Isocrates, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [word count] [lemma count] [Isoc.].
<<Isoc. 6 Isoc. 7 (Greek) >>Isoc. 8

Areopagiticus 7.1

Many of you are wondering, I suppose, what in the world my purpose is note in coming forward to address you on The Public Safety
, as if Athens were in danger or her affairs on an uncertain footing, when in fact she possesses more than two hundred ships-of-war, enjoys peace throughout her territory, maintains her empire on the sea, note 7.2and has, furthermore, many allies who, in case of any need, will readily come to her aid, note and many more allies who are paying their contributions note and obeying her commands. With these resources, one might argue that we have every reason to feel secure, as being far removed from danger, while our enemies may well be anxious and take thought for their own safety. 7.3

Now you, I know, following this reasoning, disdain my coming forward, and are confident that with this power you will hold all Hellas under your control. But as for myself, it is because of these very things that I am anxious; for I observe that those cities which think they are in the best circumstances are wont to adopt the worst policies, and that those which feel the most secure are most often involved in danger. 7.4The cause of this is that nothing of either good or of evil visits mankind unmixed, but that riches and power are attended and followed by folly, and folly in turn by licence; note whereas poverty and lowliness are attended by sobriety and great moderation; 7.5so that it is hard to decide which of these lots one should prefer to bequeath to one's own children. For we shall find that from a lot which seems to be inferior men's fortunes generally advance to a better condition, note whereas from one which appears to be superior they are wont to change to a worse. 7.6Of this truth I might cite examples without number from the lives of individual men, since these are subject to the most frequent vicissitudes; but instances which are more important and better known to my hearers may be drawn from the experiences of our city and of the Lacedaemonians. As for the Athenians, after our city had been laid waste by the barbarians, we became, because we were anxious about the future and gave attention to our affairs, the foremost of the Hellenes; note whereas, when we imagined that our power was invincible, we barely escaped being enslaved. note 7.7Likewise the Lacedaemonians, after having set out in ancient times from obscure and humble cities, made themselves, because they lived temperately and under military discipline, masters of the Peloponnesus; note whereas later, when they grew overweening and seized the empire both of the sea and of the land, they fell into the same dangers as ourselves. note 7.8

Whoever, therefore, knowing that such great vicissitudes have taken place and that such mighty powers have been so quickly brought to naught, yet trusts in our present circumstances, is all too foolish, note especially since Athens is now in a much less favorable condition than she was at that time, while the hatred note of us among the Hellenes and the enmity note of the great King, which then brought disaster to our arms, have been again revived. 7.9

I am in doubt whether to suppose that you care nothing for the public welfare or that you are concerned about it, but have become so obtuse that you fail to see into what utter confusion our city has fallen. For you resemble men in that state of mind—you who have lost all the cities in Thrace, note squandered to no purpose more than a thousand talents on mercenary troops, note 7.10provoked the ill-will of the Hellenes and the hostility of the barbarians, and, as if this were not enough, have been compelled to save the friends of the Thebans note at the cost of losing our own allies note; and yet to celebrate the good news of such accomplishments we have twice now offered grateful sacrifices to the gods, note and we deliberate about our affairs more complaisantly than men whose actions leave nothing to be desired! 7.11

And it is to be expected that acting as we do we should fare as we do; for nothing can turn out well for those who neglect to adopt a sound policy for the conduct of their government as a whole. On the contrary, even if they do succeed in their enterprises now and then, either through chance or through the genius of some man, note they soon after find themselves in the same difficulties as before, as anyone may see from what happened in our own history. 7.12For when all Hellas fell under the power of Athens, after the naval victory of Conon and the campaign of Timotheus, we were not able to hold our good fortune any time at all, but quickly dissipated and destroyed it. note For we neither possess nor do we honestly seek to obtain a polity which can properly deal with our affairs. 7.13And yet we all know that success does not visit and abide with those who have built around themselves the finest and the strongest walls, note nor with those who have collected the greatest population in one place, but rather with those who most nobly and wisely govern their state. 7.14For the soul of a state is nothing else than its polity, note having as much power over it as does the mind over the body; for it is this which deliberates upon all questions, seeking to preserve what is good and to ward off what is disastrous; and it is this which of necessity assimilates to its own nature the laws, the public orators and the private citizens; and all the members of the state must fare well or ill according to the kind of polity under which they live. 7.15And yet we are quite indifferent to the fact that our polity has been corrupted, nor do we even consider how we may redeem it. It is true that we sit around in our shops note denouncing the present order and complaining that never under a democracy have we been worse governed, but in our actions and in the sentiments which we hold regarding it we show that we are better satisfied with our present democracy than with that which was handed down to us by our forefathers.

It is in favor of the democracy of our forefathers that I intend to speak, and this is the subject on which I gave notice that I would address you. 7.16For I find that the one way—the only possible way—which can avert future perils from us and deliver us from our present ills is that we should be willing to restore that earlier democracy which was instituted by Solon, who proved himself above all others the friend of the people, and which was re-established by Cleisthenes, who drove out the tyrants and brought the people back into power— 7.17a government than which we could find none more favorable to the populace or more advantageous to the whole city. note The strongest proof of this is that those who enjoyed this constitution wrought many noble deeds, won the admiration of all mankind, and took their place, by the common consent of the Hellenes, as the leading power of Hellas; whereas those who were enamored of the present constitution made themselves hated of all men, suffered many indignities, and barely escaped falling into the worst of all disasters. note 7.18And yet how can we praise or tolerate a government which has in the past been the cause of so many evils and which is now year by year ever drifting on from bad to worse? And how can we escape the fear that if we continue to progress after this fashion we may finally run aground on rocks more perilous than those which at that time loomed before us? 7.19

But in order that you may make a choice and come to a decision between the two constitutions, not from the summary statement you just heard, but from exact knowledge, it behoves you, for your part, to render yourselves attentive to what I say, while I, for my part, shall try to explain them both to you as briefly as I can. 7.20

For those who directed the state in the time of Solon and Cleisthenes did not establish a polity which in name merely was hailed as the most impartial and the mildest of governments, while in practice showing itself the opposite to those who lived under it, nor one which trained the citizens in such fashion that they looked upon insolence as democracy, lawlessness as liberty, impudence of speech as equality, and licence to do what they pleased as happiness, note but rather a polity which detested and punished such men and by so doing made all the citizens better and wiser. 7.21

But what contributed most to their good government of the state was that of the two recognized kinds of equality—that which makes the same award to all alike and that which gives to each man his due note—they did not fail to grasp which was the more serviceable; but, rejecting as unjust that which holds that the good and the bad are worthy of the same honors, 7.22and preferring rather that which rewards and punishes every man according to his deserts, they governed the city on this principle, not filling the offices by lot from all the citizens, note but selecting the best and the ablest for each function of the state; for they believed that the rest of the people would reflect the character of those who were placed in charge of their affairs. 7.23

Furthermore they considered that this way of appointing magistrates was also more democratic than the casting of lots, since under the plan of election by lot chance would decide the issue and the partizans of oligarchy would often get the offices; whereas under the plan of selecting the worthiest men, the people would have in their hands the power to choose those who were most attached to the existing constitution. 7.24

The reason why this plan was agreeable to the majority and why they did not fight over the offices was because they had been schooled to be industrious and frugal, and not to neglect their own possessions and conspire against the possessions of others, and not to repair their own fortunes out of the public funds, note but rather to help out the commonwealth, should the need arise, from their private resources, note and not to know more accurately the incomes derived from the public offices than those which accrued to them from their own estates. 7.25So severely did they abstain from what belonged to the state that it was harder in those days to find men who were willing to hold office note than it is now to find men who are not begging for the privilege; for they did not regard a charge over public affairs as a chance for private gain but as a service to the state; neither did they from their first day in office seek to discover whether their predecessors had overlooked any source of profit, but much rather whether they had neglected any business of the state which pressed for settlement. 7.26

In a word, our forefathers had resolved that the people as the supreme master of the state, should appoint the magistrates, call to account those who failed in their duty, and judge in cases of dispute; while those citizens who could afford the time and possessed sufficient means note should devote themselves to the care of the commonwealth, as servants of the people, 7.27entitled to receive commendation if they proved faithful to their trust, and contenting themselves with this honor, but condemned, on the other hand, if they governed badly, to meet with no mercy, but to suffer the severest punishment. note And how, pray, could one find a democracy more stable or more just than this, which appointed the most capable men to have charge of its affairs but gave to the people authority over their rulers? 7.28

Such was the constitution of their polity, and from this it is easy to see that also in their conduct day by day they never failed to act with propriety and justice; for when people have laid sound foundations for the conduct of the whole state it follows that in the details of their lives they must reflect the character of their government. 7.29

First of all as to their conduct towards the gods—for it is right to begin with them note—they were not erratic or irregular in their worship of them or in the celebration of their rites; they did not, for example, drive three hundred oxen in procession to the altar, note when it entered their heads to do so,while omitting, when the caprice seized them, the sacrifices instituted by their fathers; note neither did they observe on a grand scale the festivals imported from abroad, whenever these were attended by a feast, while contracting with the lowest bidder for the sacrifices demanded by the holiest rites of their religion. 7.30For their only care was not to destroy any institution of their fathers and to introduce nothing which was not approved by custom, believing that reverence consists, not in extravagant expenditures, but in disturbing none of the rites which their ancestors had handed on to them. And so also the gifts of the gods were visited upon them, not fitfully or capriciously, but seasonably both for the ploughing of the land and for the ingathering of its fruits. 7.31

In the same manner also they governed their relations with each other. For not only were they of the same mind regarding public affairs, but in their private life as well they showed that degree of consideration for each other which is due from men who are rightminded and partners in a common fatherland. 7.32The less well-to-do among the citizens were so far from envying those of greater means that they were as solicitous for the great estates as for their own, considering that the prosperity of the rich was a guarantee of their own well-being. Those who possessed wealth, on the other hand, did not look down upon those in humbler circumstances, but, regarding poverty among their fellow-citizens as their own disgrace, came to the rescue of the distresses of the poor, handing over lands to some at moderate rentals, sending out some to engage in commerce, and furnishing means to others to enter upon various occupations; 7.33for they had no fear that they might suffer one of two things—that they might lose their whole investment or recover, after much trouble, only a mere fraction of their venture; on the contrary, they felt as secure about the money which was lent out as about that which was stored in their own coffers. For they saw that in cases of contract the judges were not in the habit of indulging their sense of equity note but were strictly faithful to the laws; 7.34and that they did not in trying others seek to make it safe for themselves to disobey the law, note but were indeed more severe on defaulters than were the injured themselves, since they believed that those who break down confidence in contracts do a greater injury to the poor than to the rich; for if the rich were to stop lending, they would be deprived of only a slight revenue, whereas if the poor should lack the help of their supporters they would be reduced to desperate straits. 7.35And so because of this confidence no one tried to conceal his wealth note nor hesitated to lend it out, but, on the contrary, the wealthy were better pleased to see men borrowing money than paying it back; for they thus experienced the double satisfaction—which should appeal to all right-minded men—of helping their fellow-citizens and at the same time making their own property productive for themselves. In fine, the result of their dealing honorably with each other was that the ownership of property was secured to those to whom it rightfully belonged, while the enjoyment of property was shared by all the citizens who needed it. 7.36

But perhaps some might object to what I have said on the ground that I praise the conditions of life as they were in those days, but neglect to explain the reasons why our forefathers managed so well both in their relations with each other and in their government of the state. Well, I have already touched upon that question, note but in spite of that I shall now try to discuss it even more fully and more clearly. 7.37

The Athenians of that day were not watched over by many preceptors note during their boyhood only to be allowed to do what they liked when they attained to manhood; note on the contrary, they were subjected to greater supervision in the very prime of their vigor than when they were boys. For our forefathers placed such strong emphasis upon sobriety that they put the supervision of decorum in charge of the Council of the Areopagus—a body which was composed exclusively of men who were of noble birth note and had exemplified in their lives exceptional virtue and sobriety, and which, therefore, naturally excelled all the other councils of Hellas. 7.38And we may judge what this institution was at that time even by what happens at the present day; for even now, when everything connected with the election and the examination of magistrates note has fallen into neglect, we shall find that those who in all else that they do are insufferable, yet when they enter the Areopagus hesitate to indulge their true nature, being governed rather by its traditions than by their own evil instincts. So great was the fear which its members inspired in the depraved and such was the memorial of their own virtue and sobriety which they left behind them in the place of their assembly. 7.39

Such, then, as I have described, was the nature of the Council which our forefathers charged with the supervision of moral discipline—a council which considered that those who believed that the best citizens are produced in a state where the laws are prescribed with the greatest exactness note were blind to the truth; for in that case there would be no reason why all of the Hellenes should not be on the same level, at any rate in so far as it is easy to borrow written codes from each other. 7.40But in fact, they thought, virtue is not advanced by written laws but by the habits of every-day life; for the majority of men tend to assimilate the manners and morals amid which they have been reared. Furthermore, they held that where there is a multitude of specific laws, it is a sign that the state is badly governed; note for it is in the attempt to build up dikes against the spread of crime that men in such a state feel constrained to multiply the laws. 7.41Those who are rightly governed, on the other hand, do not need to fill their porticoes note with written statutes, but only to cherish justice in their souls; for it is not by legislation, but by morals, that states are well directed, since men who are badly reared will venture to transgress even laws which are drawn up with minute exactness, whereas those who are well brought up will be willing to respect even a simple code. note 7.42Therefore, being of this mind, our forefathers did not seek to discover first how they should penalize men who were lawless, but how they should produce citizens who would refrain from any punishable act; for they thought that this was their duty, while it was proper for private enemies alone to be zealous in the avenging of crime. note 7.43

Now our forefathers exercised care over all the citizens, but most of all over the young. They saw that at this age men are most unruly of temper and filled with a multitude of desires, note and that their spirits are most in need of being curbed by devotion to noble pursuits and by congenial labor; for only such occupations can attract and hold men who have been educated liberally and trained in high-minded ways. 7.44

However, since it was not possible to direct all into the same occupations, because of differences in their circumstances, they assigned to each one a vocation which was in keeping with his means; for they turned the needier towards farming and trade, knowing that poverty comes about through idleness, and evil-doing through poverty. 7.45Accordingly, they believed that by removing the root of evil they would deliver the young from the sins which spring from it. On the other hand, they compelled those who possessed sufficient means to devote themselves to horsemanship, note athletics, note hunting, note and philosophy, note observing that by these pursuits some are enabled to achieve excellence, others to abstain from many vices. 7.46

But when they had laid down these ordinances they were not negligent regarding what remained to be done, but, dividing the city into districts and the country into townships, they kept watch over the life of every citizen, note haling the disorderly before the Council, which now rebuked, now warned, and again punished them according to their deserts. For they understood that there are two ways both of encouraging men to do wrong and of checking them from evil-doing; 7.47for where no watch is kept over such matters and the judgements are not strict, there even honest natures grow corrupt; but where, again, it is not easy for wrongdoers either to escape detection or, when detected, to obtain indulgence, there the impulse to do evil disappears. Understanding this, they restrained the people from wrongdoing in both ways—both by punishment and by watchfulness; for so far from failing to detect those who had gone astray, they actually saw in advance who were likely to commit some offence. 7.48Therefore the young men did not waste their time in the gambling-dens or with the flute-girls or in the kind of company in which they now spend their days, note but remained steadfastly in the pursuits to which they had been assigned, admiring and emulating those who excelled in these. And so strictly did they avoid the market-place that even when they were at times compelled to pass through it, they were seen to do this with great modesty and sobriety of manner. note 7.49To contradict one's elders or to be impudent to them note was then considered more reprehensible than it is nowadays to sin against one's parents; and to eat or drink in a tavern was something which no one, not even an honest slave, would venture to do; note for they cultivated the manners of a gentleman, not those of a buffoon; and as for those who had a turn for jesting and playing the clown, whom we today speak of as clever wits, they were then looked upon as sorry fools. note 7.50

But let no one suppose that I am out of temper with the younger generation: I do not think that they are to blame for what goes on, and in fact I know that most of them are far from pleased with a state of affairs which permits them to waste their time in these excesses; so that I cannot in fairness censure them, when it is much more just to rest the blame upon those who directed the city a little before our time; note 7.51for it was they who led on our youth to this spirit of heedlessness and destroyed the power of the Areopagus. For while this Council maintained its authority, Athens was not rife with law-suits, note or accusations, note or tax-levies, note or poverty, note or war; on the contrary, her citizens lived in accord with each other and at peace with mankind, enjoying the good will of the Hellenes and inspiring fear in the barbarians; 7.52for they had saved the Hellenes from destruction and had punished the barbarians so severely that the latter were well content if only they might suffer no further injury. note

And so, because of these things, our forefathers lived in such a degree of security that the houses and establishments in the country were finer and more costly than those within the city-walls, note and many of the people never visited Athens even for the festivals, preferring to remain at home in the enjoyment of their own possessions rather than share in the pleasures dispensed by the state. 7.53For even the public festivals, which might otherwise have drawn many to the city, were not conducted with extravagance or ostentation, but with sane moderation, since our people then measured their well-being, not by their processions or by their efforts to outdo each other in fitting out the choruses, note or by any such empty shows, but by the sobriety of their government, by the manner of their daily life, and by the absence of want among all their citizens.

These are the standards by which one should judge whether people are genuinely prosperous and not living in vulgar fashion. 7.54For as things now are, who among intelligent men can fail to be chagrined at what goes on, when we see many of our fellow-citizens drawing lots in front of the law-courts to determine whether they themselves shall have the necessaries of life, note yet thinking it proper to support at their expense any of the Hellenes who will deign to row their ships; note appearing in the public choruses in garments spangled with gold, yet living through the winter in clothing which I refuse to describe and showing other contradictions of the same kind in their conduct of affairs, which bring great shame upon the city? 7.55

Nothing of the sort happened when the Areopagus was in power; for it delivered the poor from want by providing them with work and with assistance from the wealthy, the young from excesses by engaging them in occupations and by watching over them, the men in public life from the temptations of greed by imposing punishments and by letting no wrong-doer escape detection, and the older men from despondency by securing to them public honors and the devotion of the young. How then could there be a polity of greater worth than this, which so excellently watched over all the interests of the state? 7.56

I have now discussed most of the features of the constitution as it once was, and those which I have passed over may readily be judged from those which I have described, since they are of the same character. However, certain people who have heard me discuss this constitution, while praising it most unreservedly and agreeing that our forefathers were fortunate in having governed the state in this fashion, 7.57have nevertheless expressed the opinion that you could not be persuaded to adopt it, but that, because you have grown accustomed to the present order, you would prefer to continue a wretched existence under it rather than enjoy a better life under a stricter polity; and they warned me that I even ran the risk, although giving you the very best advice, of being thought an enemy of the people and of seeking to turn the state into an oligarchy. note 7.58

Well, if I were proposing a course which was unfamiliar and not generally known, and if I were urging you to appoint a committee or a commission note to consider it, which was the means through which the democracy was done away with before, there might be some reason for this charge. I have, however, proposed nothing of the kind, but have been discussing a government whose character is hidden from no one, but evident to all— 7.59one which, as you all know, is a heritage from our fathers, which has been the source of numberless blessings both to Athens and to the other states of Hellas, and which was, besides, ordained and established by men who would be acknowledged by all the world to have been the best friends of the people note among the citizens of Athens; so that it would be of all things most absurd if I, in seeking to introduce such a polity, should be suspected of favoring revolution. 7.60

Furthermore, it is easy to judge of my purpose from the fact that in most of the discourses note which I have written, you will find that I condemn oligarchies and special privileges, while I commend equal rights and democratic governments—not all of them, but those which are well-ordered, praising them not indiscriminately, but on just and reasonable grounds. 7.61For I know that under this constitution our ancestors were far superior to the rest of the world, and that the Lacedaemonians are the best governed of peoples because they are the most democratic; note for in their selection of magistrates, in their daily life, and in their habits in general, we may see that the principles of equity and equality have greater influence than elsewhere in the world—principles to which oligarchies are hostile, while well-ordered democracies practise them continually. 7.62

Moreover, if we will examine into the history of the most illustrious and the greatest of the other states, we shall find that democratic forms of government are more advantageous for them than oligarchies. For if we compare our own government—which is criticized by everyone note—not with the old democracy which I have described, but with the rule which was instituted by the Thirty, note there is no one who would not consider our present democracy a divine creation. 7.63And I desire, even though some will complain that I am straying from my subject, to expound and to explain how much superior this government is to that of the Thirty, in order that I may not be accused of scrutinizing too minutely the mistakes of our democracy, while overlooking the many fine things which it has achieved. I promise, however, that the story will not be long or without profit to my hearers. 7.64

When we lost our fleet in the Hellespont note and our city was plunged into the disasters of that time, who of our older men does not know that the “people's party,” note as they were called, were ready to go to any length of hardship to avoid doing what the enemy commanded, deeming it monstrous that anyone should see the city which had ruled over the Hellenes in subjection to another state, whereas the partisans of oligarchy were ready both to tear down the walls note and to submit to slavery? 7.65Or that at the time when the people were in control of affairs, we placed our garrisons in the citadels of other states, whereas when the Thirty took over the government, the enemy occupied the Acropolis of Athens? note Or, again, that during the rule of the Thirty the Lacedaemonians were our masters, but that when the exiles returned and dared to fight for freedom, and Conon won his naval victory, note ambassadors came from the Lacedaemonians and offered Athens the command of the sea? note 7.66Yes, and who of my own generation does not remember that the democracy so adorned the city with temples and public buildings that even today visitors from other lands consider that she is worthy to rule not only over Hellas but over all the world; note while the Thirty neglected the public buildings, plundered the temples, and sold for destruction for the sum of three talents the dockyards note upon which the city had spent not less than a thousand talents? 7.67And surely no one could find grounds to praise the mildness note of the Thirty as against that of the people's rule! For when the Thirty took over the city, by vote of the Assembly, note they put to death fifteen hundred Athenians note without a trial and compelled more than five thousand to leave Athens and take refuge in the Piraeus, note whereas when the exiles overcame them and returned to Athens under arms, these put to death only the chief perpetrators of their wrongs and dealt so generously and so justly by the rest note that those who had driven the citizens from their homes fared no worse than those who had returned from exile. 7.68But the best and strongest proof of the fairness of the people is that, although those who had remained in the city had borrowed a hundred talents from the Lacedaemonians note with which to prosecute the siege of those who occupied the Piraeus, yet later when an assembly of the people was held to consider the payment of the debt, and when many insisted that it was only fair that the claims of the Lacedaemonians should be settled, not by those who had suffered the siege, but by those who had borrowed the money, nevertheless the people voted to pay the debt out of the public treasury. note 7.69And in truth it was because of this spirit that they brought us into such concord with each other and so far advanced the power of the city that the Lacedaemonians, who under the rule of the oligarchy laid their commands upon us almost every day, under the rule of the people came begging and supplicating us not to allow them to be driven from their homes. note In a word the spirit of the two parties was this: the oligarchies were minded to rule over their fellow-citizens and be subject to their enemies; the people, to rule over the world at large and share the power of the state on equal terms with their fellow-citizens. 7.70

I have recounted these things for two reasons: because I wanted to show, in the first place, that I am not in favor of oligarchy or special privilege, but of a just and orderly government of the people, and, in the second place, that even badly constituted democracies are responsible for fewer disasters than are oligarchies, while those which are well-ordered are superior to oligarchies in that they are more just, more impartial, and more agreeable to those who live under them. 7.71

But perhaps some of you may wonder what my purpose is in trying to persuade you to exchange the polity which has achieved so many fine things for another, and why it is that after having just now eulogized democracy in such high terms, I veer about capriciously and criticize and condemn the present order. 7.72Well, I reproach men in private life when they succeed in a few things and fail in many, and regard them as falling short of what they ought to be; and, more than that, when men are sprung from noble ancestors and yet are only a little better than those who are distinguished for depravity, and much worse than their fathers, I rebuke them and would counsel them to cease from being what they are. 7.73And I am of the same mind also regarding public affairs. For I think that we ought not to be proud or even satisfied should we have shown ourselves more law-regarding than men accursed by the gods and afflicted with madness, note but ought much rather to feel aggrieved and resentful should we prove to be worse than our ancestors; for it is their excellence and not the depravity of the Thirty which we should strive to emulate, especially since it behoves Athenians to be the best among mankind. 7.74

This is not the first time that I have expressed this sentiment; I have done so many times and before many people. For I know that while other regions produce varieties of fruits and trees and animals, each peculiar to its locality and much better than those of other lands, our own country is able to bear and nurture men who are not only the most gifted in the world in the arts and in the powers of action and of speech, but are also above all others in valor and in virtue. note 7.75

This conclusion we may justly draw from the ancient struggles which they carried on against the Amazons and the Thracians and all of the Peloponnesians, and also from the wars which they waged against the Persians, in which, both when they fought alone and when they were aided by the Peloponnesians, whether on land or on the sea, they were victorious over the barbarians and were adjudged the meed of valor; note for they could not have achieved these things, had they not far surpassed other men in the endowments of nature. 7.76

But let no one think that this eulogy is appropriate to those who compose the present government—far from it; for such words are a tribute to those who show themselves worthy of the valor of their forefathers, but a reproach to those who disgrace their noble origin by their slackness and their cowardice. And this is just what we are doing; for you shall have the truth. For although we were blessed with such a nature at our birth, we have not cherished and preserved it, but have, on the contrary, fallen into folly and confusion and lust after evil ways. 7.77

But if I go on attacking the things which admit of criticism and of censure in our present order, I fear that I shall wander too far afield from my subject. In any case I have spoken about these things before, note and I shall do so again if I do not succeed in persuading you to cease from such mistakes of policy. For the present, I shall speak but a few words on the theme which I proposed to discuss in the beginning and then yield the platform to any who desire to address you upon this question. 7.78

If we continue to govern Athens as we are now doing, then we are doomed to go on deliberating and waging war and living and faring and acting in almost every respect just as we do at the present moment and have done in the past; but if we effect a change of polity, it is evident by the same reasoning that such conditions of life as our ancestors enjoyed will come about for us also; for from the same political institutions there must always spring like or similar ways of life. 7.79

But we must take the most significant of these ways and, comparing one with the other, decide which is preferable for us. And first let us consider how the Hellenes and the barbarians felt towards the earlier polity as compared with how they are now disposed towards us; for other peoples contribute not the least part of our well-being when they are properly disposed towards us. 7.80Well then, the Hellenes felt such confidence in those who governed the city in those times that most of them of their own accord placed themselves under the power of Athens, note while the barbarians were so far from meddling in the affairs of the Hellenes that they neither sailed their ships-of-war this side of the Phaselis nor marched their armies beyond the Halys River, refraining, on the contrary, from all aggression. note 7.81Today, however, circumstances are so completely reversed that the Hellenes regard Athens with hatred and the barbarians hold us in contempt. As to the hatred of us among the Hellenes, you have heard the report of our generals note themselves, and what the King thinks of us, he has made plain in the letters which have been dispatched by him. note 7.82

Furthermore, under the discipline of the old days the citizens were so schooled in virtue as not to injure each other, but to fight and conquer all who attempted to invade their territory. note We, however, do the very opposite; for we never let a day go by without bringing trouble on each other, and we have so far neglected the business of war that we do not even deign to attend reviews unless we are paid money for doing so. 7.83But the greatest difference lies in the fact that in that day no one of the citizens lacked the necessaries of life nor shamed the city by begging from passers-by, whereas today those who are destitute of means outnumber those who possess them. note And we may well be patient with people in such circumstances if they care nothing for the public welfare, but consider only how they may live from day to day. 7.84

Now I have come before you and spoken this discourse, believing that if we will only imitate our ancestors we shall both deliver ourselves from our present ills and become the saviors, not of Athens alone, but of all the Hellenes; note but it is for you to weigh all that I have said and cast your votes according to your judgement of what is best for Athens.

Isocrates, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [word count] [lemma count] [Isoc.].
<<Isoc. 6 Isoc. 7 (Greek) >>Isoc. 8

Powered by PhiloLogic