art, nor seen any man who ever heard him say so; but Critias had taken offence, and gave sufficient proofs of it: for after the Thirty had caused to be put to death a great number of the citizens, and even of the most eminent, and had let loose the reins to all sorts of violence and rapine, Socrates said in a certain place that he wondered very much that a man who keeps a herd of cattle, and by his ill conduct loses every day some of them, and suffers the others to fall away, would not own himself to be a very ill keeper of his herd; and that he should wonder yet more if a Minister of State, who lessens every day the number of his citizens, and makes the others more dissolute, was not ashamed of his ministry, and would not own himself to be an ill magistrate. This was reported to Critias and Charicles, who forthwith sent for Socrates, and showing him the law they had made, forbid him to discourse with the young men. Upon which Socrates asked them whether they would permit him to propose a question, that he might be informed of what he did not understand in this prohibition; and his request being granted, he spoke in this manner: “I am most ready to obey your laws; but that I may not transgress through ignorance, I desire to know of you, whether you condemn the art of reasoning, because you believe it consists in saying things well, or in saying them ill? If for the former reason, we must then, from henceforward, abstain from speaking as we ought; and if for the latter, it is plain that we ought to endeavour to speak well.” At these words Charicles flew into a passion, and said to him: “Since you pretend to be ignorant of things that are so easily known, we forbid you to speak to the young men in any manner whatever.” “It is enough,” answered Socrates; “but that I may not be in a perpetual uncertainty, pray prescribe to me, till what age men are young.” “Till they are capable of being members of the Senate,” said Charicles: “in a word, speak to no man under thirty years of age.” “How!” says Socrates, “if I would buy anything of a tradesman who is not thirty years old am I forbid to ask him the price of it?” “I mean not so,” answered Charicles: “but I am not surprised that you ask me this question, for it is your custom to ask many things that you know very well.” Socrates added: “And if a young man ask me in the street where Charicles lodges, or whether I know where Critias is, must I make him no answer?” “I mean not so neither,” answered Charicles. Here Critias, interrupting their discourse, said: “For the future, Socrates, you must have nothing to do with the city tradesmen, the shoemakers, masons, smiths, and other mechanics, whom you so often allege as examples of life; and who, I apprehend, are quite jaded with your discourses.” “I must then likewise,” replied Socrates, “omit the consequences I draw from those discourses; and have no more to do with justice, piety, and the other duties of a good man.” “Yes, yes,” said Charicles; “and I advise you to meddle no more with those that tend herds of oxen; otherwise take care you lose not your own.” And these last words made it appear that Critias and Charicles had taken offence at the discourse which Socrates had held against their government, when he compared them to a man that suffers his herd to fall to ruin.
Thus we see how Critias frequented Socrates, and what opinion they had of each other. I add, moreover, that we cannot learn anything of a man whom we do not like: therefore if Critias and Alcibiades made no great improvement with Socrates, it proceeded from this, that they never liked him. For at the very time that they conversed with him, they always rather courted the conversation of those who were employed in the public affairs, because they had no design but to govern.—The following conference of Alcibiades, in particular, which he had with Pericles, his governor—who was the chief man of the city, whilst he was yet under twenty years of age—concerning the nature of the laws, will confirm what I have now advanced.
“Pray,” says Alcibiades, “explain to me what the law is: for, as I hear men praised who observe the laws, I imagine that this praise could not be given to those who know not what the law is.” “It is easy to satisfy you,” answered Pericles: “the law is only what the people in a general assembly ordain, declaring what ought to be done, and what ought not to be done.” “And tell me,” added Alcibiades, “do they ordain to do what is good, or what is ill?” “Most certainly what is good.” Alcibiades pursued: “And how would you call what a small number of citizens should ordain, in states where the people is not the master, but all is ordered by the advice of a few persons, who possess the sovereignty?” “I would call whatever they ordain a law; for laws are nothing else but the ordinances of sovereigns.” “If a tyrant then ordain anything, will that be a law?” “Yes, it will,” said Pericles. “But what then is violence and injustice?” continued Alcibiades; “is it not when the strongest makes himself be obeyed by the weakest, not by consent, but by force only?” “In my opinion it is.” “It follows then,” says Alcibiades, “that ordinances made by a prince, without the consent of the citizens, will be absolutely unjust.” “I believe so,” said Pericles; “and cannot allow that the ordinances of a prince, when they are made without the consent of the people, should bear the name of laws.” “And what the chief citizens ordain, without procuring the consent of the greater number, is that likewise a violence?” “There is no question of it,” answered Pericles; “and in general, every ordinance made without the consent of those who are to obey it, is a violence rather than a law.” “And is what the populace decree, without the concurrence of the chiefs, to be counted a violence likewise, and not a law?” “No doubt it is,” said Pericles: “but when I was of your age, I could resolve all these difficulties, because I made it my business to inquire into them, as you do now.” “Would to God,” cried Alcibiades, “I had been so happy as to have conversed with you then, when you understood these matters better.” To this purpose was their dialogue.
Critias and Alcibiades, however, continued not long with Socrates, after they believed they had improved themselves, and gained some advantages over the other citizens, for besides that they thought not his conversation very agreeable, they were displeased that he took upon him to reprimand them for their faults; and thus they threw themselves immediately into the public affairs, having never had any other design but that. The usual companions of Socrates were Crito, Chaerephon, Chaerecrates, Simmias, Cebes, Phædon, and some others; none of whom frequented him that they might learn to speak eloquently, either in the assemblies of the people, or in the courts of justice before the judges; but that they might become better men, and know how to behave themselves towards their domestics, their relations, their friends, and their fellow-citizens. All these persons led very innocent lives; and, whether we consider them in their youth or examine their behaviour in a more advanced age, we shall find that they never were guilty of any bad action, nay, that they never gave the least ground to suspect them of being so.
But the accuser says that Socrates encouraged children to despise their parents, making them believe that he was more capable to instruct them than they; and telling them that as the laws permit a man to chain his own father if he can convict him of lunacy, so, in like manner, it is but just that a man of excellent sense should throw another into chains who has not so much understanding. I cannot deny but that Socrates may have said something like this; but he meant it not in the sense in which the accuser would have it taken: and he fully discovered what his meaning by these words was, when he said that he who should pretend to chain others because of their ignorance, ought, for the same reason, to submit to be chained himself by men who know more than he. Hence it is that he argued so often of the difference between folly and ignorance; and then he plainly said that fools and madmen ought to be chained indeed, as well for their own interest as for that of their friends; but that they who are ignorant of things they should know, ought only to be instructed by those that understand them.
The accuser goes on, that Socrates did not only teach men to despise their parents, but their other relations too; because he said that if a man be sick, or have a suit in law, it is not his relations, but the physicians, or the advocates who are of use to him. He further alleged that Socrates, speaking of friends, said it was to no purpose to bear goodwill to any man, if it be not in our power to serve him; and that the only friends whom we ought to value are they who know what is good for us, and can teach it to us: thus, says the accuser, Socrates, by persuading the youth that he was the wisest of all men, and the most capable to set others in the right road to wisdom, made them believe that all the rest of mankind were nothing in comparison with him. I remember, indeed, to have heard him sometimes talk after this manner of parents, relations, and friends; and he observed besides, if I mistake not, that when the soul, in which the understanding resides, is gone out of the body, we soon bury the corpse; and even though it be that of our nearest relation, we endeavour to put it out of our sight as soon as decently we can. Farther, though every man loves his own body to a great degree, we scruple not nevertheless to take from it all that is superfluous, for this reason we cut our hair and our nails, we take off our corns and our warts, and we put ourselves into the surgeons’ hands, and endure caustics and incisions; and after they have made us suffer a great deal of pain, we think ourselves obliged to give them a reward: thus, too, we spit, because the spittle is of no use in the mouth, but on the contrary is troublesome. But Socrates meant not by these, or the like sayings, to conclude that a man ought to bury his father alive, or that we ought to cut off our legs and arms; but he meant only to teach us that what is useless is contemptible, and to exhort every man to improve and render himself useful to others; to the end that if we desire to be esteemed by our father, our brother, or any other relation, we should not rely so much on our parentage and consanguinity, as not to endeavour to render ourselves always useful to those whose esteem we desire to obtain.
The accuser says further against Socrates, that he was so malicious as to choose out of the famous poets the passages that contained the worst instructions, and that he made use of them in a sly manner, to inculcate the vices of injustice and violence: as this verse of Hesiod,
“Blame no employment, but blame idleness.”
And he pretends that Socrates alleged this passage to prove that the poet meant to say that we ought not to count any employment unjust or dishonourable, if we can make any advantage of it. This, however, was far from the thoughts of Socrates; but, as he had always taught that employment and business are useful and honourable to men, and that idleness is an evil, he concluded that they who busy themselves about anything that is good are indeed employed; but that gamesters and debauched persons, and all who have no occupations, but such as are hurtful and wicked, are idle. Now, in this sense, is it not true to say:—
“Blame no employment, but blame idleness”?
The accuser likewise says that Socrates often repeated, out of Homer, a speech of Ulysses; and from thence he concludes that Socrates taught that the poet advised to beat the poor and abuse the common people. But it is plain Socrates could never have drawn such a wild and unnatural inference from those verses of the poet, because he would have argued against himself, since he was as poor as anyone besides. What he meant, therefore, was only this, that such as are neither men of counsel nor execution, who are neither fit to advise in the city nor to serve in the army, and are nevertheless proud and insolent, ought to be brought to reason, even though they be possessed of great riches. And this was the true meaning of Socrates, for he loved the men of low condition, and expressed a great civility for all sorts of persons; insomuch that whenever he was consulted, either by the Athenians or by foreigners, he would never take anything of any man for the instructions he gave them, but imparted his wisdom freely, and without reward, to all the world; while they, who became rich by his liberality, did not afterwards behave themselves so generously, but sold very dear to others what had cost them nothing; and, not being of so obliging a temper as he, would not impart their knowledge to any who had it not in their power to reward them. In short, Socrates has rendered the city of Athens famous throughout the whole earth; and, as Lychas was said to be the honour of Sparta, because he treated, at his own expense, all the foreigners who came to the feasts of the Gymnopaedies, so it may, with much greater reason, be said of Socrates that he was the glory of Athens, he who all his life made a continual distribution of his goodness and virtues, and who, keeping open for all the world the treasures of an inestimable wealth, never sent any man out of his company but more virtuous, and more improved in the principles of honour, than formerly he was. Therefore, in my opinion, if he had been treated according to his merit, they should have decreed him public honours rather than have condemned him to an infamous death. For against whom have the laws ordained the punishment of death? Is it not for thieves, for robbers, for men guilty of sacrilege, for those who sell persons that are free? But where, in all the world, can we find a man more innocent of all those crimes than Socrates? Can it be said of him that he ever held correspondence with the enemy, that he ever fomented any sedition, that he ever was the cause of a rebellion, or any other the like mischiefs? Can any man lay to his charge that he ever detained his estate, or did him or it the least injury? Was he ever so much as suspected of any of these things? How then is it possible he should be guilty of the crimes of which he was accused; since, instead of not believing in the gods, as the accuser says, it is manifest he was a sincere adorer of them? Instead of corrupting the youth, as he further alleges against him, he made it his chief care to deliver his friends from the power of every guilty passion, and to inspire them with an ardent love for virtue, the glory, the ornament, and felicity of families as well as of states? And this being fact (and fact it is, for who can deny it?), is it not certain that the Republic was extremely obliged to him, and that she ought to have paid him the highest honours?
CHAPTER III. HOW SOCRATES BEHAVED THROUGH THE WHOLE OF HIS LIFE.
Having, therefore, observed myself that all who frequented him improved themselves very much in his conversation, because he instructed them no less by his example than by his discourses, I am resolved to set down, in this work, all that I can recollect both of his actions and words.
First, then, as to what relates to the service of the gods, he strictly conformed to the advice of the oracle, who never gives any other answer to those who inquire of him in what manner they ought to sacrifice to the gods, or what honours they ought to render to the dead, than that everyone should observe the customs of his own country. Thus in all the acts of religious worship Socrates took particular care to do nothing contrary to the custom of the Republic, and advised his friends to make that the rule of their devotion to the gods, alleging it to be an argument of superstition and vanity to dissent from the established worship.
When he prayed to the gods he besought them only to give him what is good, because they know better than we do what things are truly good for us; and he said that men who pray for silver, or for gold, or for the sovereign authority, made as foolish requests as if they prayed that they might play or fight, or desired any other thing whose event is uncertain, and that might be likely to turn to their disadvantage.
When he offered sacrifices he did not believe that his poverty rendered them despicable in the presence of the gods; and, while he offered according to his ability, he thought he gave as much as the rich, who load the altars with costly gifts, for he held that it would be an injustice in the gods to take more delight in costly sacrifices than in poorer ones, because it would then follow that the offerings of the wicked would for the most part be more acceptable to them than the gifts of the good; and that, if this were so, we ought not to desire to live one moment longer: he thought, therefore, that nothing was so acceptable to the Deity as the homage that is paid him by souls truly pious and innocent. To this purpose he often repeated these verses:—
“Offer to heaven according to thy pow’r:
Th’ indulgent gracious gods require no more.”
And not only in this, but in all the other occasions of life, he thought the best advice he could give his friends was to do all things according to their ability.
When he believed that the gods had admonished him to do anything, it was as impossible to make him take a contrary resolution as it would have been to have prevailed with him in a journey to change a guide that was clear-sighted for one that knew not the way, and was blind likewise. For this reason he pitied their folly, who, to avoid the derision of men, live not according to the admonitions and commands of the gods; and he beheld with contempt all the subtilties of human prudence when he compared them with divine inspirations.
His way of living was such that whoever follows it may be assured, with the help of the gods, that he shall acquire a robust constitution and a health not to be easily impaired; and this, too, without any great expense, for he was content with so little that I believe there was not in all the world a man who could work at all but might have earned enough to have maintained him. He generally ate as long as he found pleasure in eating, and when he sat down to table he desired no other sauce but a sound appetite. All sorts of drink were alike pleasing to him, because he never drank but when he was thirsty; and if sometimes he was invited to a feast, he easily avoided eating and drinking to excess, which many find very difficult to do in those occasions. But he advised those who had no government of themselves never to taste of things that tempt a man to eat when he is no longer hungry, and that excite him to drink when his thirst is already quenched, because it is this that spoils the stomach, causes the headache, and puts the soul into disorder. And he said, between jest and earnest, that he believed it was with such meats as those that Circe changed men into swine, and that Ulysses avoided that transformation by the counsel of Mercury, and because he had temperance enough to abstain from tasting them.
As to love, his advice was to avoid carefully the company of beautiful persons, saying it was very difficult to be near them and escape being taken in the snare; and, having been told that Critobulus had given a kiss to the son of Alcibiades, who was a very handsome youth, he held this discourse to Xenophon, in the presence of Critobulus himself.
“Tell me, Xenophon, what opinion have you hitherto had of Critobulus? Have you placed him in the rank of the temperate and judicious; or with the debauched and imprudent?” “I have always looked upon him,” answered Xenophon, “to be a very virtuous and prudent man.” “Change your opinion,” replied Socrates, “and believe him more rash than if he threw himself on the points of naked swords or leapt into the fire.” “And what have you seen him do,” said Xenophon, “that gives you reason to speak thus of him?” “Why, he had the rashness,” answered Socrates, “to kiss the son of Alcibiades, who is so beautiful and charming.” “And is this all?” said Xenophon; “for my part, I think I could also willingly expose myself to the same danger that he did.” “Wretch, that you are!” replied Socrates. “Do you consider what happens to you after you have kissed a beautiful face? Do you not lose your liberty? Do you not become a slave? Do you not engage yourself in a vast expense to procure a sinful pleasure? Do you not find yourself in an incapacity of doing what is good, and that you subject yourself to the necessity of employing your whole time and person in the pursuit of what you would despise, if your reason were not corrupted?” “Good God!” cried Xenophon, “this is ascribing a wonderful power to a kiss forsooth.” “And are you surprised at it?” answered Socrates. “Are there not some small animals whose bite is so venomous that it causes insufferable pain, and even the loss of the senses?” “I know it very well,” said Xenophon, “but these animals leave a poison behind them when they sting.” “And do you think, you fool,” added Socrates, “that kisses of love are not venomous, because you perceive not the poison? Know that a beautiful person is a more dangerous animal than scorpions, because these cannot wound unless they touch us; but beauty strikes at a distance: from what place soever we can but behold her, she darts her venom upon us, and overthrows our judgment. And perhaps for this reason the Loves are represented with bows and arrows, because a beautiful face wounds us from afar. I advise you, therefore, Xenophon, when you chance to see a beauty to fly from it, without looking behind you. And for you, Critobulus, I think it convenient that you should enjoin yourself a year’s absence, which will not be too long a time to heal you of your wound.”
As for such as have not strength enough to resist the power of love, he thought that they ought to consider and use it as an action to which the soul would never consent, were it not for the necessity of the body; and which, though it be necessary, ought, nevertheless, to give us no inquietude. As for himself, his continence was known to all men, and it was more easy for him to avoid courting the most celebrated beauties, than it is for others to get away from disagreeable objects.
Thus we see what was his way of life in eating, drinking, and in the affair of love. He believed, however, that he tasted of those pleasures no less than they who give themselves much trouble to enjoy them; but that he had not, like them, so frequent occasions for sorrow and repentance.
CHAPTER IV. SOCRATES PROVETH THE EXISTENCE OF A DEITY.
If there be any who believe what some have written by conjecture, that Socrates was indeed excellent in exciting men to virtue, but that he did not push them forward to make any great progress in it, let such reflect a little on what he said, not only when he endeavoured to refute those that boasted they knew all things, but likewise in his familiar conversations, and let them judge afterwards if he was incapable to advance his friends in the paths of virtue.
I will, in the first place, relate a conference which he had with Aristodemus, surnamed the Little, touching the Deity, for he had heard that he never sacrificed to the gods; that he never addressed himself to them in prayer; that he never consulted the oracles, and even laughed at those that practised these things, he took him to talk in this manner:—
“Tell me, Aristodemus, are there any persons whom you value on account of their merit?” He answered, “Yes, certainly.” “Tell me their names,” added Socrates. Aristodemus replied: “For epic poetry I admire Homer as the most excellent; for dithyrambics, Melanippides; Sophocles for tragedy; Polycletes for statuary; and Zeuxis for painting.” “Which artists,” said Socrates, “do you think to be most worthy of your esteem and admiration: they who make images without soul and motion, or they who make animals that move of their own accord, and are endowed with understanding?” “No doubt the last,” replied Aristodemus, “provided they make them not by chance, but with judgment and prudence.” Socrates went on: “As there are some things which we cannot say why they were made, and others which are apparently good and useful, tell me, my friend, whether of the two you rather take to be the work of prudence than of hazard.” “It is reasonable,” said Aristodemus, “to believe that the things which are good and useful are the workmanship of reason and judgment.” “Do not you think then,” replied Socrates, “that the first Former of mankind designed their advantage when he gave them the several senses by which objects are apprehended; eyes for things visible, and ears for sounds? Of what advantage would agreeable scents have been to us if nostrils suited to their reception had not been given? And for the pleasures of the taste, how could we ever have enjoyed these, if the tongue had not been fitted to discern and relish them? Further, does it not appear to you wisely provided that since the eye is of a delicate make, it is guarded with the eyelid drawn back when the eye is used, and covering it in sleep? How well does the hair at the extremity of the eyelid keep out dust, and the eyebrow, by its prominency, prevent the sweat of the forehead from running into the eye to its hurt. How wisely is the ear formed to receive all sorts of sounds, and not to be filled with any to the exclusion of others. Are not the fore teeth of all animals fitted to cut off proper portions of food, and their grinders to reduce it to a convenient smallness? The mouth, by which we take in the food we like, is fitly placed just beneath the nose and eyes, the judges of its goodness; and what is offensive and disagreeable to our senses is, for that reason, placed at a proper distance from them. In short, these things being disposed in such order, and with so much care, can you hesitate one moment to determine whether it be an effect of providence or of chance?” “I doubt not of it in the least,” replied Aristodemus, “and the more I fix my thoughts on the contemplation of these things the more I am persuaded that all this is the masterpiece of a great workman, who bears an extreme love to men.” “What say you,” continued Socrates, “to this, that he gives all animals a desire to engender and propagate their kind; that he inspires the mothers with tenderness and affection to bring up their young; and that, from the very hour of their birth, he infuses into them this great love of life and this mighty aversion to death?” “I say,” replied Aristodemus, “that it is an effect of his great care for their preservation.” “This is not all,” said Socrates, “answer me yet farther; perhaps you would rather interrogate me. You are not, I persuade myself, ignorant that you are endowed with understanding; do you then think that there is not elsewhere an intelligent being? Particularly, if you consider that your body is only a little earth taken from that great mass which you behold. The moist that composes you is only a small drop of that immense heap of water that makes the sea; in a word, your body contains only a small part of all the elements, which are elsewhere in great quantity. There is nothing then but your understanding alone, which, by a wonderful piece of good fortune, must have come to you from I know not whence, if there were none in another place; and can it then be said that all this universe and all these so vast and numerous bodies have been disposed in so much order, without the help of an intelligent Being, and by mere chance?” “I find it very difficult to understand it otherwise,” answered Aristodemus, “because I see not the gods, who, you say, make and govern all things, as I see the artificers who do any piece of work amongst us.” “Nor do you see your soul neither,” answered Socrates, “which governs your body; but, because you do not see it, will you from thence infer you do nothing at all by its direction, but that everything you do is by mere chance?” Aristodemus now wavering said, “I do not despise the Deity, but I conceive such an idea of his magnificence and self-sufficiency, that I imagine him to have no need of me or my services.” “You are quite wrong,” said Socrates, “for by how much the gods, who are so magnificent, vouchsafe to regard you, by so much you are bound to praise and adore them.” “It is needless for me to tell you,” answered Aristodemus, “that, if I believed the gods interested themselves in human affairs, I should not neglect to worship them.” “How!” replied Socrates, “you do not believe the gods take care of men, they who have not only given to man, in common with other animals, the senses of seeing, hearing, and taste, but have also given him to walk upright; a privilege which no other animal can boast of, and which is of mighty use to him to look forward, to remote objects, to survey with facility those above him, and to defend himself from any harm? Besides, although the animals that walk have feet, which serve them for no other use than to walk, yet, herein, have the gods distinguished man, in that, besides feet, they have given him hands, the instruments of a thousand grand and useful actions, on which account he not only excels, but is happier than all animals besides. And, further, though all animals have tongues, yet none of them can speak, like man’s; his tongue only can form words, by which he declares his thoughts, and communicates them to others. Not to mention smaller instances of their care, such as the concern they take of our pleasures, in confining men to no certain season for the enjoying them, as they have done other animals.
“But Providence taketh care, not only of our bodies, but of our souls: it hath pleased the great Author of all, not only to give man so many advantages for the body, but (which is the greatest gift of all, and the strongest proof of his care) he hath breathed into him an intelligent soul, and that, too, the most excellent of all, for which of the other animals has a soul that knows the being of the Deity, by whom so many great and marvellous works are done? Is there any species but man that serves and adores him? Which of the animals can, like him, protect himself from hunger and thirst, from heat and cold? Which, like him, can find remedies for diseases, can make use of his strength, and is as capable of learning, that so perfectly retains the things he has seen, he has heard, he has known? In a word, it is manifest that man is a god in comparison with the other living species, considering the advantages he naturally has over them, both of body and soul. For, if man had a body like to that of an ox the subtilty of his understanding would avail him nothing, because he would not be able to execute what he should project. On the other hand, if that animal had a body like ours, yet, being devoid of understanding, he would be no better than the rest of the brute species. Thus the gods have at once united in your person the most excellent structure of body and the greatest perfection of soul; and now can you still say, after all, that they take no care of you? What would you have them do to convince you of the contrary?” “I would have them,” answered Aristodemus, “send on purpose to let me know expressly all that I ought to do or not to do, in like manner as you say they do give you notice.” “What!” said Socrates, “when they pronounce any oracle to all the Athenians, do you think they do not address themselves to you too, when by prodigies they make known to the Greeks the things that are to happen, are they silent to you alone, and are you the only person they neglect? Do you think that the gods would have instilled this notion into men, that it is they who can make them happy or miserable, if it were not indeed in their power to do so? And do you believe that the human race would have been thus long abused without ever discovering the cheat? Do you not know that the most ancient and wisest republics and people have been also the most pious, and that man, at the age when his judgment is ripest, has then the greatest bent to the worship of the Deity?
“My dear Aristodemus, consider that your mind governs your body according to its pleasure: in like manner we ought to believe that there is a mind diffused throughout the whole universe that disposeth of all things according to its counsels. You must not imagine that your weak sight can reach to objects that are several leagues distant, and that the eye of God cannot, at one and the same time, see all things. You must not imagine that your mind can reflect on the affairs of Athens, of Egypt, and of Sicily, and that the providence of God cannot, at one and the same moment, consider all things. As, therefore, you may make trial of the gratitude of a man by doing him a kindness, and as you may discover his prudence by consulting him in difficult affairs, so, if you would be convinced how great is the power and goodness of God, apply yourself sincerely to piety and his worship; then, my dear Aristodemus, you shall soon be persuaded that the Deity sees all, hears all, is present everywhere, and, at the same time, regulates and superintends all the events of the universe.”
By such discourses as these Socrates taught his friends never to commit any injustice or dishonourable action, not only in the presence of men, but even in secret, and when they are alone, since the Divinity hath always an eye over us, and none of our actions can be hid from him.
CHAPTER V. THE PRAISE OF TEMPERANCE.
And if temperance be a virtue in man, as undoubtedly it is, let us see whether any improvement can be made by what he said of it. I will here give you one of his discourses on that subject:—
“If we were engaged in a war,” said he, “and were to choose a general, would we make choice of a man given to wine or women, and who could not support fatigues and hardships? Could we believe that such a commander would be capable to defend us and to conquer our enemies? Or if we were lying on our deathbed, and were to appoint a guardian and tutor for our children, to take care to instruct our sons in the principles of virtue, to breed up our daughters in the paths of honour and to be faithful in the management of their fortunes, should we think a debauched person fit for that employment? Would we trust our flocks and our granaries in the hands of a drunkard? Would we rely upon him for the conduct of any enterprise; and, in short, if a present were made us of such a slave, should we not make it a difficulty to accept him? If, then, we have so great an aversion for debauchery in the person of the meanest servant, ought we not ourselves to be very careful not to fall into the same fault? Besides, a covetous man has the satisfaction of enriching himself, and, though he take away another’s estate, he increases his own; but a debauched man is both troublesome to others and injurious to himself. We may say of him that he is hurtful to all the world, and yet more hurtful to himself, if to ruin, not only his family, but his body and soul likewise, is to be hurtful. Who, then, can take delight in the company of him who has no other diversion than eating and drinking, and who is better pleased with the conversation of a prostitute than of his friends? Ought we not, then, to practise temperance above all things, seeing it is the foundation of all other virtues; for without it what can we learn that is good, what do that is worthy of praise? Is not the state of man who is plunged in voluptuousness a wretched condition both for the body and soul? Certainly, in my opinion, a free person ought to wish to have no such servants, and servants addicted to such brutal irregularities ought earnestly to entreat Heaven that they may fall into the hands of very indulgent masters, because their ruin will be otherwise almost unavoidable.”
This is what Socrates was wont to say upon this subject. But if he appeared to be a lover of temperance in his discourses, he was yet a more exact observer of it in his actions, showing himself to be not only invincible to the pleasures of the senses, but even depriving himself of the satisfaction of getting an estate; for he held that a man who accepts of money from others makes himself a servant to all their humours, and becomes their slave in a manner no less scandalous than other slaveries.
CHAPTER VI. THE DISPUTE OF SOCRATES WITH ANTIPHON, THE SOPHIST.
To this end it will not be amiss to relate, for the honour of Socrates, what passed between him and the sophist Antiphon, who designed to seduce away his hearers, and to that end came to him when they were with him, and, in their presence, addressed himself to him in these words:—“I imagined, Socrates, that philosophers were happier than other men; but, in my opinion, your wisdom renders you more miserable, for you live at such a rate that no footman would live with a master that treated him in the same manner. You eat and drink poorly, you are clothed very meanly—the same suit serves you in summer and winter—you go barefoot, and for all this you take no money, though it is a pleasure to get it; for, after a man has acquired it, he lives more genteely and more at his ease. If, therefore, as in all other sorts of arts, apprentices endeavour to imitate their masters, should these who frequent your conversation become like you, it is certain that you will have taught them nothing but to make themselves miserable.”
Socrates answered him in the following manner:—“You think, Antiphon, I live so poorly that I believe you would rather die than live like me. But what is it you find so strange and difficult in my way of living? You blame me for not taking money; is it because they who take money are obliged to do what they promise, and that I, who take none, entertain myself only with whom I think fit? You despise my eating and drinking; is it because my diet is not so good nor so nourishing as yours, or because it is more scarce and dearer, or lastly, because your fare seems to you to be better? Know that a man who likes what he eats needs no other ragoût, and that he who finds one sort of drink pleasant wishes for no other. As to your objection of my clothes, you appear to me, Antiphon, to judge quite amiss of the matter; for, do you not know that we dress ourselves differently only because of the hot or cold weather, and if we wear shoes it is because we would walk the easier? But, tell me, did you ever observe that the cold hath hindered me from going abroad? Have you ever seen me choose the cool and fresh shades in hot weather? And, though I go barefoot, do not you see that I go wherever I will? Do you not know that there are some persons of a very tender constitution, who, by constant exercise, surmount the weakness of their nature, and at length endure fatigues better than they who are naturally more robust, but have not taken pains to exercise and harden themselves like the others? Thus, therefore, do not you believe that I, who have all my life accustomed myself to bear patiently all manner of fatigues, cannot now more easily submit to this than you, who have never thought of the matter? If I have no keen desire after dainties, if I sleep little, if I abandon not myself to any infamous amour, the reason is because I spend my time more delightfully in things whose pleasure ends not in the moment of enjoyment, and that make me hope besides to receive an everlasting reward. Besides, you know very well, that when a man sees that his affairs go ill he is not generally very gay; and that, on the contrary, they who think to succeed in their designs, whether in agriculture, traffic, or any other undertaking, are very contented in their minds. Now, do you think that from anything whatsoever there can proceed a satisfaction equal to the inward consciousness of improving daily in virtue, and acquiring the acquaintance and friendship of the best of men? And if we were to serve our friends or our country, would not a man who lives like me be more capable of it than one that should follow that course of life which you take to be so charming? If it were necessary to carry arms, which of the two would be the best soldier, he who must always fare deliciously, or he who is satisfied with what he finds? If they were to undergo a siege who would hold out longest, he who cannot live without delicacies, or he who requires nothing but what may easily be had? One would think, Antiphon, that you believe happiness to consist in good eating and drinking, and in an expensive and splendid way of life. For my part, I am of opinion that to have need of nothing at all is a divine perfection, and that to have need but of little is to approach very near the Deity, and hence it follows that, as there is nothing more excellent than the Deity, whatever approaches nearest to it is likewise most near the supreme excellence.”
Another time Antiphon addressed himself to Socrates: “I confess you are an honest, well-meaning man, Socrates; but it is certain you know little or nothing, and one would imagine you own this to be true, for you get nothing by your teaching. And yet, I persuade myself, you would not part with your house, or any of the furniture of it, without some gratuity, because you believe them of some small value; nay, you would not part with them for less than they are worth: if, therefore, you thought your teaching worth anything you would be paid for it according to its value; in this, indeed, you show yourself honest, because you will not, out of avarice, cheat any man, but at the same time you discover, too, that you know but little, since all your knowledge is not worth the buying.”
Socrates answered him in this manner:—“There is a great resemblance between beauty and the doctrine of philosophers; what is praiseworthy in the one is so in the other, and both of them are subject to the same vice: for, if a woman sells her beauty for money, we immediately call her a prostitute; but if she knows that a man of worth and condition is fallen in love with her, and if she makes him her friend, we say she is a prudent woman. It is just the same with the doctrine of philosophers; they that sell it are sophists, and like the public women, but if a philosopher observe a youth of excellent parts, and teacheth him what he knows, in order to obtain his friendship, we say of him, that he acts the part of a good and virtuous citizen. Thus as some delight in fine horses, others in dogs, and others in birds; for my part all my delight is to be with my virtuous friends. I teach them all the good I know, and recommend them to all whom I believe capable to assist them in the way to perfection. We all draw together, out of the same fountain, the precious treasures which the ancient sages have left us; we run over their works, and if we find anything excellent we take notice of it and select it: in short, we believe we have made a great improvement when we begin to love one another.” This was the answer he made, and when I heard him speak in this manner I thought him very happy, and that he effectually stirred up his hearers to the love of virtue.
Another time when Antiphon asked him why he did not concern himself with affairs of State, seeing he thought himself capable to make others good politicians? he returned this answer:—“Should I be more serviceable to the State if I took an employment whose function would be wholly bounded in my person, and take up all my time, than I am by instructing every one as I do, and in furnishing the Republic with a great number of citizens who are capable to serve her?”
CHAPTER VII. IN WHAT MANNER SOCRATES DISSUADED MEN FROM SELF-CONCEIT AND OSTENTATION.
But let us now see whether by dissuading his friends from a vain ostentation he did not exhort them to the pursuit of virtue. He frequently said that there was no readier way to glory than to render oneself excellent, and not to affect to appear so. To prove this he alleged the following example:—“Let us suppose,” said he, “that any one would be thought a good musician, without being so in reality; what course must he take? He must be careful to imitate the great masters in everything that is not of their art; he must, like them, have fine musical instruments; he must, like them, be followed by a great number of persons wherever he goes, who must be always talking in his praise. And yet he must not venture to sing in public: for then all men would immediately perceive not only his ignorance, but his presumption and folly likewise. And would it not be ridiculous in him to spend his estate to ruin his reputation? In like manner, if any one would appear a great general, or a good pilot, though he knew nothing of either, what would be the issue of it? If he cannot make others believe it, it troubles him, and if he can persuade them to think so he is yet more unhappy, because, if he be made choice of for the steering of ships, or to command an army, he will acquit himself very ill of his office, and perhaps be the cause of the loss of his best friends. It is not less dangerous to appear to be rich, or brave, or strong, if we are not so indeed, for this opinion of us may procure us employments that are above our capacity, and if we fail to effect what was expected of us there is no remission for our faults. And if it be a great cheat to wheedle one of your neighbours out of any of his ready money or goods, and not restore them to him afterwards, it is a much greater impudence and cheat for a worthless fellow to persuade the world that he is capable to govern a Republic.” By these and the like arguments he inspired a hatred of vanity and ostentation into the minds of those who frequented him.
“Of the same opinion is Prodicus, in the book he has written of the life of Hercules, where Virtue and Pleasure make their court to that hero under the appearance of two beautiful women. His words, as near as I can remember, are as follows:—
“‘When Hercules,’ says the moralist, ‘had arrived at that part of his youth in which young men commonly choose for themselves, and show, by the result of their choice, whether they will, through the succeeding stages of their lives, enter into and walk in the path of virtue or that of vice, he went out into a solitary place fit for contemplation, there to consider with himself which of those two paths he should pursue.
“‘As he was sitting there in suspense he saw two women of a larger stature than ordinary approaching towards him. One of them had a genteel and amiable aspect; her beauty was natural and easy, her person and shape clean and handsome, her eyes cast towards the ground with an agreeable reserve, her motion and behaviour full of modesty, and her raiment white as snow. The other wanted all the native beauty and proportion of the former; her person was swelled, by luxury and ease, to a size quite disproportioned and uncomely. She had painted her complexion, that it might seem fairer and more ruddy than it really was, and endeavoured to appear more graceful than ordinary in her mien, by a mixture of affectation in all her gestures. Her eyes were full of confidence, and her dress transparent, that the conceited beauty of her person might appear through it to advantage. She cast her eyes frequently upon herself, then turned them on those that were present, to see whether any one regarded her, and now and then looked on the figure she made in her own shadow.
“‘As they drew nearer, the former continued the same composed pace, while the latter, striving to get before her, ran up to Hercules, and addressed herself to him in the following manner:—
“I perceive, my dear Hercules, you are in doubt which path in life you should pursue. If, then, you will be my friend and follow me, I will lead you to a path the most easy and most delightful, wherein you shall taste all the sweets of life, and live exempt from every trouble. You shall neither be concerned in war nor in the affairs of the world, but shall only consider how to gratify all your senses—your taste with the finest dainties and most delicious drink, your sight with the most agreeable objects, your scent with the richest perfumes and fragrancy of odours, how you may enjoy the embraces of the fair, repose on the softest beds, render your slumbers sweet and easy, and by what means enjoy, without even the smallest care, all those glorious and mighty blessings.
“And, for fear you suspect that the sources whence you are to derive those invaluable blessings might at some time or other fail, and that you might, of course, be obliged to acquire them at the expense of your mind and the united labour and fatigue of your body, I beforehand assure you that you shall freely enjoy all from the industry of others, undergo neither hardship nor drudgery, but have everything at your command that can afford you any pleasure or advantage.”
“‘Hercules, hearing the lady make him such offers, desired to know her name, to which she answered, “My friends, and those who are well acquainted with me, and whom I have conducted, call me Happiness; but my enemies, and those who would injure my reputation, have given me the name of Pleasure.”
“‘In the meantime, the other lady approached, and in her turn accosted him in this manner:—“I also am come to you, Hercules, to offer my assistance; I, who am well acquainted with your divine extraction and have observed the excellence of your nature, even from your childhood, from which I have reason to hope that, if you would follow the path that leadeth to my residence, you will undertake the greatest enterprises and achieve the most glorious actions, and that I shall thereby become more honourable and illustrious among mortals. But before I invite you into my society and friendship I will be open and sincere with you, and must lay down this as an established truth, that there is nothing truly valuable which can be purchased without pains and labour. The gods have set a price upon every real and noble pleasure. If you would gain the favour of the Deity you must be at the pains of worshipping Him; if you would be beloved by your friends you must study to oblige them; if you would be honoured by any city you must be of service to it; and if you would be admired by all Greece, on account of your probity and valour, you must exert yourself to do her some eminent service. If you would render your fields fruitful, and fill your arms with corn, you must labour to cultivate the soil accordingly. Would you grow rich by your herds, a proper care must be taken of them; would you extend your dominions by arms, and be rendered capable of setting at liberty your captive friends, and bringing your enemies to subjection, you must not only learn of those that are experienced in the art of war, but exercise yourself also in the use of military affairs; and if you would excel in the strength of your body you must keep your body in due subjection to your mind, and exercise it with labour and pains.”
“‘Here Pleasure broke in upon her discourse—“Do you see, my dear Hercules, through what long and difficult ways this woman would lead you to her promised delights? Follow me, and I will show you a much shorter and more easy way to happiness.”
“Alas!” replied the Goddess of Virtue, whose visage glowed with a passion made up of scorn and pity, “what happiness can you bestow, or what pleasure can you taste, who would never do anything to acquire it? You who will take your fill of all pleasures before you feel an appetite for any; you eat before you are hungry, you drink before you are athirst; and, that you may please your taste, must have the finest artists to prepare your viands; the richest wines that you may drink with pleasure, and to give your wine the finer taste, you search every place for ice and snow luxuriously to cool it in the heat of summer. Then, to make your slumbers uninterrupted, you must have the softest down and the easiest couches, and a gentle ascent of steps to save you from any the least disturbance in mounting up to them. And all little enough, heaven knows! for you have not prepared yourself for sleep by anything you have done, but seek after it only because you have nothing to do. It is the same in the enjoyments of love, in which you rather force than follow your inclinations, and are obliged to use arts, and even to pervert nature, to keep your passions alive. Thus is it that you instruct your followers—kept awake for the greatest part of the night by debaucheries, and consuming in drowsiness all the most useful part of the day. Though immortal, you are an outcast from the gods, and despised by good men. Never have you heard that most agreeable of all sounds, your own praise, nor ever have you beheld the most pleasing of all objects, any good work of your own hands. Who would ever give any credit to anything that you say? Who would assist you in your necessity, or what man of sense would ever venture to be of your mad parties? Such as do follow you are robbed of their strength when they are young, void of wisdom when they grow old. In their youth they are bred up in indolence and all manner of delicacy, and pass their old age with difficulties and distress, full of shame for what they have done, and oppressed with the burden of what they are to do, squanderers of pleasures in their youth, and hoarders up of afflictions for their old age.
“On the contrary, my conversation is with the gods, and with good men, and there is nothing excellent performed by either without my influence. I am respected above all things by the gods and by the best of mortals, and it is just I should. I am an agreeable companion to the artisan, a faithful security to masters of families, a kind assistant to servants, a useful associate in the arts of peace, a faithful ally in the labours of war, and the best uniter of all friendships.
“My votaries, too, enjoy a pleasure in everything they either eat or drink, even without having laboured for it, because they wait for the demand of their appetites. Their sleep is sweeter than that of the indolent and inactive; and they are neither overburdened with it when they awake, nor do they, for the sake of it, omit the necessary duties of life. My young men have the pleasure of being praised by those who are in years, and those who are in years of being honoured by those who are young. They look back with comfort on their past actions, and delight themselves in their present employments. By my means they are favoured by the gods, beloved by their friends, and honoured by their country; and when the appointed period of their lives is come they are not lost in a dishonourable oblivion, but live and flourish in the praises of mankind, even to the latest posterity.”
“Thus, my dear Hercules, who are descended of divine ancestors, you may acquire, by virtuous toil and industry, this most desirable state of perfect happiness.”
“Such was the discourse, my friend, which the goddess had with Hercules, according to Prodicus. You may believe that he embellished the thoughts with more noble expressions than I do. I heartily wish, my dear Aristippus, that you should make such an improvement of those divine instructions, as that you too may make such a happy choice as may render you happy during the future course of your life.”
CHAPTER IX. SOCRATES RETURNS SUITABLE ANSWERS TO A VARIETY OF QUESTIONS PROPOSED TO HIM.
Another time being asked whether courage can be learnt as an art or was a gift of Nature, he answered: “In my opinion, as we see many bodies that are naturally more vigorous than others, and that better endure fatigue, so there are some souls that are naturally more brave, and look dangers in the face with greater resolution. For I see some men, who live under the same laws, who are brought up in the same customs, and who are not all equally valiant. Nevertheless, I believe that education and exercise add much to natural courage. Whence comes it to pass that the Scythians and the Thracians durst not face the Lacedemonians with pikes and targets; and, on the contrary, that the Lacedemonians would not fight against the Thracians with shields and darts, nor against the Scythians with bows? I see it to be the same in all other things, and that when some men are better inclined by nature for certain things than other men are, they very much advance and perfect themselves in those things by study and diligence. This shows that they who are most favoured by Nature, as well as those to whom she has been less indulgent, ought to apply themselves assiduously to the things by which they would gain themselves a reputation.”
He allowed no difference between knowledge and temperance; and he held that he who knows what is good and embraces it, who knows what is bad and avoids it, is learned and temperate; and when he was asked whether he believed that they who know very well what ought to be done, but do quite otherwise, were learned and temperate? “On the contrary,” answered he, “they are very ignorant and very stupid, for, in my opinion, every man who, in the great number of possible things that offer themselves to him, can discern what is most advantageous for him to do, never fails to do it; but all who govern not themselves well and as they ought, are neither learned nor men of good morals.”
He said likewise that justice and every other virtue is only a science, because all the actions of justice and of the other virtues are good and honourable; and that all who know the beauty of these actions think nothing more charming; as, on the contrary, they who are ignorant of them cannot perform any one virtuous action, or, if they attempt to do it, are sure to perform it in a wrong manner. So that the persons only who possess this science can do just and good actions; but all just and good actions are done by the means of virtue, therefore justice and virtue is only a science.
He said, moreover, that folly is contrary to knowledge, and yet he did not allow ignorance to be a folly; but that not to know oneself, or to imagine one knows what he does not know, is a weakness next to folly. And he observed that among the vulgar a man is not accused of folly for being mistaken in things that are unknown to most of the world, but for mistaking in things which no man mistakes that knows anything at all; as if any man should think himself so tall as to be obliged to stoop when he came in at the gates of the city; or if he thought himself so strong as to undertake to carry away whole houses on his back, or to do any other thing visibly impossible, the people would say that he had lost his wits, which they do not say of those who commit only some slight extravagances; and as they give the name of love to a violent affection only, so they give the name of folly only to an extraordinary disorder of the mind.
Reflecting on the nature of envy, he said that it is a certain grief of mind, which proceeds, not from the misfortune of friends or good fortune of enemies, but (which is very surprising) only from the prosperity of friends. “For,” said he, “those may be truly said to be envious who cannot endure to see their friends happy.” But, some wondering whether it were possible for a man to be grieved at the good fortune of his friend, he justified the truth of what he had advanced, by telling them plainly that there are some men so variously affected towards their friends, that, while they are in calamity and distress, they will compassionate and succour them, but when they are well and in prosperity will fret at and envy them. “But this,” he said, “is a fault from which wise and good men are free, and never to be found but in weak and wicked minds.”
As to idleness, he said that he had observed that most men were always in action, for they who play at dice, or who serve to make others laugh, are doing something, but in effect they are idle, because they might employ themselves more usefully. To which he added, that no man finds leisure to quit a good employment for an ill one, and that if he did he would deserve the greater blame, in that he wanted not something to do before.
He said likewise that the sceptre makes not the king, and that princes and governors are not they whom chance or the choice of the people has raised to those dignities, nor those who have established themselves in them by fraud or force, but they who know how to command; for if it were allowed that it is the duty of a prince to command, as it is the duty of a subject to obey, he showed in consequence of it that in a ship, where there are several persons, the honour of commanding it is given to him who is most capable of it, and that all obey him, without excepting even the owner of the vessel; that likewise in husbandry, he to whom the land belongs obeys his own servants, if they understand agriculture better than himself; that thus the sick obey the physicians, and they who learn exercises, their masters; nay, that even women are masters of the men in working with the needle, because they understand it better than they; in short, that in all things which require care and industry men govern themselves when they think they are capable of doing so; otherwise, they leave themselves to the conduct of such as they judge to have more capacity, and take care to have them near at hand for that purpose. And if any man made him this objection, that a tyrant is at liberty not to believe the best advices, he answered, “Why do you say he is at liberty not to do so, seeing he will bear the smart of it? for every man who shuts his ears to good counsel commits a fault, and this fault is always attended with some damage.” And if it were said that a tyrant is permitted to put to death the men of the best parts and understanding in his State, he replied again, “Do you think he is not punished in losing his chief supports, or that he will be quit for a slight punishment? Is to govern in this manner the way to preserve himself? or rather, is it not the certain means to hasten his own ruin?”
Being asked what was the best study for man to apply himself to, he answered, “To do well;” and being asked farther whether good fortune was the effect of study, “On the contrary,” said he, “I think good fortune and study to be two opposite things; for what I call good fortune is, when a man meets with what is necessary for him, without the trouble of seeking it; but when he meets with any good success after a tedious search and labour, it is an effect of study. This is what I call to do well; and I think that all who take delight in this study are for the most part successful, and gain the esteem of men, and the affection of the Deity. Such are they as have rendered themselves excellent in economy, in physic, and in politics; but he who knows not any one thing perfectly is neither useful to men, nor beloved by the gods.”
CHAPTER I. THAT PERSONS OF GOOD NATURAL PARTS, AS WELL AS THOSE WHO HAVE PLENTIFUL FORTUNES, OUGHT NOT TO THINK THEMSELVES ABOVE INSTRUCTION. ON THE CONTRARY, THE ONE OUGHT, BY THE AID OF LEARNING, TO IMPROVE THEIR GENIUS; THE OTHER, BY THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE, TO RENDER THEMSELVES VALUABLE.
There was always, as we have already remarked, some improvement to be made with Socrates; and it must be owned that his company and conversation were very edifying, since even now, when he is no more among us, it is still of advantage to his friends to call him to their remembrance. And, indeed, whether he spoke to divert himself, or whether he spoke seriously, he always let slip some remarkable instructions for the benefit of all that heard him.
He used often to say he was in love, but it was easy to see it was not with the beauty of one’s person that he was taken, but with the virtues of his mind.
The marks of a good genius, he said, were these—a good judgment, a retentive memory, and an ardent desire of useful knowledge; that is to say, when a person readily learns what he is taught, and strongly retains what he has learnt, as also when he is curious to know all that is necessary to the good government either of a family or of a republic; in a word, when one desires to obtain a thorough knowledge of mankind and of whatever relates to human affairs. And his opinion was that when these good natural parts are cultivated as they ought, such men are not only happy themselves, and govern their families prudently, but are capable likewise to render others happy, and to make republics flourish.
On the one hand, therefore, whenever he met with any who believed themselves men of parts, and for that reason neglected to be instructed, he proved to them that men of the best natural parts are they who have most need of instruction; and to this purpose he alleged the example of a high-mettled horse, who, having more courage and more strength than others, does us very great service, if he be broke and managed in his youth; but if that be neglected, he grows so vicious and unruly that we know not what to do with him. Thus also dogs of a good breed, and that by nature are the most strong and mettlesome, are excellent for game, if they are well taught; otherwise they are apt to become high rangers and at no command. In like manner among men they who are blessed with the greatest advantages of Nature, to whom she has given the most courage and the greatest strength to enable them to succeed in their undertakings, are likewise the most virtuous, and do more good than others, when they meet with a good education; but if they remain without instruction they fall into an excess of ill, and become most pernicious to themselves and others. Merely for want of knowing their duty they often engage themselves in very wicked designs; and being imperious and violent, it is very difficult to keep them within bounds and to make them change their resolution, which is the reason they do a great deal of mischief.
On the other hand, when he saw any of those men who pique themselves on their estates, and who believe because they are men of high condition that they are above instruction, or have no need of it, because their riches alone are sufficient to gain them the esteem of the world, and to make them succeed in all their undertakings, he endeavoured to convince them of their error, and to show them that they, too, have need of instruction. He told them that that man is a fool who imagines with himself that he can know the things that are useful from those that are hurtful, without having ever learnt the difference; or who, not discerning between them, fondly thinks that because he has wherewithal to buy whatever he has a mind to, he can therefore do whatever may lend to his advantage; or who, judging himself incapable to do what is useful for himself, thinks, nevertheless, that he is well in the world, and in a safe and happy condition of life. That it is likewise a folly for a man to persuade himself that, being rich and having no merit, he will pass for a man of parts; or that, not having the reputation of being a man of parts, he shall nevertheless be esteemed.
… Upon this, Socrates asked him whether he had ever been at Delphi, and Euthydemus answered that he had been there twice. “Did you not take notice,” said Socrates, “that somewhere on the front of the temple there is this inscription, ‘Know thyself’?” “I remember,” answered he, “I have read it there.” “It is not enough,” replied Socrates, “to have read it. Have you been the better for this admonition? Have you given yourself the trouble to consider what you are?” “I think I know that well enough,” replied the young man, “for I should have found it very difficult to have known any other thing if I had not known myself.” “But for a man to know himself well,” said Socrates, “it is not enough that he knows his own name; for, as a man that buys a horse cannot be certain that he knows what he is before he has ridden him, to see whether he be quiet or restive, whether he be mettlesome or dull, whether he be fleet or heavy—in short, before he has made trial of all that is good and bad in him—in like manner, a man cannot say that he knows himself before he has tried what he is fit for, and what he is able to do.” “It is true,” said Euthydemus, “that whoever knows not his own strength knows not himself.” “But,” continued Socrates, “who sees not of how great advantage this knowledge is to man, and how dangerous it is to be mistaken in this affair? for he who knows himself knows likewise what is good for himself. He sees what he is able to do, and what he is not able to do; by applying himself to things that he can do, he gets his bread with pleasure, and is happy; and by not attempting to do the things he cannot do, he avoids the danger of falling into errors, and of seeing himself miserable. By knowing himself, he knows likewise how to judge of others, and to make use of their services for his own advantage, either to procure himself some good, or to protect himself from some misfortune; but he who knows not himself, and is mistaken in the opinion he has of his own abilities, mistakes likewise in the knowledge of others, and in the conduct of his own affairs. He is ignorant of what is necessary for him, he knows not what he undertakes, nor comprehends the means he makes use of, and this is the reason that success never attends his enterprises, and that he always falls into misfortunes. But the man who sees clear into his own designs generally obtains the end he proposes to himself, and at the same time gains reputation and honour. For this reason, even his equals are well pleased to follow his advices; and they whose affairs are in disorder implore his assistance, and throw themselves into his hands, depending upon his prudence to retrieve their affairs, and to restore them to their former good condition. But he who undertakes he knows not what, generally makes an ill choice, and succeeds yet worse; and the present damage is not the only punishment he undergoes for his temerity. He is disgraced for ever; all men laugh at him, all men despise and speak ill of him. Consider likewise what happens to Republics who mistake their own strength, and declare war against States more powerful than themselves; some are utterly ruined, others lose their liberty, and are compelled to receive laws from the conquerors.”
MAKE TO GOD FOR HIS FAVOURS.—AN HONEST AND GOOD LIFE THE BEST SONG OF THANKSGIVING OR THE MOST ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE TO THE DEITY.
As Socrates considered virtue and piety as the two grand pillars of a State, and was fully persuaded that all other qualifications whatever, without the knowledge and practice of these, would, instead of enabling men to do good, serve, on the contrary, to render them more wicked and more capable of doing mischief. For that reason he never pressed his friends to enter into any public office until he had first instructed them in their duty to God and mankind. But, above all, he endeavoured to instil into their minds pious sentiments of the Deity, frequently displaying before them high and noble descriptions of the Divine power, wisdom, and goodness. But seeing several have already written what they had heard him say in divers occasions upon this subject, I will content myself with relating some things which he said to Euthydemus when I myself was present.
“Admire yet further the goodness of the gods,” said Socrates, “and consider, that as there is in the world an infinite number of excellent and useful things, but of very different natures, they have given us external senses, which correspond to each of those sensible objects, and by means of which senses we can perceive and enjoy all of them. They have, besides, endued us with reason and understanding, which enableth us to discern between those things that the senses discover to us, to inquire into the different natures of things useful and things hurtful, and so to know by experience which to choose and which to reject. They have likewise given us speech, by means whereof we communicate our thoughts to each other, and instruct one another in the knowledge of whatever is excellent and good; by which also we publish our laws and govern States. In fine, as we cannot always foresee what is to happen to us, nor know what it will be best for us to do, the gods offer us likewise their assistance by the means of the oracles; they discover the future to us when we go to consult them, and teach us how to behave ourselves in the affairs of life.”
Here Euthydemus, interrupting him, said, “And indeed these gods are in this respect more favourable to you than to the rest of mankind, since, without expecting you to consult them, they give you notice of what you ought or ought not to do.” “You will allow, therefore, that I told you true,” said Socrates, “when I told you there were gods, and that they take great care of men; but expect not that they will appear to you, and present themselves before your eyes. Let it suffice you to behold their works, and to adore them, and be persuaded that this is the way by which they manifest themselves to men, for among all the gods that are so liberal to us there is not one who renders himself visible to confer on us his favours. And that Supreme God, who built the universe, and who supports this great work, whose every part is accomplished in beauty and goodness; He, who is the cause that none of its parts grow old with time, and that they preserve themselves always in an immortal vigour, who is the cause, besides, that they inviolably obey His laws with a readiness that surpasses our imagination; He, I say, is visible enough in the so many wondrous works of which He is author, but our eyes cannot penetrate even into His throne to behold Him in these great occupations, and in that manner it is that He is always invisible. Do but consider that the sun, who seems to be exposed to the sight of all the world, does not suffer us to gaze fixedly upon him, and whoever has the temerity to undertake it is punished with sudden blindness. Besides, whatever the gods make use of is invisible; the thunder is lanced from above, it shatters all it finds in its way, but we see it not fall, we see it not strike, we see it not return. The winds are invisible, though we see the desolations they daily make, and easily feel when they grow boisterous. If there be anything in man that partakes of the divine nature it is his soul, which, beyond all dispute, guides and governs him, and yet we cannot see it. Let all this, therefore, teach you not to neglect or disbelieve the Deity, because He is invisible; learn to know His presence and power from the visible effects of it in the world around you; be persuaded of the universal care and providence of the all-surrounding Deity from the blessings He showers down upon all His creatures, and be sure to worship and serve this God in a becoming manner.”
“I am sure,” said Euthydemus, “I shall never derogate from the respect due to the gods; and I am even troubled that every man cannot sufficiently acknowledge the benefits he receives from them.” “Be not afflicted at that,” said Socrates, “for you know what answer the Delphian Oracle is wont to return to those who inquire what they ought to do in order to make an acceptable sacrifice. ‘Follow the custom of your country,’ says he to them. Now, it is a custom received in all places for every man to sacrifice to them according to his power; and by consequence there is no better nor more pious a way of honouring the gods than that, since they themselves ordain and approve it. It is indeed a truth that we ought not to spare anything of what we are able to offer, for that would be a manifest contempt. When, therefore, a man has done all that is in his power to do, he ought to fear nothing and hope all; for, from whence can we reasonably hope for more, than from those in whose power it is to do us the greatest good? And by what other way can we more easily obtain it, than by making ourselves acceptable to them? And how can we better make ourselves acceptable to them, than by doing their will?”
This is what Socrates taught, and by this doctrine, which was always accompanied with an exemplary devotion, he greatly advanced his friends in piety.
CHAPTER IV. INSTANCES OF THE INVIOLABLE INTEGRITY OF SOCRATES.—HIS CONVERSATION WITH HIPPIAS CONCERNING JUSTICE.
Concerning justice, it cannot be said that Socrates concealed his opinion of it, for he plainly revealed his sentiments by his actions, as well in public as in private, making it his business to serve every man, and to obey the magistrates and the laws; insomuch, that as well in the army as in the city, his obedience and uprightness rendered him remarkable above all others. He fully discovered the integrity of his soul, when he presided in the assemblies of the people; he would never pass a decree that was contrary to the laws; he alone defended the cause of justice against the efforts of the multitude, and opposed a violence which no man but himself was able to resist. Again, when the Thirty commanded him anything that was unjust, he did not obey them. Thus, when they forbid him to speak to the young men, he regarded not their inhibition, and when they gave orders to him, as well as to some other citizens, to bring before them a certain man, whom they intended to put to death, he alone would do nothing in it, because that order was unjust. In like manner when he was accused by Melitus, though in such occasions others endeavour to gain their judges by flatteries and ignominious solicitations, which often procure them their pardon, he would not put in practice any of these mean artifices that are repugnant to the laws, and yet he might very easily have got himself acquitted, if he could have prevailed with himself to comply in the least with the custom, but p. 169he chose rather to die in an exact observance of the laws, than to save his life by acting contrary to them, for he utterly abhorred all mean or indirect practices; and this was the answer he gave to several of his friends who advised him to the contrary.
CHAPTER V. OF THE MISCHIEFS OF INTEMPERANCE, AND THE ADVANTAGES OF SOBRIETY.
I will now set down the arguments that Socrates used to bring his friends to the practice of good actions, for being of opinion that temperance is a great advantage to such as desire to do anything that is excellent, he first showed them, by his way of living, that no man was more advanced than himself in the exercise of that virtue; and in his conferences he exhorted his hearers above all things to the practice of it, and his thoughts being continually employed in the means of arriving to be virtuous, he made it likewise the subject of all his discourses.
I remember that talking once with Euthydemus concerning temperance he delivered himself to this effect:—“In your opinion, Euthydemus, is liberty a very valuable thing?” “To be valued above all things,” answered Euthydemus. “Do you believe that a man who is a slave to sensual pleasures, and finds himself incapable of doing good, enjoys his liberty?” “Not in the least.” “You allow, then, that to do good is to be free, and that to be prevented from doing it, by any obstacle whatever, is not to be free?” “I think so,” said Euthydemus. “You believe, then,” said Socrates, “that debauched persons are not free?” “I do.” “Do you believe likewise,” continued Socrates, “that debauchery does not only hinder from doing good, but compels to do ill?” “I think it does.” “What would you say, then, of a master who should hinder you from applying yourself to what is honest, and force you to undertake some infamous occupation?” “I would say he was a very wicked master,” answered Euthydemus. “And which is the worst of all slaveries?” added Socrates. “To serve ill masters,” said Euthydemus. “Therefore,” inferred Socrates, “the debauched are in a miserable slavery.” “No doubt of it.” “Is it not debauchery, likewise,” said Socrates, “that deprives men of their wisdom, the noblest gift of the gods, and drives them into ignorance and stupidity, and all manner of disorders? It robs them of leisure to apply themselves to things profitable, while it drowns them in sensual pleasures; and it seizes their minds to that degree that, though they often know which is the best way, they are miserably engaged in the worst.” “They are so.” “Nor can we expect to find temperance nor modesty in a debauched person, since the actions of temperance and debauchery are entirely opposite.” “There is no doubt of it,” said Euthydemus. “I do not think neither,” added Socrates, “that it is possible to imagine anything that makes men neglect their duty more than debauchery.” “You say true.” “Is there anything more pernicious to man,” said Socrates, “than that which robs him of his judgment, makes him embrace and cherish things that are hurtful, avoid and neglect what is profitable, and lead a life contrary to that of good men?” “There is nothing,” said Euthydemus. Socrates went on:—“And may we not ascribe the contrary effects to temperance?” “Without doubt.” “And is it not likely to be true that the cause of the contrary effects is good?” “Most certainly.” “It follows, then, my dear Euthydemus,” said Socrates, “that temperance is a very good thing?” “Undoubtedly it is.” “But have you reflected,” pursued Socrates, “that debauchery, which pretends to lead men to pleasures, cannot conduct them thither, but deceives them, leaving them in disappointment, satiety, and disgust? and have you considered that temperance and sobriety alone give us the true taste of pleasures? For it is the nature of debauchery not to endure hunger nor thirst, nor the fatigue of being long awake, nor the vehement desires of love, which, nevertheless, are the true dispositions to eat and drink with delight, and to find an exquisite pleasure in the soft approaches of sleep, and in the enjoyments of love. This is the reason that the intemperate find less satisfaction in these actions, which are necessary and frequently done. But temperance, which accustoms us to wait for the necessity, is the only thing that makes us feel an extreme pleasure in these occasions.” “You are in the right,” said Euthydemus. “It is this virtue, too,” said Socrates, “that puts men in a condition of bringing to a state of perfection both the mind and the body, of rendering themselves capable of well governing their families, of being serviceable to their friends and their country, and of overcoming their enemies, which is not only very agreeable on account of the advantages, but very desirable likewise for the satisfaction that attends it. But the debauched know none of this, for what share can they pretend to in virtuous actions, they whose minds are wholly taken up in the pursuit of present pleasures?” “According to what you say,” replied Euthydemus, “a man given to voluptuousness is unfit for any virtue.” “And what difference is there,” said Socrates, “between an irrational animal and a voluptuous man, who has no regard to what is best, but blindly pursues what is most delightful? It belongs to the temperate only to inquire what things are best and what not, and then, after having found out the difference by experience and reasoning, to embrace the good and avoid the bad, which renders them at once most happy, most virtuous, and most prudent.”
This was the sum of this conference with Euthydemus. Now Socrates said that conferences were so called because the custom was to meet and confer together, in order to distinguish things according to their different species, and he advised the frequent holding of these conferences, because it is an exercise that improves and makes men truly great, teaches them to become excellent politicians, and ripens the judgment and understanding.
CHAPTER VI. SOCRATES’ FRIENDS ATTAIN, BY FREQUENTING HIS CONVERSATION, AN EXCELLENT WAY OF REASONING.—THE METHOD HE OBSERVED IN ARGUING SHOWN IN SEVERAL INSTANCES.—OF THE DIFFERENT SORTS OF GOVERNMENT.—HOW SOCRATES DEFENDED HIS OPINIONS.
I will show, in the next place, how Socrates’ friends learnt to reason so well by frequenting his conversation. He held that they who perfectly understand the nature of things can explain themselves very well concerning them, but that a man who has not that knowledge often deceives himself and others likewise. He therefore perpetually conferred with his friends without ever being weary of that exercise. It would be very difficult to relate how he defined every particular thing. I will therefore mention only what I think sufficient to show what method he observed in reasoning. And, in the first place, let us see how he argues concerning piety.
“Tell me,” said he to Euthydemus, “what piety is?” “It is a very excellent thing,” answered Euthydemus. “And who is a pious man?” said Socrates. “A man who serves the gods.” “Is it lawful,” added Socrates, “to serve the gods in what manner we please?” “By no means,” said Euthydemus; “there are laws made for that purpose, which must be kept.” “He, then, who keeps these laws will know how he ought to serve the gods?” “I think so.” “And is it not true,” continued Socrates, “that he who knows one way of serving the gods believes there is no better a way than his?” “That is certain.” “And will he not be careful how he does otherwise?” “I believe he will.” “He, then, who knows the laws that ought to be observed in the service of the gods, will serve them according to the laws?” “Without doubt.” “But he who serves the gods as the laws direct, serves them as he ought?” “True, he does.” “And he who serves the gods as he ought is pious?” “There can be no doubt of it.” “Thus, then,” said Socrates, “we have the true definition of a pious man: He who knows in what manner he ought to serve the gods?” “I think so,” said Euthydemus.
“Tell me further,” continued Socrates, “is it lawful for men to behave themselves to one another as they please?” “In nowise,” answered Euthydemus; “there are also certain laws which they ought to observe among themselves.” “And do they,” said Socrates, “who live together according to those laws, live as they ought?” “Yes.” “And do they who live as they ought live well?” “Certainly they do.” “And does he who knows how to live well with men understand well how to govern his affairs?” “It is likely that he may.” “Now, do you believe,” said Socrates, “that some men obey the laws without knowing what the laws command?” “I do not believe it.” “And when a man knows what he ought to do, do you think he believes that he ought not to do it?” “I do not think so.” “And do you know any men who do otherwise than they believe they ought to do?” “None at all.” “They, then, who know the laws that men ought to observe among themselves, do what those laws command?” “I believe so.” “And do they who do what the laws command, do what is just?” “Most surely.” “And they who do what is just are just likewise?” “None but they are so.” “We may, therefore, well conclude,” said Socrates, “that the just are they who know the laws that men ought to observe among themselves?” “I grant it,” said Euthydemus.
“And as for wisdom,” pursued Socrates, “what shall we say it is? Tell me whether are men said to be wise in regard to the things they know, or in regard to those they do not know?” “There can be no doubt,” answered Euthydemus, “but that it is in consideration of what they know; for how can a man be wise in things he knows not?” “Then,” said Socrates, “men are wise on account of their knowledge?” “It cannot be otherwise.” “Is wisdom anything but what renders us wise?” “No.” “Wisdom therefore is only knowledge?” “I think so.” “And do you believe,” said Socrates, “that it is in the power of a man to know everything?” “Not so much as even the hundredth part.” “It is, then, impossible,” said Socrates, “to find a man who is wise in all things?” “Indeed it is,” said Euthydemus. “It follows, then,” said Socrates, “that every man is wise in what he knows?” “I believe so.”
“But can we, by this same way of comparison, judge of the nature of good?” “As how?” said Euthydemus. “Do you think,” said Socrates, “that the same thing is profitable to all men?” “By no means.” “Do you believe that the same thing may be profitable to one and hurtful to another?” “I think it may.” “Then is it not the good that is profitable?” “Yes, certainly.” “Therefore, ‘what is profitable is a good to him to whom it is profitable.’” “That is true.”
“Is it not the same with what is beautiful? For, can you say that a body or a vessel is beautiful and proper for all the world?” “By no means.” “You will say, then, that it is beautiful in regard to the thing for which it is proper?” “Yes.” “But tell me whether what is reputed beautiful for one thing has the same relation to another as to that to which it is proper?” “No.” “Then ‘whatever is of any use is reputed beautiful in regard to the thing to which that use relates?’” “I think so.”
“And what say you of courage?” added Socrates. “Is it an excellent thing?” “Very excellent,” answered Euthydemus. “But do you believe it to be of use in occasions of little moment?” “Yes; but it is necessary in great affairs.” “Do you think it of great advantage in dangers,” continued Socrates, “not to perceive the peril we are in?” “I am not of that opinion.” “At that rate,” said Socrates, “they who are not frightened because they see not the danger are in nowise valiant.” “There is no doubt of it,” said Euthydemus, “for otherwise there would be some fools, and even cowards, who must be accounted brave.” “And what are they who fear what is not to be feared?” “They are less brave than the others,” answered Euthydemus. “They therefore,” said Socrates, “who show themselves valiant in dangerous occasions, are they whom you call brave; and they who behave themselves in them unworthily, are they whom you call cowards?” “Very right.” “Do you think,” added Socrates, “that any men are valiant in such occasions except they who know how to behave themselves in them?” “I do not think there are.” “And are not they, who behave themselves unworthily, the same as they who know not how to behave themselves?” “I believe they are.” “And does not every man behave himself as he believes he ought to do?” “Without doubt.” “Shall we say, then, that they who behave themselves ill know how they ought to behave themselves?” “By no means.” “They, therefore, who know how to behave themselves, are they who behave themselves well?” “They and no others.” “Let us conclude, then,” said Socrates, “that they who know how to behave themselves well in dangers and difficult occasions are the brave, and that they who know not how to do so are the cowards.” “That is my opinion,” said Euthydemus.
Socrates was wont to say, that a kingly government and a tyrannical government were indeed two sorts of monarchy, and that there was this difference between them; that, under a kingly government, the subjects obeyed willingly, and that everything was done according to the laws of the State; but that, under a tyrannical government, the people obeyed by force, and that all the laws were reduced to the sole will of the sovereign.
Concerning the other sorts of government, he said: That when the offices of a Republic are given to the good citizens, this sort of State was called aristocracy, or government of good men; when, on the contrary, the magistrates were chosen according to their revenues, it was called a plutocracy, or government of the rich; and when all the people are admitted, without distinction, to bear employments, it is a democracy, or popular government.
If any one opposed the opinion of Socrates, on any affair whatever, without giving a convincing reason, his custom was to bring back the discourse to the first proposition, and to begin by that to search for the truth. For example: if Socrates had commended any particular person, and any stander-by had named another, and pretended that he was more valiant, or more experienced in affairs, he would have defended his opinion in the following manner:—
“You pretend,” would he have said, “that he of whom you speak is a better citizen than the person whom I was praising. Let us consider what is the duty of a good citizen, and what man is most esteemed in a Republic. Will you not grant me, that in relation to the management of the public revenue, he is in the highest esteem who, while he has that office, saves the Republic most money? In regard to the war, it is he who gains most victories over the enemies. If we are to enter into a treaty with other States, it is he who can dexterously win over to the party of the Republic those who before opposed its interests. If we are to have regard to what passes in the assemblies of the people, it is he who breaks the cabals, who appeases the seditious, who maintains concord and unity among the citizens.” This being granted him, he applied these general rules to the dispute in question, and made the truth plainly appear, even to the eyes of those who contradicted him. As for himself, when he undertook to discourse of anything, he always began by the most common and universally received propositions, and was wont to say, that the strength of the argumentation consisted in so doing. And, indeed, of all the men I have ever seen, I know none who could so easily bring others to own the truth of what he had a mind to prove to them. And he said that Homer, speaking of Ulysses, called him “the certain or never-failing orator,” because he had the art of supporting his arguments upon principles that were acknowledged by all men.
CHAPTER VII. METHOD TO BE OBSERVED IN STUDY.—ARTS AND SCIENCES NO FURTHER USEFUL, THAN THEY CONTRIBUTE TO RENDER MEN WISER, BETTER, OR HAPPIER.—VAIN AND UNPROFITABLE KNOWLEDGE TO BE REJECTED.
I presume now, that what I have said has been a sufficient evidence of the frankness and sincerity with which Socrates conversed with his friends, and made known his opinions to them. It remains now that I should say something of the extreme care Socrates showed for the advancement of his friends, and how much he had at heart that they might not be ignorant of anything that could be useful to them, to the end they might not want the assistance of others in their own affairs. For this reason, he applied himself to examine in what each of them was knowing; then, if he thought it in his power to teach them anything that an honest and worthy man ought to know, he taught them such things with incredible readiness and affection; if not, he carried them himself to masters who were able to instruct them. But he resolved within himself how far a person who was well-educated in his studies ought to learn everything.
Thus for geometry he said, that we ought to know enough of it not to be imposed upon in measure when we buy or sell land, when we divide an inheritance into shares, or measure out the work of a labourer, and that it was so easy to know this, that if a man applied himself ever so little to the practice of such things, he would soon learn even the extent and circumference of the whole earth, and how to measure it; but he did not approve that a man should dive into the very bottom of this science, and puzzle his brains with I know not what figures, though he himself was expert in it, for he said he could not see what all those niceties and inventions were good for, which take up the whole life of a man, and distract him from other more necessary studies.
In like manner he was of opinion that a man should employ some time in astronomy, that he might know by the stars the hour of the night, what day of the month it is, and what season of the year we are in, in order that we might know when to relieve a sentinel in the night, and when it is best to venture out to sea, or undertake a journey, and, in short, that we might know how to do everything in its proper season. He said that all this was easily learnt by conversing with seamen, or with such as go a-hunting by night, or others who profess to know these things; but he dissuaded very much from penetrating farther into this science, as even to know what planets are not in the same declination, to explain all their different motions, to know how far distant they are from the earth, in how long time they make their revolutions, and what are their several influences, for he thought these sciences wholly useless, not that he was ignorant of them himself, but because they take up all our time, and divert us from better employments. In fine, he could not allow of a too curious inquiry into the wonderful workmanship of the Deity in the disposition of the universe, that being a secret which the mind cannot comprehend, and because it is not an action acceptable to God to endeavour to discover what He would hide from us. He held, likewise, that it was dangerous to perplex the mind with these sublime speculations….
Socrates advised, likewise, to learn arithmetic, but not to amuse ourselves with the vain curiosities of that science, having established this rule in all his studies and in all his conferences, never to go beyond what is useful.
He exhorted his friends to take care of their health, and to that purpose to consult with the learned; and to observe, besides, each in his own particular, what meat, what drink, and what exercise is best for him, and how to use them to preserve himself in health. For when a man has thus studied his own constitution, he cannot have a better physician than himself.
If any one desired to attempt or to learn things that were above the power or capacity of human nature, he advised him to apply himself to divination; for he who knows by what means the gods generally signify their mind to men, or how it is they used to give them counsel and aid, such a person never fails to obtain from the Deity all that direction and assistance that is necessary for him.
CHAPTER VIII. BEHAVIOUR OF SOCRATES FROM THE TIME OF HIS CONDEMNATION TO HIS DEATH.—HIS CHARACTER SUMMED UP IN A FEW WORDS.
To conclude: if, because Socrates was condemned to death, any one should believe that he was a liar to say that he had a good demon that guided him, and gave him instructions what he should or should not do, let him consider, in the first place, that he was arrived to such an age that if he had not died when he did, he could not have lived much longer; that by dying when he did he avoided the most toilsome part of life, in which the mind loses much of its vigour; and that in amends for it he discovered to the whole world the greatness of his soul, acquired to himself an immortal glory, by the defence he made before his judges, in behaving himself with a sincerity, courage, and probity that were indeed wonderful, and in receiving his sentence with a patience and resolution of mind never to be equalled; for it is agreed by all that no man ever suffered death with greater constancy than Socrates.
He lived thirty days after his condemnation, because the Delian feasts happened in that month, and the law forbids to put any man to death till the consecrated vessel that is sent to the Isle of Delos be come back to Athens. During that time his friends, who saw him continually, found no change in him; but that he always retained that tranquillity of mind and agreeableness of temper which before had made all the world admire him. Now, certainly no man can die with greater constancy than this; this is doubtless the most glorious death that can be imagined; but if it be the most glorious, it is the most happy; and if it be the most happy, it is the most acceptable to the Deity.
Hermogenes has told me, that being with him a little after Melitus had accused him, he observed, that he seemed to decline speaking of that affair: from whence he took occasion to tell him that it would not be amiss for him to think of what he should answer in his own justification. To which Socrates replied: “Do you believe I have done anything else all my life than think of it?” And Hermogenes asking him what he meant by saying so? Socrates told him that he had made it the whole business of his life to examine what was just and what unjust; that he had always cherished justice and hated injustice, and that he did not believe there was any better way to justify himself.
Hermogenes said further to him—“Do you not know that judges have often condemned the innocent to death, only because their answers offended them, and that, on the contrary, they have often acquitted the guilty?” “I know it very well,” answered Socrates; “but I assure you, that having set myself to think what I should say to my judges, the demon that advises me dissuaded me from it.” At which Hermogenes seeming surprised, Socrates said to him, “Why are you surprised that this God thinks it better for me to leave this world than to continue longer in it? Sure, you are not ignorant that I have lived as well and as pleasantly as any man, if to live well be, as I take it, to have no concern but for virtue, and if to live pleasantly be to find that we have made some progress in it. Now, I have good reason to believe that this is my happy case, that I have always had a steady regard for virtue, and made progress in it, because I perceive that my mind, at this time, doth not misgive me, nay, I have the sincere testimony of my conscience that I have done my duty; and in this belief I strengthen myself by the conversation I have had with others, and by comparing myself with them. My friends, too, have believed the same thing of me, not because they wish me well, for in that sense every friend would think as much of his friend, but because they thought they advanced in virtue by my conversation.
“If I were to live longer, perhaps I should fall into the inconveniences of old age: perhaps my sight should grow dim, my hearing fail me, my judgment become weak, and I should have more trouble to learn, more to retain what I had learnt; perhaps, too, after all, I should find myself incapable of doing the good I had done before. And if, to complete my misery, I should have no sense of my wretchedness, would not life be a burden to me? And, on the other hand, say I had a sense of it, would it not afflict me beyond measure? As things now stand, if I die innocent the shame will fall on those who are the cause of my death, since all sort of iniquity is attended with shame. But who will ever blame me because others have not confessed my innocence, nor done me justice? Past experience lets us see that they who suffer injustice, and they who commit it, leave not a like reputation behind them after their death. And thus, if I die on this occasion, I am most certain that posterity will more honour my memory than theirs who condemn me; for it will be said of me, that I never did any wrong, never gave any ill advice to any man; but that I laboured all my life long to excite to virtue those who frequented me.”
This was the answer that Socrates gave to Hermogenes, and to several others. In a word, all good men who knew Socrates daily regret his loss to this very hour, reflecting on the advantage and improvement they made in his company.
For my own part, having found him to be the man I have described, that is to say, so pious as to do nothing without the advice of the Deity; so just as never to have in the least injured any man, and to have done very signal services to many; so chaste and temperate as never to have preferred delight and pleasure before modesty and honesty; so prudent as never to have mistaken in the discernment of good and evil, and never to have had need of the advice of others, to form a right judgment of either; moreover, most capable to deliberate and resolve in all sorts of affairs, most capable to examine into men, to reprehend them for their vices, and to excite them to virtue; having, I say, found all these perfections in Socrates, I have always esteemed him the most virtuous and most happy of all men; and if any one be not of my opinion, let him take the pains to compare him with other men, and judge of him afterwards.
XENOPHON – THE APOLOGY
Xenophon. The Apology. Translated by H.G Dakyns. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg, 2008. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1171/1171-h/1171-h.htm
Among the reminiscences of Socrates, none, as it seems to me, is more deserving of record than the counsel he took with himself (after being cited to appear before the court), not only with regard to his defence, but also as to the ending of his life. Others have written on this theme, and all without exception have touched upon the lofty style of the philosopher, which may be taken as a proof that the language used by Socrates was really of that type. But none of these writers has brought out clearly the fact that Socrates had come to regard death as for himself preferable to life; and consequently there is just a suspicion of foolhardiness in the arrogancy of his address. We have, however, from the lips of one of his intimate acquaintances, Hermogenes, the son of Hipponicus, an account of him which shows the high demeanour in question to have been altogether in keeping with the master’s rational purpose. Hermogenes says that, seeing Socrates discoursing on every topic rather than that of his impending trial, he roundly put it to him whether he ought not to be debating the line of his defence, to which Socrates in the first instance answered: “What! do I not seem to you to have spent my whole life in meditating my defence?” And when Hermogenes asked him, “How?” he added: “By a lifelong persistence in doing nothing wrong, and that I take to be the finest practice for his defence which a man could devise.” Presently reverting to the topic, Hermogenes demanded: “Do you not see, Socrates, how often Athenian juries are constrained by arguments to put quite innocent people to death, and not less often to acquit the guilty, either through some touch of pity excited by the pleadings, or that the defendant had skill to turn some charming phrase?” Thus appealed to, Socrates replied: “Nay, solemnly I tell you, twice already I have essayed to consider my defence, and twice the divinity hinders me”; and to the remark of Hermogenes, “That is strange!” he answered again: “Strange, do you call it, that to God it should seem better for me to die at once? Do you not know that up to this moment I will not concede to any man to have lived a better life than I have; since what can exceed the pleasure, which has been mine, of knowing that my whole life has been spent holily and justly? And indeed this verdict of self-approval I found re-echoed in the opinion which my friends and intimates have formed concerning me. And now if my age is still to be prolonged, I know that I cannot escape paying the penalty of old age, in increasing dimness of sight and dulness of hearing. I shall find myself slower to learn new lessons, and apter to forget the lessons I have learnt. And if to these be added the consciousness of failing powers, the sting of self-reproach, what prospect have I of any further joy in living? It may be, you know,” he added, “that God out of his great kindness is intervening in my behalf to suffer me to close my life in the ripeness of age, and by the gentlest of deaths. For if at this time sentence of death be passed upon me, it is plain I shall be allowed to meet an end which, in the opinion of those who have studied the matter, is not only the easiest in itself, but one which will cause the least trouble to one’s friends, while engendering the deepest longing for the departed. For of necessity he will only be thought of with regret and longing who leaves nothing behind unseemly or discomfortable to haunt the imagination of those beside him, but, sound of body, and his soul still capable of friendly repose, fades tranquilly away.”
“No doubt,” he added, “the gods were right in opposing me at that time (touching the inquiry, what I was to say in my defence), when you all thought the great thing was to discover some means of acquittal; since, had I effected that, it is clear I should have prepared for myself, not that surcease from life which is in store for me anon, but to end my days wasted by disease, or by old age, on which a confluent stream of evil things most alien to joyousness converges.”
“No,” he added, “God knows I shall display no ardent zeal to bring that about. On the contrary, if by proclaiming all the blessings which I owe to god and men; if, by blazoning forth the opinion which I entertain with regard to myself, I end by wearying the court, even so will I choose death rather than supplicate in servile sort for leave to live a little longer merely to gain a life impoverished in place of death.”
It was in this determination, Hermogenes states, that, when the prosecution accused him of not recognising the gods recognised by the state, but introducing novel divinities and corrupting the young, Socrates stepped forward and said: “In the first place, sirs, I am at a loss to imagine on what ground Meletus asserts that I do not recognise the gods which are recognised by the state, since, as far as sacrificing goes, the rest of the world who have chanced to be present have been in the habit of seeing me so engaged at common festivals, and on the public altars; and so might Meletus himself, if he had wished. And as to novel divinities, how, pray, am I supposed to introduce them by stating that I have a voice from God which clearly signifies to me what I ought do do? Why, what else do those who make use of the cries of birds or utterances of men draw their conclusions from if not from voices? Who will deny that the thunder has a voice and is a very mighty omen; and the priestess on her tripod at Pytho, does not she also proclaim by voice the messages from the god? The god, at any rate, has foreknowledge, and premonishes those whom he will of what is about to be. That is a thing which all the world believes and asserts even as I do. Only, when they describe these premonitions under the name of birds and utterances, tokens and soothsayers, I speak of a divinity, and in using that designation I claim to speak at once more exactly and more reverentially than they do who ascribe the power of the gods to birds. And that I am not lying against the Godhead I have this as a proof: although I have reported to numbers of friends the counsels of heaven, I have never at any time been shown to be a deceiver or deceived.”
As they listened to these words the judges murmured their dissent, some as disbelieving what was said, and others out of simple envy that Socrates should actually receive from heaven more than they themselves; whereupon Socrates returned to the charge. “Come,” he said, “lend me your ears while I tell you something more, so that those of you who choose may go to a still greater length in refusing to believe that I am thus highly honoured by the divine powers. Chaerephon once, in the presence of many witnesses, put a question at Delhi concerning me, and Apollo answered that there was no human being more liberal, or more upright, or more temperate than myself.” And when once more on hearing these words the judges gave vent, as was only natural, to a fiercer murmur of dissent, Socrates once again spoke: “Yet, sirs, they were still greater words which the god spake in oracle concerning Lycurgus, the great lawgiver of Lacedaemon, than those concerning me. It is said that as he entered the temple the god addressed him with the words: ‘I am considering whether to call thee god or man.’ Me he likened not indeed to a god, but in excellence preferred me far beyond other men.”
“Still I would not have you accept this even on the faith of the god too rashly; rather I would have you investigate, point by point, what the god has said. I ask you, is there any one else, you know of, less enslaved than myself to the appetites of the body? Can you name another man of more independent spirit than myself, seeing that I accept from no one either gifts or pay? Whom have you any right to believe to be more just than one so suited with what he has, that the things of others excite no craving in him? Whom would one reasonably deem wise, rather than such a one as myself, who, from the moment I began to understand things spoken, have never omitted to inquire into and learn every good thing in my power? And that I laboured not in vain, what more conclusive evidence than the fact that so many of my fellow-citizens who make virtue their pursuit, and many strangers also, choose my society in preference to that of others? And how are we to explain the fact that though all know well enough that I am wholly unable to repay them in money, so many are eager to present me with some gift? And what do you make of this—while no one dreams of dunning me for benefits conferred, hosts of people acknowledge debts of gratitude to myself? And what of this, that during the siege, while others were pitying themselves I lived in no greater straits than when the city was at the height of her prosperity? and of this, that while others provide themselves with delicacies of the market at great cost, mine are the dainties of the soul more sweet than theirs, procured without expense? If in all I have said about myself no one can convict me of lying, is it not obvious that the praise I get from gods and men is justly earned? And yet in spite of all, Meletus, you will have it that by such habits I corrupt the young. We know, I fancy, what such corrupting influences are; and perhaps you will tell us if you know of any one who, under my influence, has been changed from a religious into an irreligious man; who, from being sober-minded, has become prodigal; from being a moderate drinker has become a wine-bibber and a drunkard; from being a lover of healthy honest toil has become effeminate, or under the thrall of some other wicked pleasure.”
“Nay, bless my soul,” exclaimed Meletus, “I know those whom you persuaded to obey yourself rather than the fathers who begat them.”
“I admit it,” Socrates replied, “in the case of education, for they know that I have made the matter a study; and with regard to health a man prefers to obey his doctor rather than his parents; in the public assembly the citizens of Athens, I presume, obey those whose arguments exhibit the soundest wisdom rather than their own relations. And is it not the case that, in your choice of generals, you set your fathers and brothers, and, bless me! your own selves aside, by comparison with those whom you believe to be the wisest authorities on military matters?”
“No doubt, Socrates,” replied Meletus, “because it is expedient and customary so to do.”
“Well then,” rejoined Socrates, “does it not strike even you, Meletus, as wonderful when in all ordinary concerns the best people should obtain, I do not say only an equal share, but an exclusive preference; but in my case, simply because I am selected by certain people as an adept in respect of the greatest treasure men possess—education, I am on that account to be prosecuted by you, sir, on the capital charge?”
Much more than this, it stands to reason, was urged, whether by himself or by the friends who advocated his cause. But my object has not been to mention everything that arose out of the suit. It suffices me to have shown on the one hand that Socrates, beyond everything, desired not to display impiety to heaven, and injustice to men; and on the other, that escape from death was not a thing, in his opinion, to be clamoured for importunately—on the contrary, he believed that the time was already come for him to die. That such was the conclusion to which he had come was made still more evident later when the case had been decided against him. In the first place, when called upon to suggest a counter-penalty, he would neither do so himself nor suffer his friends to do so for him, but went so far as to say that to propose a counter-penalty was like a confession of guilt. And afterwards, when his companions wished to steal him out of prison, he would not follow their lead, but would seem to have treated the idea as a jest, by asking “whether they happened to know of some place outside Attica where death was forbidden to set foot?”
When the trial drew to an end, we are told, the master said: “Sirs, those who instructed the witnesses that they ought to perjure themselves and bear false witness against me, alike with those who listened to their instruction, must be conscious to themselves of a deep impiety and injustice. But for myself, what reason have I at the present time to hold my head less high than I did before sentence was passed against me, if I have not been convicted of having done any of those things whereof my accusers accused me? It has not been proved against me that I have sacrificed to novel divinities in place of Zeus and Hera and the gods who form their company. I have not taken oath by any other gods, nor named their name.
“And then the young—how could I corrupt them by habituating them to manliness and frugality? since not even my accusers themselves allege against me that I have committed any of those deeds of which death is the penalty, such as robbery of temples, breaking into houses, selling freemen into slavery, or betrayal of the state; so that I must still ask myself in wonderment how it has been proved to you that I have done a deed worthy of death. Nor yet again because I die innocently is that a reason why I should lower my crest, for that is a blot not upon me but upon those who condemned me.
“For me, I find a certain consolation in the case of Palamedes, whose end was not unlike my own; who still even to-day furnishes a far nobler theme of song than Odysseus who unjustly slew him; and I know that testimony will be borne to me also by time future and time past that I never wronged another at any time or ever made a worse man of him, but ever tried to benefit those who practised discussion with me, teaching them gratuitously every good thing in my power.”
Having so said he turned and went in a manner quite in conformity with the words which he had spoken—so bright an air was discernible alike in the glance of his eye, his gesture, and his step.
And when he perceived those who followed by his side in tears, “What is this?” he asked. “Why do you weep now? Do you not know that for many a long day, ever since I was born, sentence of death was passed upon me by nature? If so be I perish prematurely while the tide of life’s blessings flows free and fast, certainly I and my well-wishers should feel pained; but if it be that I am bringing my life to a close on the eve of troubles, for my part I think you ought all of you to take heart of grace and rejoice in my good fortune.”
Now there was a certain Apollodorus, who was an enthusiastic lover of the master, but for the rest a simple-minded man. He exclaimed very innocently, “But the hardest thing of all to bear, Socrates, is to see you put to death unjustly.”
Whereupon Socrates, it is said, gently stroked the young man’s head: “Would you have been better pleased, my dear one, to see me put to death for some just reason rather than unjustly?” and as he spoke he smiled tenderly.
It is also said that, seeing Anytus pass by, Socrates remarked: “How proudly the great man steps; he thinks, no doubt, he has performed some great and noble deed in putting me to death, and all because, seeing him deemed worthy of the highest honours of the state, I told him it ill became him to bring up his so in a tan-yard. What a scamp the fellow is! he appears not to know that of us two whichever has achieved what is best and noblest for all future time is the real victor in this suit. Well! well!” he added, “Homer has ascribed to some at the point of death a power of forecasting things to be, and I too am minded to utter a prophecy. Once, for a brief space, I associated with the son of Anytus, and he seemed to me not lacking in strength of soul; and what I say is, he will not adhere long to the slavish employment which his father has prepared for him, but, in the absence of any earnest friend and guardian, he is like to be led into some base passion and go to great lengths in depravity.”
The prophecy proved true. The young man fell a victim to the pleasures of wine; night and day he never ceased drinking, and at last became a mere good-for-nothing, worthless alike to his city, his friends, and himself. As to Anytus, even though the grave has closed upon him, his evil reputation still survives him, due alike to his son’s base bringing-up and his own want of human feeling.
Socrates did, it is true, by his self-laudation draw down upon him the jealousy of the court and caused his judges all the more to record their votes against him. Yet even so I look upon the lot of destiny which he obtained as providential, chancing as he did upon the easiest amidst the many shapes of death, and escaping as he did the one grievous portion of existence. And what a glorious chance, moreover, he had to display the full strength of his soul, for when once he had decided that death was better for him than life, just as in the old days he had never harshly opposed himself to the good things of life morosely, so even in face of death he showed no touch of weakness, but with gaiety welcomed death’s embrace, and discharged life’s debt.
For myself indeed, as I lay to mind the wisdom of the man and his nobility, I can neither forget him nor, remembering him, forbear to praise him. But if any of those who make virtue their pursuit have ever met a more helpful friend than Socrates, I tender such an one my congratulations as a most enviable man.
XENOPHON – CYROPAEDIA: THE EDUCATION OF CYRUS
Xenophon. Cyropaedia: The Education of Cyrus. Translated by Henry Graham Dakyns. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg, 2009. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2085/2085-h/2085-h.htm
We have had occasion before now to reflect how often democracies have been overthrown by the desire for some other type of government, how often monarchies and oligarchies have been swept away by movements of the people, how often would-be despots have fallen in their turn, some at the outset by one stroke, while whose who have maintained their rule for ever so brief a season are looked upon with wonder as marvels of sagacity and success.
The same lesson, we had little doubt, was to be learnt from the family: the household might be great or small—even the master of few could hardly count on the obedience of his little flock. And so, one idea leading to another, we came to shape our reflexions thus: Drovers may certainly be called the rulers of their cattle and horse-breeders the rulers of their studs—all herdsmen, in short, may reasonably be considered the governors of the animals they guard. If, then, we were to believe the evidence of our senses, was it not obvious that flocks and herds were more ready to obey their keepers than men their rulers? Watch the cattle wending their way wherever their herdsmen guide them, see them grazing in the pastures where they are sent and abstaining from forbidden grounds, the fruit of their own bodies they yield to their master to use as he thinks best; nor have we ever seen one flock among them all combining against their guardian, either to disobey him or to refuse him the absolute control of their produce. On the contrary, they are more apt to show hostility against other animals than against the owner who derives advantage from them. But with man the rule is converse; men unite against none so readily as against those whom they see attempting to rule over them. As long, therefore, as we followed these reflexions, we could not but conclude that man is by nature fitted to govern all creatures, except his fellow-man. But when we came to realise the character of Cyrus the Persian, we were led to a change of mind: here is a man, we said, who won for himself obedience from thousands of his fellows, from cities and tribes innumerable: we must ask ourselves whether the government of men is after all an impossible or even a difficult task, provided one set about it in the right way. Cyrus, we know, found the readiest obedience in his subjects, though some of them dwelt at a distance which it would take days and months to traverse, and among them were men who had never set eyes on him, and for the matter of that could never hope to do so, and yet they were willing to obey him. Cyrus did indeed eclipse all other monarchs, before or since, and I include not only those who have inherited their power, but those who have won empire by their own exertions. How far he surpassed them all may be felt if we remember that no Scythian, although the Scythians are reckoned by their myriads, has ever succeeded in dominating a foreign nation; indeed the Scythian would be well content could he but keep his government unbroken over his own tribe and people. The same is true of the Thracians and the Illyrians, and indeed of all other nations within our ken; in Europe, at any rate, their condition is even now one of independence, and of such separation as would seem to be permanent. Now this was the state in which Cyrus found the tribes and peoples of Asia when, at the head of a small Persian force, he started on his career. The Medes and the Hyrcanians accepted his leadership willingly, but it was through conquest that he won Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Cappadocia, the two Phrygias, Lydia, Caria, Phoenicia, and Babylonia. Then he established his rule over the Bactrians, Indians, and Cilicians, over the Sakians, Paphlagonians, and Magadidians, over a host of other tribes the very names of which defy the memory of the chronicler; and last of all he brought the Hellenes in Asia beneath his sway, and by a descent on the seaboard Cyprus and Egypt also.
It is obvious that among this congeries of nations few, if any, could have spoken the same language as himself, or understood one another, but none the less Cyrus was able so to penetrate that vast extent of country by the sheer terror of his personality that the inhabitants were prostrate before him: not one of them dared lift hand against him. And yet he was able, at the same time, to inspire them all with so deep a desire to please him and win his favour that all they asked was to be guided by his judgment and his alone. Thus he knit to himself a complex of nationalities so vast that it would have taxed a man’s endurance merely to traverse his empire in any one direction, east or west or south or north, from the palace which was its centre. For ourselves, considering his title to our admiration proved, we set ourselves to inquire what his parentage might have been and his natural parts, and how he was trained and brought up to attain so high a pitch of excellence in the government of men. And all we could learn from others about him or felt we might infer for ourselves we will here endeavour to set forth.
Lastly, as he pondered how the whole empire was to be kept together, and possibly another added to it, he felt convinced that his mercenaries did not make up for the smallness of their numbers by their superiority to the subject peoples. Therefore he must keep together those brave warriors, to whom with heaven’s help the victory was due, and he must take all care that they did not lose their valour, hardihood, and skill. To avoid the appearance of dictating to them and to bring it about that they should see for themselves it was best to stay with him and remember their valour and their training, he called a council of the Peers and of the leading men who seemed to him most worthy of sharing their dangers and their rewards. And when they were met he began:
“Gentlemen, my friends and allies, we owe the utmost thanks to the gods because they have given us what we believed that we deserved. We are masters to-day of a great country and a good; and those who till it will support us; we have houses of our own, and all the furniture that is in them is ours. For you need not think that what you hold belongs to others. It is an eternal law the wide world over, that when a city is taken in war, the citizens, their persons, and all their property fall into the hands of the conquerors. It is not by injustice, therefore, that you hold what you have taken, rather it is through your own human kindness that the citizens are allowed to keep whatever they do retain.
“Yet I foresee that if we betake ourselves to the life of indolence and luxury, the life of the degenerate who think that labour is the worst of evils and freedom from toil the height of happiness, the day will come, and speedily, when we shall be unworthy of ourselves, and with the loss of honour will come the loss of wealth. Once to have been valiant is not enough; no man can keep his valour unless he watch over it to the end. As the arts decay through neglect, as the body, once healthy and alert, will grow weak through sloth and indolence, even so the powers of the spirit, temperance, self-control, and courage, if we grow slack in training, fall back once more to rottenness and death. We must watch ourselves; we must not surrender to the sweetness of the day. It is a great work, methinks, to found an empire, but a far greater to keep it safe. To seize it may be the fruit of daring and daring only, but to hold it is impossible without self-restraint and self-command and endless care. We must not forget this; we must train ourselves in virtue from now henceforward with even greater diligence than before we won this glory, remembering that the more a man possesses, the more there are to envy him, to plot against him, and be his enemies, above all when the wealth he wins and the services he receives are yielded by reluctant hands. But the gods, we need not doubt, will be upon our side; we have not triumphed through injustice; we were not the aggressors, it was we who were attacked and we avenged ourselves. The gods are with us, I say; but next to that supreme support there is a defence we must provide out of our own powers alone; and that is the righteous claim to rule our subjects because we are better men than they. Needs must that we share with our slaves in heat and cold and food and drink and toil and slumber, and we must strive to prove our superiority even in such things as these, and first in these. But in the science of war and the art of it we can admit no share; those whom we mean to make our labourers and our tributaries can have no part in that; we will set ourselves to defraud them there; we know that such exercises are the very tools of freedom and happiness, given by the gods to mortal men. We have taken their arms away from our slaves, and we must never lay our own aside, knowing well that the nearer the sword-hilt the closer the heart’s desire. So. Does any man ask himself what profit he has gained from the fulfilment of his dreams, if he must still endure, still undergo hunger and thirst and toil and trouble and care? Let him learn the lesson that a man’s enjoyment of all good things is in exact proportion to the pains he has undergone to gain them. Toil is the seasoning of delight; without desire and longing, no dish, however costly, could be sweet. Yes, if some spirit were to set before us what men desire most, and we were left to add for ourselves that final touch of sweetness, I say that we could only gain above the poorest of the poor in so far as we could bring hunger for the most delicious foods, and thirst for the richest wines, and weariness to make us woo the deepest slumber. Therefore, we must strain every nerve to win and to keep manhood and nobleness; so that we may gain that satisfaction which is the sweetest and the best, and be saved from the bitterest of sorrows; since to fail of good altogether is not so hard as to lose the good that has once been ours. And let us ask ourselves what excuse we could offer for being unworthy of our past. Shall we say it is because we have won an empire? Surely it is hardly fitting that the ruler should be baser than the ruled. Or is it that we seem to be happier to-day than heretofore? Is cowardice, then, an adjunct of happiness? Or is it simply because we have slaves and must punish them if they do wrong? But by what right can a man, who is bad himself, punish others for badness or stupidity? Remember, too, that we have arranged for the maintenance of a whole multitude, to guard our persons and our houses, and it would be shameful for us to depend for safety on the weapons of others and refuse to carry weapons for ourselves. Surely we ought to know that there can be no defence so strong as a man’s own gallantry. Courage should be our companion all our days. For if virtue leave us, nothing else whatever can go well with us. What, then, would I have you do? How are we to remember our valour and train our skill? Gentlemen, I have nothing novel to suggest; at home in Persia the Peers spend their days at the public buildings and here we should do the same. Here we are the men of rank and honour, as we are there, and we should hold to the same customs. You must keep your eyes on me and watch whether I am diligent in my duty, and I shall give heed to you, and honour him who trains himself in what is beautiful and brave. And here too let us educate our sons, if sons are born to us. We cannot but become better ourselves if we strive to set the best example we can to our children, and our children could hardly grow up to be unworthy, even if they wished, when they see nothing base before them, and hear nothing shameful, but live in the practice of all that is beautiful and good.”
Such were the words of Cyrus; and Chrysantas rose up after him, saying, “Gentlemen, this is not the first time I have had occasion to observe that a good ruler differs in no respect from a good father. Even as a father takes thought that blessings may never fail his children, so Cyrus would commend to us the ways by which we can preserve our happiness. And yet, on one point, it seemed to me he had spoken less fully than he might; and I will try to explain it for the benefit of those who have not learnt it. I would have you ask yourselves, was ever a hostile city captured by an undisciplined force? Did ever an undisciplined garrison save a friendly town? When discipline was gone, did ever an army conquer? Is ever disaster nearer than when each solider thinks about his private safety only? Nay, in peace as in war, can any good be gained if men will not obey their betters? What city could be at rest, lawful, and orderly? What household could be safe? What ship sail home to her haven? And we, to what do we owe our triumph, if not to our obedience? We obeyed; we were ready to follow the call by night and day; we marched behind our leader, ranks that nothing could resist; we left nothing half-done of all we were told to do. If obedience is the one path to win the highest good, remember it is also the one way to preserve it. Now in the old days, doubtless, many of us ruled no one else, we were simply ruled. But to-day you find yourselves rulers, one and all of you, some over many and some over few. And just as you would wish your subjects to obey you, so we must obey those who are set over us. Yet there should be this difference between ourselves and slaves; a slave renders unwilling service to his lord, but we, if we claim to be freemen, must do of our own free will that which we see to be the best. And you will find,” he added, “that even when no single man is ruler, that city which is most careful to obey authority is the last to bow to the will of her enemies. Let us listen to the words of Cyrus. Let us gather round the public buildings and train ourselves, so that we may keep our hold on all we care for, and offer ourselves to Cyrus for his noble ends. Of one thing we may be sure: Cyrus will never put us to any service which can make for his own good and not for ours. Our needs are the same as his, and our foes the same.”
Such was his method with the truants; with those who came forward he felt, since he was their rightful leader, that he could best incite them to noble deeds by trying to show that he himself had all the virtues that became a man. He believed that men do grow better through written laws, and he held that the good ruler is a living law with eyes that see, inasmuch as he is competent to guide and also to detect the sinner and chastise him. Thus he took pains to show that he was the more assiduous in his service to the gods the higher his fortunes rose. It was at this time that the Persian priests, the Magians, were first established as an order, and always at break of day Cyrus chanted a hymn and sacrificed to such of the gods as they might name. And the ordinances he established service to this day at the court of the reigning king. These were the first matters in which the Persians set themselves to copy their prince; feeling their own fortune would be the higher if they did reverence to the gods, following the man who was fortune’s favourite and their own monarch. At the same time, no doubt, they thought they would please Cyrus by this. On his side Cyrus looked on the piety of his subjects as a blessing to himself, reckoning as they do who prefer to sail in the company of pious men rather than with those who are suspected of wicked deeds, and he reckoned further that if all his partners were god-fearing, they would be the less prone to crime against each other or against himself, for he knew he was the benefactor of his fellows. And by showing plainly his own deep desire never to be unfair to friend or fellow-combatant or ally, but always to fix his eyes on justice and rectitude, he believed he could induce others to keep from base actions and walk in the paths of righteousness. And he would bring more modesty, he hoped, into the hearts of all men if it were plain that he himself reverenced all the world and would never say a shameful word to any man or woman or do a shameful deed. He looked for this because he saw that, apart from kings and governors who may be supposed to inspire fear, men will reverence the modest and not the shameless, and modesty in women will inspire modesty in the men who behold them. And his people, he thought, would learn to obey if it were plain that he honoured frank and prompt obedience even above virtues that made a grander show and were harder to attain. Such was his belief, and his practice went with it to the end. His own temperance and the knowledge of it made others more temperate. When they saw moderation and self-control in the man who above all others had licence to be insolent, lesser men were the more ready to abjure all insolence of their own. But there was this difference, Cyrus held, between modesty and self-control: the modest man will do nothing shameful in the light of day, but the man of self-control nothing base, not even in secret. Self-restrain, he believed, would best be cultivated if he made men see in himself one who could not be dragged from the pursuit of virtue by the pleasure of the moment, one who chose to toil first for the happy-hearted joys that go hand-in-hand with beauty and nobleness.Thus, being the man he was, he established at his gates a stately company, where the lower gave place to the higher, and they in their turn showed reverence to each other, and courtesy, and perfect harmony. Among them all there was never a cry of anger to be heard, nor a burst of insolent laughter; to look at them was to know that they lived for honour and loveliness.
In the first place he never lost an opportunity of showing kindliness wherever he could, convinced that just as it is not easy to love those who hate us, so it is scarcely possible to feel enmity for those who love us and wish us well. So long as he had lacked the power to confer benefits by wealth, all he could do then was to show his personal care for his comrades and his soldiers, to labour in their behalf, manifest his joy in their good fortune and his sympathy in their sorrows, and try to win them in that way. But when the time came for the gifts of wealth, he realised that of all the kindnesses between man and man none come with a more natural grace than the gifts of meat and drink…
Thus it is easy to see how Cyrus could outdo all competitors in the grace of hospitality, and I will now explain how he came to triumph in all other services. Far as he excelled mankind in the scale of his revenues, he excelled them even more in the grandeur of his gifts. It was Cyrus who set the fashion; and we are familiar to this day with the open-handedness of Oriental kings. There is no one, indeed, in all the world whose friends are seen to be as wealthy as the friends of the Persian monarch: no one adorns his followers in such splendour of rich attire, no gifts are so well known as his, the bracelets, and the necklaces, and the chargers with the golden bridles. For in that country no one can have such treasures unless the king has given them. And of whom but the Great King could it be said that through the splendour of his presents he could steal the hearts of men and turn them to himself, away from brothers, fathers, sons? Who but he could stretch out an arm and take vengeance on his enemies when yet they were months and months away? Who but Cyrus ever won an empire in war, and when he died was called father by the people he overcame?—a title that proclaims the benefactor and not the robber…
It is not surprising, no doubt, that being the wealthiest of men, he could outdo the world in the splendour of his gifts. The remarkable thing was to find a king outstrip his courtiers in courtesy and kindness. There was nothing, so the story runs, that could ever shame him more than to be outdone in courtesy. Indeed, a saying of his is handed down comparing a good king to a good shepherd—the shepherd must manage his flock by giving them all they need, and the king must satisfy the needs of his cities and his subjects if he is to manage them. We need not wonder, then, that with such opinions his ambition was to excel mankind in courtesy and care. There was a noble illustration of his philosophy in the answer we are told he gave to Croesus, who had taken him to task, saying his lavish gifts would bring him to beggary, although he could lay by more treasures for himself than any man had ever had before. Cyrus, it is said, asked him in return, “How much wealth do you suppose I could have amassed already, had I collected gold, as you bid me, ever since I came into my empire?”
And Croesus named an enormous sum. Then Cyrus said, “Listen, Croesus, here is my friend, Hystaspas, and you must send with him a man that you can trust.” Then, turning to Hystaspas, “Do you,” he said, “go round to my friends and tell them that I need money for a certain enterprise—and that is true, I do need it. Bid each of them write down the amount he can give me, seal the letter, and hand it to the messenger of Croesus, who will bring it here.” Thereupon Cyrus wrote his wishes and put his seal on the letter, and gave it to Hystaspas to carry round, only he added a request that they should all welcome Hystaspas as a friend of his. And when the messengers came back, the officer of Croesus carrying the answers, Hystaspas cried, “Cyrus, my lord, you must know I am a rich man now! I have made my fortune, thanks to your letter! They have loaded me with gifts.” And Cyrus said, “There, Croesus, that is treasure number one; and now run through the rest, and count what sums I have in hand, in case I need them.” And Croesus counted, and found, so the story tells us, that the sum was far larger than the amount he had said would have been lying in the treasury if only Cyrus had made a hoard. At this discovery Cyrus said, so we are told, “You see, Croesus, I have my treasures too. Only you advise me to collect them and hide them, and be envied and hated because of them, and set mercenaries to guard them, putting my trust in hirelings. But I hold to it that if I make my friends rich they will be my treasures themselves, and far better guards too, for me and all we have, than if I set hired watchmen over my wealth. And I have somewhat else to say; I tell you, Croesus, there is something the gods have implanted in our souls, and there they have made us all beggars alike, something I can never overcome. I too, like all the rest, am insatiate of riches, only in one respect I fancy I am different. Most men when they have more wealth than they require bury some of it underground, and let some of it rot, and some they count and measure, and they guard it and they air it, and give themselves a world of trouble, and yet for all their wealth they cannot eat more than they have stomach for—they would burst asunder if they did—nor wear more clothes than they can carry—they would die of suffocation—and so their extra wealth means nothing but extra work. For my part, I serve the gods, and I stretch out my hands for more and more; only when I have got what is beyond my own requirements I piece out the wants of my friends, and so, helping my fellows, I purchase their love and their goodwill, and out of these I garner security and renown, fruits that can never rot, rich meats that can work no mischief; for glory, the more it grows, the grander it becomes, and the fairer, and the lighter to be borne; it even gives a lighter step to those who bear it. One thing more, Croesus, I would have you know; the happiest men, in my judgment, are not the holders of vast riches and the masters who have the most to guard; else the sentinels of our citadels would be the happiest of mortals, seeing they guard the whole wealth of the state. He, I hold, has won the crown of happiness who has had the skill to gain wealth by the paths of righteousness and use it for all that is honourable and fair.”
That was the doctrine Cyrus preached, and all men could see that his practice matched his words.
Moreover, he observed that the majority of mankind, if they live in good health for long, will only lay by such stores and requisites as may be used by a healthy man, and hardly care at all to have appliances at hand in case of sickness. But Cyrus was at the pains to provide these; he encouraged the ablest physicians of the day by his liberal payments, and if ever they recommended an instrument or a drug or a special kind of food or drink, he never failed to procure it and have it stored in the palace.
And whenever any one fell sick among those who had peculiar claims on his attentions, he would visit them and bring them all they needed, and he showed especial gratitude to the doctors if they cured their patients by the help of his own stores. These measures, and others like them, he adopted to win the first place in the hearts of those whose friendship he desired. Moreover, the contests he proclaimed and the prizes he offered to awaken ambition and desire for gallant deeds all redounded to his own glory as a man who had the pursuit of nobleness at heart, while they bred strife and bitter rivalry among the champions themselves…
…. And you, Cambyses, you know of yourself, without words from me, that your kingdom is not guarded by this golden sceptre, but by faithful friends; their loyalty is your true staff, a sceptre which shall not fail. But never think that loyal hearts grow up by nature as the grass grows in the field: if that were so, the same men would be loyal to all alike, even as all natural objects are the same to all mankind. No, every leader must win his own followers for himself, and the way to win them is not by violence but by loving-kindness. And if you would seek for friends to stand by you and guard your throne, who so fit to be the first of them as he who is sprung from the self-same loins? Our fellow-citizens are nearer to us than foreigners, and our mess-mates dearer than strangers, and what of those who are sprung from the same seed, suckled at the same breast, reared in the same home, loved by the same parents, the same mother, the same father? What the gods have given to be the seal of brotherhood do not make of none effect yourselves. But build upon it: make it the foundation for other loving deeds, and thus the love between you shall never be overcome. The man who takes thought for his brother cares for his own self. For who but a brother can win glory from a brother’s greatness? Who can be honoured as a brother can through a brother’s power? Or who so safe from injury as the brother of the great? Let no one, Tanaoxares, be more eager than yourself to obey your brother and support him: to no one can his triumph or his danger come so near. Ask yourself from whom you could win a richer reward for any kindness. Who could give you stouter help in return for your own support? And where is coldness so ugly as between brothers? Or where is reverence so beautiful? And remember, Cambyses, only the brother who holds pre-eminence in a brother’s heart can be safe from the jealousy of the world. I implore you both, my sons, by the gods of our fathers, hold each other in honour, if you care at all to do me pleasure: and none of you can say you know that I shall cease to be when I cease to live this life of ours. With your bodily eyes you have never seen my soul, and yet you have discerned its presence through its working. And have you never marked the terrors which the spirits of those who have suffered wrong can send into the hearts of their murderers, and the avenging furies they let loose upon the wicked? Think you the honours of the dead would still abide, if the souls of the departed were altogether powerless? Never yet, my sons, could I be persuaded that the soul only lives so long as she dwells within this mortal body, and falls dead so soon as she is quit of that. Nay, I see for myself that it is the soul which lends life to it, while she inhabits there. I cannot believe that she must lose all sense on her separation from the senseless body, but rather that she will reach her highest wisdom when she is set free, pure and untrammelled at last. And when this body crumbles in dissolution, we see the several parts thereof return to their kindred elements, but we do not see the soul, whether she stays or whether she departs. Consider,” he went on, “how these two resemble one another, Death and his twin-brother Sleep, and it is in sleep that the soul of a man shows her nature most divine, and is able to catch a glimpse of what is about to be, for it is then, perhaps, that she is nearest to her freedom. Therefore, if these things are as I believe, and the spirit leaves the body behind and is set free, reverence my soul, O sons of mine, and do as I desire. And even if it be not so, if the spirit must stay with the body and perish, yet the everlasting gods abide, who behold all things, with whom is all power, who uphold the order of this universe, unmarred, unaging, unerring, unfathomable in beauty and in splendour. Fear them, my sons, and never yield to sin or wickedness, in thought or word or deed. And after the gods, I would have you reverence the whole race of man, as it renews itself for ever; for the gods have not hidden you in the darkness, but your deeds will be manifest in the eyes of all mankind, and if they be righteous deeds and pure from iniquity, they will blazon forth your power: but if you meditate evil against each other, you will forfeit the confidence of every man. For no man can trust you, even though he should desire it, if he sees you wrong him whom above all you are bound to love. Therefore, if my words are strong enough to teach you your duty to one another, it is well. But, if not, let history teach you, and there is no better teacher. For the most part, parents have shown kindness to their children and brothers to their brothers, but it has been otherwise with some. Look, then, and see which conduct has brought success, choose to follow that, and your choice will be wise. And now maybe I have said enough of this. As for my body, when I am dead, I would not have you lay it up in gold or silver or any coffin whatsoever, but give it back to the earth with all speed. What could be more blessed than to lie in the lap of Earth, the mother of all things beautiful, the nurse of all things good? I have been a lover of men all my life, and methinks I would fain become a part of that which does good to man. And now,” he added, “now it seems to me that my life begins to ebb; I feel my spirit slipping away from those parts she leaves the first. If you would take my hand once more, or look into my eyes while life is there, draw near me now; but when I have covered my face, let no man look on me again, not even you, my sons. But you shall bid the Persians come, and all our allies, to my sepulchre; and you shall rejoice with me and congratulate me that I am safe at last, free from suffering or sorrow, whether I am with God or whether I have ceased to be. Give all who come the entertainment that is fitting in honour of a man whose life on earth was happy, and so send them away. Remember my last saying: show kindness to your friends, and then shall you have it in your power to chastise your enemies. Good-bye, my dear sons, bid your mother good-bye for me. And all my friends, who are here or far away, good-bye.”
And with these words he gave his hand to them, and then he covered his face and died.