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Discourse 1

This webpage reproduces one of the
Discourses

by
Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1932

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Discourse 3

(Vol. I) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p49 The Second Discourse on Kingship

The second Discourse on Kingship is put dramatically in the form of a dialogue between Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander, and in it the son is Dio's mouthpiece, in marked contrast to the situation in the fourth Discourse, where Diogenes — and therefore Dio — is opposed to Alexander. We are shown here the way in which the true king acts in the practical affairs of life, and the Stoic ideal, drawn largely from Homer, is set forth. Toward the end the true king is contrasted with the tyrant.

Although this Discourse is addressed to no one, von Arnim is led to conjecture from its martial tone that it was delivered before Trajan in A.D. 104 on the eve of the Second Dacian War.

p51 The Second Discourse on Kingship

It is said that Alexander, while still a lad, was once conversing with Philip his father about Homer in a very manly and lofty strain, their conversation being in effect a discussion of kingship as well. For Alexander was already to be found with his father on his campaigns, although Philip tried to discourage him in this. Alexander, however, could not hold himself in, for it was with the lad as with young dogs of fine breed that cannot brook being left behind when their masters go hunting, but follow along, often breaking their tethers to do so. 2 It is true that sometimes, because of their youth and enthusiasm, they spoil the sport by barking and starting the game too soon, but sometimes too they bring down the game themselves by bounding ahead. This, in fact, happened to Alexander at the very beginning, so that they say he brought about the battle and victory of Chaeronea1 when his father shrank from taking the risk.

Now it was on this occasion, when they were at Dium in Pieria on their way home from the campaign and were sacrificing to the Muses and celebrating the Olympic festival,2 which is said to be an ancient p53institution in that country, 3 that Philip in the course of their conversation put this question to Alexander: "Why, my son, have you become so infatuated with Homer that you devote yourself to him alone of all the poets? You really ought not to neglect the others, for the men are wise." And Alexander replied: "My reason, father, is that not all poetry, any more than every style of dress, is appropriate to a king, as it seems to me. 4 Now consider the poems of other men; some I consider to be suitable indeed for the banquet, or for love, or for the eulogy of victorious athletes or horses, or as dirges for the dead, and some as designed to excite laughter or ridicule, like the works of the comic writers and those of the Parian poet.3 5 And perhaps some of them might be called popular also, in that they give advice and admonition to the masses and to private citizens, as, for instance, the works of Phocylides and Theognis do. What is there in them by which a man could profit, who, like you or me,

'aspires to be

The master, over all to domineer.'4

6 The poetry of Homer, however, I look upon as alone truly noble and lofty and suited to a king, worthy of the attention of a real man, particularly if he expects to rule over all the peoples of the earth — or at any rate over most of them, and those the most prominent — if he is to be, in the strict sense of the term, what Homer calls a 'shepherd of the people.'5 Or would it not be absurd for a king to refuse to use any horse but the best and yet, when it is a question of poets, to read the poorer ones as though he had nothing p55else to do? 7 On my word, father, I not only cannot endure to hear any other poet recited but Homer, but even object to any other metre than Homer's heroic hexameter."

Then Philip admired his son greatly for his noble spirit, since it was plain that he harboured no unworthy or ignoble ideas but made the heroes and demigods his examples. 8 Nevertheless, in his desire to arouse him, he said, "But take Hesiod, Alexander; do you judge him of little account as a poet?" "Nay, not I," he replied, "but of every account, though not for kings and generals, I suppose." "Well, then, for whom?" And Alexander answered with a smile: "For shepherds, carpenters,6 and farmers; since he says that shepherds are beloved by the Muses, and to carpenters he gives very shrewd advice as to how large they should cut an axle, and to farmers, when to broach a cask."7 9 "Well," said Philip, "and is not such advice useful to men?" "Not to you and me, father," he replied, "nor to the Macedonians of the present day, though to those of former times it was useful, when they lived a slave's life, herding and farming for Illyrians and Triballians."8 "But do you not like these magnificent lines of Hesiod about seed-time and harvest?" said Philip:

"Mark well the time when the Pleiads, daughters of Atlas, are rising;

Then begin with the harvest, but do not plough till their setting."9

10 "I much prefer what Homer says on farm-life," said Alexander. "And where," Philip asked, "has Homer p57anything to say about farming? Or do you refer to the representations on the shield of men ploughing and gathering the grain and the grapes?" "Not at all," said Alexander, "but rather to these well-known lines:

'As when two lines of reapers, face to face,

In some rich landlord's field of barley or wheat

Move on, and fast the severed handfuls fall,

So, springing on each other, they of Troy

And they of Argos smote each other down,

And neither thought of ignominious flight.'10

11 "And yet, in spite of such lines as these," said Philip, "Homer was defeated by Hesiod in the contest.11 Or have you not heard of the inscription which is inscribed upon the tripod that stands on Mount Helicon?

'Hesiod offered this gift to the Muses on Helicon's mountain

When at Chalcis in song he had vanquished Homer, the godlike.' "

12 "And he richly deserved to be defeated," rejoined Alexander, "for he was not exhibiting his skill before kings, but before farmers and plain folk, or, rather, before men who were lovers of pleasure and effeminate. And that is why Homer used his poetry to avenge himself upon the Euboeans." "How so?" asked Philip in wonder. "He singled them out among all the Greeks for a most unseemly haircut, for he makes them wear their hair in long p59locks flowing down their backs,12 as the poets of to‑day do in describing effeminate boys."

13 Philip laughed and said, "You observe, Alexander, that one must not offend good poets or clever writers, since they have the power to say anything they wish about us." "Not absolute power," said he; "it was a sorry day for Stesichorus, at any rate, when he told the lies about Helen.13 As for Hesiod, it seems to me that he himself, father, was not unaware of how much inferior his powers were to Homer's." 14 "How is that?" "Because, while Homer wrote of heroes, he composed a Catalogue of Fair Women,14 and in reality made the women's quarters15 the subject of his song, yielding to Homer the eulogy of men."

Philip next asked him: "But as for you, Alexander, would you like to have been Agamemnon or Achilles or any one of the heroes of those days, or Homer?" 15 "No, indeed, said Alexander, "but I should like to go far beyond Achilles and the others. For you are not inferior to Peleus, in my opinion; nor is Macedonia less powerful than Phthia;16 nor would I admit that Olympus17 is a less famous mountain than Pelion;18 and, besides, the education I have gained under Aristotle is not inferior to that which Achilles derived from Amyntor's son, Phoenix, an exiled man p61and estranged from his father. Then, too, Achilles had to take orders from others and was sent with a small force of which he was not in sole command, since he was to share the expedition with another. I, however, could never submit to any mortal whatsoever being king over me." 16 Whereupon Philip almost became angry with him and said: "But I am king and you are subject to me, Alexander." "Not I," said he, "for I hearken to you, not as king, but as father." "I suppose you will not go on and say, will you, that your mother was a goddess, as Achilles did," said Philip, "or do you presume to compare Olympias with Thetis?" At this Alexander smiled slightly and said, "To me, father, she seems more courageous than any Nereid." 17 Whereupon Philip laughed and said, "Not merely more courageous, my son, but also more warlike; at least she never ceases making war on me." So far did they both go in mingling jest with earnest.

Philip then went on with his questioning: "If, then, you are so enthusiastic an admirer of Homer, how is it that you do not aspire to his poetic skill?"19 "Because," he replied, "while it would give me the greatest delight to hear the herald at Olympia proclaim the victors with strong and clear voice, yet I should not myself care to herald the victories of others; I should much rather hear my own proclaimed." 18 With these words he tried to make it clear that while he considered Homer to be a marvellous and truly divine herald of valour, yet he regarded himself and the Homeric heroes as the athletes who strove in the contest of noble achievement. p63"Still, it would not be at all strange, father," he continued, "if I were to be a good poet as well, did nature but favour me; for you know that a king might find that even rhetoric was valuable to him.20 You, for example, are often compelled to write and speak in opposition to Demosthenes, a very clever orator who can sway his audience — to say nothing of the other political leaders of Athens." 19 "Yes," said Philip playfully, "and I should have been glad to cede Amphipolis to the Athenians in exchange for that clever Demosthenes. But what do you think was Homer's attitude regarding rhetoric?" "I believe that he admired the study, father," said he, "else he would never have introduced Phoenix as a teacher of Achilles in the art of discourse. Phoenix, at any rate, says that he was sent by Achilles' father,

'To teach thee both, that so thou mightst become

In words an orator, in warlike deeds

A doer.'21

20 And as for the other chieftains, he depicted the best and the best qualified for kingly office as having cultivated this art with no less zeal: I mean Diomede, Odysseus, and particularly Nestor, who surpassed all the others in both discernment and persuasiveness. Witness what he says in the early part of his poem:

'whose tongue

Dropped words more sweet than honey.'22

21 It was for this reason that Agamemnon prayed that he might have ten such elders as counsellors rather than youths like Ajax and Achilles, implying that the capture of Troy would thus be hastened. And, indeed, in another instance23 he showed the importance p65of rhetorical skill. 22 For when the Greeks had at last become faint-hearted in pursuing the campaign because the war had lasted so long and the siege was so difficult, and also, no doubt, because of the plague that laid hold of them and of the dissensions between the kings, Agamemnon and Achilles; and when, in addition, a certain agitator24 rose to oppose them and threw the assembly into confusion — at this crisis the host rushed to the ships, embarked in hot haste, and were minded to flee. Nobody was able to restrain them, and even Agamemnon knew not how to handle the situation. 23 Now in this emergency the only one who was able to call them back and change their purpose was Odysseus, who finally, by the speech he made, and with the help of Nestor, persuaded them to remain. Consequently, this achievement was clearly due to the orators; and one could point to many other instances as well. 24 It is evident, then, that not only Homer but Hesiod, too, held this view, implying that rhetoric in the true meaning of the term, as well as philosophy, is a proper study for the king; for the latter says of Calliope,25

'She attendeth on kings august that the daughters of great Zeus

Honour and watch at their birth, those kings that of Zeus are nurtured.'26

25 But to write epic poetry, or to compose pieces in prose like those letters of yours,27 father, which are said to have won you high repute, is not altogether essential for a king, except indeed when he is young p67and has leisure, as was the case with you when, as they say, you diligently cultivated rhetorical studies in Thebes. 26 Nor, again, is it necessary that he study philosophy to the point of perfecting himself in it; he need only live simply and without affectation, to give proof by his very conduct of a character that is humane, gentle, just, lofty, and brave as well, and, above all, one that takes delight in bestowing benefits — a trait which approaches most nearly to the nature divine. He should, indeed, lend a willing ear to the teachings of philosophy whenever opportunity offers, inasmuch as these are manifestly not opposed to his own character but in accord with it; 27 yet I should especially counsel the noble ruler of princely soul to make poetry his delight and to read it attentively — not all poetry, however, but only the most beautiful and majestic, such as we know Homer's alone to be, and of Hesiod's the portions akin to Homer's, and perhaps sundry edifying passages in other poets."

28 "And so, too, with music," continued Alexander; "for I should not be willing to learn all there is in music, but only enough for playing the cithara or the lyre when I sing hymns in honour of the gods and worship them, and also, I suppose, in chanting the praises of brave men. It would surely not be becoming for kings to sing the odes of Sappho or Anacreon, whose theme is love; but if they do sing odes, let it be some of those of Stesichorus or Pindar, if sing they must. 29 But perhaps Homer is all one needs even to that end."28 "What!" exclaimed Philip, "do you think that any of Homer's lines would sound well with the cithara or the lyre?" p69And Alexander, glaring at him fiercely like a lion, said: "For my part, father, I believe that many of Homer's lines would properly be sung to the trumpet — not, by heavens, when it sounds the retreat, but when it peals forth the signal for the charge, and sung by no chorus of women or maids, but by a phalanx under arms. They are much to be preferred to the songs of Tyrtaeus,29 which the Spartans use." 30 At this Philip commended his son for having spoken worthily of the poet and well. "And indeed," Alexander continued, "Homer illustrates the very point we have just mentioned. He has represented Achilles, for instance, when he was loitering in the camp of the Achaeans, as singing no ribald or even amorous ditties — though he says, to be sure, that he was in love with Briseis; nay, he speaks of him as playing the cithara, and not one that he had bought, I assure you, or brought from his father's house, but one that he had plucked from the spoils when he took Thebe30 and slew Eëtion, the father of Hector's wife. Homer's words are:

31 'To sooth his mood he sang

The deeds of heroes.'31

Which means that a noble and princely man should never forget valour and glorious deeds whether he be drinking or singing, but should without ceasing be engaged in some great and some admirable action himself, or in recalling deeds of that kind."

p71 32 In this fashion Alexander would talk with his father, thereby revealing his innermost thoughts. The fact is that while he loved Homer, for Achilles he felt not only admiration but even jealousy because of Homer's poesy, just as handsome boys are sometimes jealous of others who are handsome, because these have more powerful lovers. To the other poets he gave hardly a thought; but he did mention32 33 Stesichorus and Pindar, the former because he was looked upon as an imitator of Homer and composed a "Capture of Troy," a creditable work, and Pindar because of the brilliancy of his genius and the fact that he had extolled the ancestor whose name he bore: Alexander,33 nicknamed the Philhellene, to whom the poet alluded in the verse

"Namesake of the blest sons of Dardanus."34

This is the reason why, when later he sacked Thebes,35 he left only that poet's house standing,36 directing that this notice be posted upon it:

"Set not on fire the roof of Pindar, maker of song."37

Undoubtedly he was most grateful to those who p73eulogized him worthily, when he was so particular as this in seeking renown.

34 "Well, then, my son," said Philip, "since I am glad indeed to hear you speak in this fashion, tell me, is it your opinion that the king should not even make himself a dwelling beautified with precious ornaments of gold and amber and ivory to suit his pleasure?" "By no means should he, father," he replied; "such ornaments should consist rather of spoils and armour taken from the enemy. He should also embellish the temples with such ornaments and thus propitiate the gods. This was Hector's opinion when he challenged the best of the Achaeans, declaring that if victorious he would deliver the body to the allied host, 'but the arms,' said he, 'I shall strip off and

'hang them high

Within the temple of the archer-god Apollo.'38

35 For such adornment of sacred places is altogether superior to jasper, carnelian, and onyx, with which Sardanapallus bedecked Nineveh. Indeed, such ostentation is by no means seemly for a king though it may furnish amusement to some silly girl or extravagant woman. 36 And so I do not envy the Athenians, either, so much for the extravagant way they embellished their city and their temples as for the deeds their forefathers wrought; for in the sword of Mardonius39 and the shields of the Spartans who were captured at Pylos40 they have a far grander and more excellent dedication to the gods than they have p75in the Propylaea of the Acropolis and in Olympieum,41 which cost more than ten thousand talents."42 37 "In this particular, then," said Philip, "you could not endorse Homer; for he has embellished the palace of Alcinoüs,43 a Greek and an islander, not only with gardens and orchards and fountains, but with statues of gold also. Nay, more, does he not describe the dwelling of Menelaus, for all that he had just got back from a campaign, as though it were some Persian or Median establishment, almost equalling the palaces of Semiramis,44 or of Darius and Xerxes? 38 He says, for instance:

'A radiance bright, as of the sun or moon.

Throughout the high-roofed halls of Atreus' son

Did shine.'

'The sheen of bronze,

Of gold, of silver, and of ivory.'45

39 And yet, according to your conception, it should have shone, not with such materials, but rather with Trojan spoils!" Here Alexander checked him and said, "I have no notion at all of letting Homer go undefended. For it is possible that he described the palace of Menelaus to accord with his character, since he is the only one of the Achaeans whom he makes out to be a faint-hearted warrior.46 40 Indeed it is fairly clear that this poet never elsewhere speaks without a purpose, but repeatedly depicts the dress, dwelling, p77and manner of life of people so as to accord with their character. This is why he beautified the palace of the Phaeacians with groves, perennial fruits, and ever-flowing springs; 41 and again, with even greater skill, the grotto of Calypso, since she was a beautiful and kindly goddess living off by herself on an island. For he says47 that the island was wonderfully fragrant with the odours of sweetest incense burning there; and again, that it was overshadowed with luxuriant trees; that round about the grotto rambled a beautiful vine laden with clusters, while before it lay soft meadows with a confusion of parsley and other plants; and, finally, that in its centre were four springs of crystal-clear water which flowed out in all directions, seeing that the ground was not on a slope or uneven. Now all these touches are marvellously suggestive of love and pleasure, and to my thinking reveal the character of the goddess. 42 The court of Menelaus, however, he depicts as rich in possessions and rich in gold, as though he were some Asiatic king, it seems to me. And, in fact, Menelaus was not far removed in line of descent from Tantalus and Pelops;48 which I think is the reason why Euripides has his chorus make a veiled allusion to his effeminacy when the king comes in:

'And Menelaus,

By his daintiness so clear to behold,

Sprung from the Tantalid stock.'49

43 The dwelling of Odysseus, however, is of a different kind altogether; he being a cautious man, Homer has given him a home furnished to suit his character. For he says:

p79 'Rooms upon rooms are there: around its court

Are walls and battlements, and folding doors

Shut fast the entrance; no man may contemn

Its strength.'50

44 "But there are passages where we must understand the poet to be giving advice and admonition, others where he merely narrates, and many where his purpose is censure and ridicule. Certainly, when he describes going to bed or the routine of daily life, Homer seems a competent instructor for an education that may truthfully be described as heroic and kingly. Lycurgus, for instance, may have got from him his idea of the common mess51 of the Spartans when he founded their institutions. 45 In fact, the story is that he came to be an admirer of Homer and was the first who brought his poems from Crete, or from Ionia, to Greece. To illustrate my point: the poet represents Diomede as reclining on a hard bed, the 'hide of an ox that dwelleth afield'; round about him he had planted his spears upright, butts downward, not for the sake of order but to have them ready for use.52 Furthermore, he regales his heroes on meat, and beef at that, evidently to give them strength, not pleasure.53 46 For instance, he is always talking about an ox being slain by Agamemnon, who was king over all and the richest, and of his inviting the chieftains to enjoy it. And to Ajax, after his victory, Agamemnon gives the chine of an ox as a mark of favour.54 47 But Homer never represents his heroes as partaking of fish although they are p81encamped by the sea; and yet he regularly calls the Hellespont fish-abounding, as in truth it is; Plato55 has very properly called attention to this striking fact. Nay, he does not even serve fish to the suitors at their banquet though they are exceedingly licentious and luxury-loving men, are in Ithaca and, what is more, engaged in feasting.56 48 Now because Homer does not give such details without a purpose, he is evidently declaring his own opinion as to what kind of nourishment is best, and what it is good for. If he wishes to commend a feature, he uses the expression 'might-giving,' that is to say, 'able to supply might' or strength.57 In the passages in question he is giving instruction and advice as to how good men should take thought even for their table, since, as it happened, he was not unacquainted with food of all kinds and with high living. So true is this that the peoples of to‑day who have fairly gone mad in this direction — the Persians, Syrians and, among the Greeks, the Italiots,58 and Ionians — come nowhere near attaining the prodigality and luxury we find in Homer."

49 "But how is it that he does not give the finest possible apparel to his heroes?" Philip enquired. "Why, by Zeus, he does," replied all, "though it is no womanish or embroidered apparel; Agamemnon is the only one that wears a purple robe,59 and even Odysseus has but one purple cloak that he brought from home.60 For Homer believes p83that a commander should not be mean of appearance or look like the crowd of private soldiers, but should stand out from the rest in both garb and armour so as to show his greater importance and dignity, yet without being a fop or fastidious about such things. 50 He roundly rebuked the Carian, for instance, who decked himself out for war in trappings of gold. These are his words:

'who, madly vain,

Went to the battle pranked like a young girl

In golden ornaments. They spared him not

The bitter doom of death; he fell beneath

The hand of swift Aeacides within

The river's channel. There the great in war,

Achilles, spoiled Nomion of his gold.'61

51 Thus he ridicules him for his folly as well as his vanity in that he practically carried to the foemen a prize for slaying him. Homer, therefore, clearly does not approve the wearing of gold, particularly on going into a battle, whether bracelets and necklaces or even such golden head-gear and bridles for one's horses as the Persians are said to affect; for they have no Homer to be their censor in affairs of war.

52 "By inculcating such conduct as the following, he has made his officers good and his soldiers well disciplined. For instance, he has them advance

'silently, fearing their leaders'62

whereas the barbarians advance with great noise and confusion, like cranes,63 thus showing that it is important for safety and victory in battle that the soldiers p85stand in awe of their commanders. For those who are without fear of their own officers would be the first to be afraid of the enemy. 53 Furthermore, he says that even when they had won a victory the Achaeans kept quiet in their camp,64 but that among the Trojans, as soon as they thought they had gained any advantage, at once there were throughout the night

'the sound

Of flutes and fifes, and tumult of the crowd.'65

implying that here also we have an excellent indication of virtue according as men bear their successes with self-restraint, or, on the contrary, with reckless abandon. 54 And so to me, father, Homer seems a most excellent disciplinarian, and he who tries to give heed to him will be a highly successful and exemplary king. For he clearly takes for granted himself that pre-eminently kingly virtues are two — courage and justice. Mark what he says,

'An excellent king and warrior mighty withal.'66

as though all the other virtues followed in their train.

55 "However, I do not believe that the king should simply be distinguished in his own person for courage and dignity, but that he should pay no heed to other people either when they play the flute or the harp, or sing wanton and voluptuous songs; nor should he tolerate the mischievous craze for filthy language that has come into vogue for the delight of fools; 56 nay, he should cast out all such things and banish them to the uttermost distance from his own soul, first and foremost, and then from the capital of his kingdom — I p87mean such things as ribald jests and those who compose them, whether in verse or prose, along with scurrilous gibes — then, in addition, he should do away with indecent dancing and the lascivious posturing of women in licentious dances as well as the shrill and riotous measures played on the flute, syncopated music full of discordant turns, and motley combinations of noisy clanging instruments. 57 One song only will he sing or permit to be sung — the song that comports with the God of War, full of vigour, ringing clear, and stirring in the hearer no feeling of delight or languidness, but rather an overpowering fear and tumult; in short, such a song as Ares himself awoke, as he

'shrilly yelled, encouraging

The men of Troy, as on the city heights

He stood.'67

or as Achilles when, at the mere sound of his voice and before he could be seen, he turned the Trojans to flight and thus caused the destruction of twelve heroes midst their own chariots and arms.68 58 Or it might be like the triumphal song composed by the Muses for the celebration of victory, like the paean which Achilles bade the Achaeans chant as he brought Hector's body to the ships, he himself leading:

'Now then, ye Achaean youth, move on and chant

A paean, while, returning to the fleet,

We bring great glory with us; we have slain

The noble Hector, whom, throughout their town,

The Trojans ever worshipped like a god.'69

p89 59 Or, finally, it might be the exhortations to battle such as we find in the Spartan marching songs, its sentiments comporting well with the polity of Lycurgus and the Spartan institutions:

'Up, ye sons of Sparta,

Rich in citizen fathers;

Thrust with the left your shields forth,

Brandish bravely your spears;

Spare not your lives.

That's not custom in Sparta.'70

60 "In conformity with these songs, our king should institute dance movements and measures that are not marked by reeling or violent motions, but are as virile and sober as may be, composed in a sedate rhythm; the dance should be the 'enoplic,'71 the execution of which is not only a tribute to the gods but a drill in warfare as well — the dance in which the poet says Meriones was skilful, for he has put these words into the mouth of a certain Trojan:

'Had I but struck thee, dancer though thou art,

Meriones, my spear had once for all

Ended thy dancing.'72

61 Or do you think that he can have meant that some other dance was known to the son of Molus, who was accounted one of the best of the Achaeans, and not the military dance of the Kouretes, a native Cretan dance,73 the quick and light movement designed to train the soldiers to swerve to one side and easily avoid the missile? 62 From these considerations, moreover, p91it follows that the king should not offer such prayers as other men do nor, on the other hand, call upon the gods with such a petition as Anacreon, the Ionian poet, makes:

'O King with whom resistless love

Disports, and nymphs with eyes so dark,

And Aphrodite, fair of hue,

O thou who rangest mountain crests,

Thee do I beseech, do thou

To me propitious come and hear

With kindly heart the prayer I make:

Cleobulus' confessor be

And this love of mine approve,

O Dionysus.'74

63 Nor, by heavens, should he ever utter such prayers as those we find in the ballads and drinking-songs of the Attic symposia, for these are suitable, not for kings, but for country folk and for the merry and boisterous clan-meetings. For instance,

'Would that I became a lovely ivory harp,

And some lovely children carried me to Dionysus' choir!

Would that I became a lovely massive golden trinket,

And that me a lovely lady wore!'75

64 He would much better pray as Homer has represented the king of all the Greeks as praying:

'O Zeus, most great and glorious, who dost rule

The tempest — dweller of the ethereal space!

Let not the sun go down and night come on

p93 Ere I shall lay the halls of Priam waste

With fire, and give their portals to the flames,

And hew away the coat of mail that shields

The breast of Hector, splitting it with steel.

And may his fellow-warriors, many a one,

Fall round him to the earth and bite the dust.'76

65 "There are many other lessons and teachings in Homer, which might be cited, that make for courage and the other qualities of a king, but perhaps their recital would require more time than we now have. I will say, however, that he not only expresses his own judgment clearly in every instance — that in his belief the king should be the superior of all men — but particularly in the case of Agamemnon, in the passage where for the first time he sets the army in array, calls the roll of the leaders, and gives the tale of the ships. 66 In that scene the poet has left no room for any other hero even to vie with Agamemnon; but as far as the bull surpasses the herd in strength and size, so far does the king excel the rest, as Homer says in these words:

'And as a bull amid the horned herd

Stands eminent and nobler than the rest,

So Zeus to Agamemnon on that day

Gave to surpass in manly port and mien

The heroes all.'77

67 This comparison was not carelessly chosen, so it seems to me, merely in order to praise the hero's strength and in the desire to demonstrate it. In p95that case it seems that he would surely have chosen the lion for his simile and thus have made an excellent characterization. No, his idea was to indicate the gentleness of his nature and his concern for his subjects. For the bull is not merely one of the nobler animals; nor does it use its strength for its own sake, like the lion, the boar, and the eagle, which pursue other creatures and master them for their own bellies' sake. (For this reason one might in truth say that these animals have come to be symbols of tyranny rather than of kingship.) 68 But clearly, in my opinion, the bull has been used by the poet to betoken the kingly office and to portray a king. For the bull's food is ready to hand, and his sustenance he gets by grazing, so that he never needs to employ violence or rapacity on that score; but he, like affluent kings, has all the necessaries of life, unstinted and abundant. 69 He exercises the authority of a king over his fellows of the herd with good-will, one might say, and solicitude, now leading the way to pasture, now, when a wild beast appears, not fleeing but fighting in front of the whole herd and bringing aid to the weak in his desire to save the dependent multitude from dangerous wild beasts; just as is the duty of the ruler who is a real king and not unworthy of the highest honour known among men. 70 Sometimes, it is true, when another herd appears upon the scene, he engages its leader and strives for victory so that all may acknowledge his superiority and the superiority of his herd. Consider, again, the fact that the bull never makes war against man, but, notwithstanding that nature has made him of all unreasoning animals the best and best fitted to have dominion, he nevertheless p97accepts the dominion of his superior; and although he acknowledges his inferiority to none as regards strength, spirit, and might, yet he willingly subordinates himself to reason and intelligence. Why should we not count this a training and lesson in kingship for prudent kings, 71 to teach them that while a king must rule over men, his own kind, because he is manifestly their superior, who justly and by nature's design exercises dominion over them; and while he must save the multitude of his subjects, planning for them and, if need be, fighting for them and protecting them from savage and lawless tyrants, and as regards other kings, if any such there should be, must strive with them in rivalry of goodness, seeking if possible to prevail over them for the benefit of mankind at large; 72 yet the gods, who are his superiors, he must follow, as being, I verily believe, good herdsmen, and must give full honour to their superior and more blessed natures, recognizing in them his own masters and rulers and showing that the most precious possession which God, the greatest and highest king, can have is, first himself and then those who have beenº appointed to be his subjects?

73 "Now we know how wise herdsmen deal with a bull. When he becomes savage and hard to handle, and rules outrageously in violation of the law of nature, when he treats his own herd with contempt and harms it, but gives ground before outsiders who plot against it and shields himself behind the helpless multitude, yet, when there is no peril at hand, waxes overbearing and insolent, now bellowing loudly in a menacing way, now goring with levelled horns any p99who cannot resist, thus making show of his strength upon the weaker who will not fight, while at the same time he will not permit the multitude of the cattle to graze in peace because of the consternation and panic he inspires — when the owners and the herdsmen, I say, have such a bull, they depose and kill him as not being fit to lead the herd nor salutary to it. 74 That bull, on the other hand, which is gentle towards the kine of his following, but valiant and fearless towards wild beasts, that is stately, proud, and competent to protect his herd and be its leader, while yet submissive and obedient to the herdsmen — him they leave in charge til extreme old age, even after he becomes too heavy of body. 75 In like manner do the gods act, and especially the great King of Kings, Zeus, who is the common protector and father of men and gods. If any man proves himself a violent, unjust and lawless ruler, visiting his strength, not upon the enemy, but upon his subjects and friends; if he is insatiate of pleasures, insatiate of wealth, quick to suspect, implacable in anger, keen for slander, deaf to reason, knavish, treacherous, degraded, wilful, exalting the wicked, envious of his superiors, too stupid for education, regarding no man as friend nor having one, as though such a possession were beneath him, — 76 such a one Zeus thrusts aside and deposes as unworthy to be king or to participate in his own honour and titles, putting upon him shame and derision, as methinks he did with Phalaris78a and Apollodorus78b and many others like them. 77 But the brave and p101humane king, who is kindly towards his subjects and, while honouring virtue and striving that he shall not be esteemed as inferior to any good man therein, yet forces the unrighteous to mend their ways and lends a helping hand to the weak — such a king Zeus admires for his virtue and, as a rule, brings to old age, as, for instance, according to tradition, Cyrus79 and Deïoces80 the Mede, Idanthyrsus81 the Scythian, Leucon,82 many of the Spartan kings, and some of the earlier kings of Egypt. 78 But if the inevitable decree of fate snatches him away before reaching old age, yet Zeus vouchsafes unto him a goodly renown and praise among all men for ever and ever, as indeed," concluded Alexander, "he honoured our own ancestor, who, because of his virtue, was considered the son of Zeus — I mean Heracles."

79 Now when Philip heard all this, he was delighted and said, "Alexander, it wasn't for naught that we esteemed Aristotle so highly, and permitted him to rebuild his home-town Stagira,83 which is in the domain of Olynthus. He is a man who merits many large gifts, if such are the lessons which he gives you in government and the duties of a king, be it as interpreter of Homer or in any other way."


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 In 338 B.C., when the Athenians and Boeotians were crushed.

2 The new Olympic festival, celebrated for nine days at Dium in Pieria, was founded by Archelaus (king of Macedonia, 413‑399 B.C.) in honour of Zeus and the Muses. Another account credits Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, with founding it. See Krause, Olympia, p215; Diodorus 17.16. It was rather the worship of the Muses that was an ancient institution in Pieria. Arrian, Anabasis 1.11.

3 Archilochus.

4 Iliad 1.288, Homer's ἐθέλει being changed to ἐθέλων.

5 Cf. Iliad 4.296, for example.

6 Works and Days 368, 424, 609 f.

7 Ibid. 368, 424.

8 Neighbours of the Macedonians to the west and east respectively, and despised as barbarians.

9 Works and Days 383 f.

10 Iliad 11.67‑71.

11 The account of this mythical contest is found in the Ὁμήρου καὶ Ἡσιόδου ἀγών (The Contest between Homer and Hesiod), which was composed in the time of Hadrian, but goes back to an earlier account by the rhetorician Alcidamas. It was developed out of a suggestion given in Hesiod's Works and Days 650 f. In the contest, which is supposed to have taken place at the funeral games of King Amphidamas in Chalcis, verses of both poets, both real and made up, are brought forward. The judge makes Hesiod the victor, but the audience favours Homer.

12 Iliad 2.542. Cf. Dio, Discourse 7.4.

13 Apparently he accused Helen of having been married three times and of abandoning her husbands. He became blind, but regained his sight when he recanted. See Plato, Phaedrus 243A, for the story.

14 Fragments of this important work ascribed to Hesiod are extant.

15 In the Greek house an especial part was reserved for the women.

16 Country and city in the south-east of Thessaly, ruled over by Peleus, father of Achilles.

17 The Thessalian mountain on the border of Macedonia.

18 Here Peleus wooed and won Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and here Cheiron, the tutor of Achilles, had his cave.

19 Referring to Alexander's statement, § 14 f., that he would not care to have been either Homer or one of Homer's heroes.

20 Referring to his own study of rhetoric under Aristotle.

21 Iliad 9.443.

22 Iliad 1.249.

23 Iliad 2.155‑332.

24 Thersites.

25 The Muse of oratory as well as of epic poetry.

26 Theogony 80‑82.

27 Eight letters falsely attributed to him are extant. Four are addressed to the Athenians, one to the Thebans, the Peloponnesian allies, Aristotle, and Philip's wife, Olympias, respectively. See Hercher, Epistolographi Graeci, pp461‑467.

28 Plato rejects for the citizens of his ideal republic a good deal of the poetry that Alexander rejects for the king, but they disagree as to the influence of Homer. Plato has a good deal of fault to find with him.

29 These were elegies, exhorting the Spartans to deeds of valour, and marching songs. Due to their fire and enthusiasm, they are given a large share of credit for the final victory of the Spartans over the Messenians.

30 Thebe, or Thebes, a famous ancient town in Mysia.

31 Iliad 9.189.

32 i.e. in his conversation with Philip. See above.

33 i.e. Alexander I, son of Amyntas I. He ruled from 498‑454 B.C.

34 Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci, Pindar, Fragment 120. See also Pindar, p578 in L. C. L. An allusion to Alexander, or Paris, son of Priam and descendant of Dardanus, the first king of Troy.

35 In 335 B.C.

36 Arrian (Anabasis 1.9) tells the same story without giving the inscription. He says the story is that Alexander protected the poet's house and his descendants.

37 Cf. Milton, Sonnet 8:

The great Emathian conqueror bid spare

The house of Pindarus when temple and tower

Went to the ground.

38 Iliad 7.83.

39 A sword said to be that of Mardonius, the Persian general slain at the battle of Plataea, 479 B.C., was hung up in the Parthenon at Athens, where Pausanias reported having seen it. See Pausanias I.27.

40 In 425 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War: 292 picked Spartan troops were taken alive and brought to Athens. See Thucydides 4.39‑40.

41 Temple of Olympian Zeus, east of the Acropolis, some columns of which are still standing; said to have been begun by Peisistratus about 535 B.C. and finished by the Emperor Hadrian about 125‑130 A.D.

42 As a talent was worth more than $1000, the cost was over $10,000,000.

43 Odyssey 7.84‑132.

44 Famous Assyrian queen whose capital was Nineveh.

45 Odyssey 4.45‑6, to which line 73 is tacked on somewhat ungrammatically.

46 Iliad 17.588.

47 Odyssey 5.55‑74.

48 Tantalus, Pelops, Atreus, Menelaus.

49 Orestes 349‑351.

50 Odyssey 17.266‑268.

51 The principal meal of the day was eaten in public by the ruling classes of Sparta and Crete, in dining-halls built for the purpose. Attendance at these philitia, or phiditia, was compulsory, and they were an important factor in strengthening both the national and the class consciousness of the participants.

52 Iliad 10.150‑156.

53 Iliad 7.314.

54 Iliad 7.321.

55 Republic 404B.

56 Odyssey 20.250 f. The fish in the streams of Asia Minor are notorious for their poor flavour, even to this day. This may account for Homer's contempt for fish as an article of food. See John A. Scott in the Classical Journal, Vol. 12, p328 f., and Vol. 18, p242 f.

Thayer's Note: Many other theories have been put forth to account for Homeric heroes not eating fish. They range from plain dislike to heroic self-mortification to religious taboo, and the question remains unresolved. Scott's theory is tainted by the source of his interest in it, an eagerness to find arguments bolstering his contention that Homer was from Smyrna.

57 μένος does often mean "might," but the etymology of μενοεικής now accepted is: "gratifying the desire"; hence "abundant," "agreeable." Dio gives an incorrect etymology and meaning.

58 The Greeks of Southern Italy (Magna Graecia).

59 Iliad 8.221.

60 Odyssey 19.225.

61 Iliad 2.872‑875.

62 Iliad 4.431.

63 Iliad 3.1‑9; 4.431.

64 Iliad 24.1‑3.

65 Iliad 10.13.

66 Iliad 3.179.

67 Iliad 20.52.

68 Iliad 18.228‑231.

69 Iliad 22.391‑394.

70 Attributed to Tyrtaeus, but probably of a later date.

71 This was a dance in full armour.

72 Iliad 16.617‑618.

73 Meriones, the son of Molus, was a Cretan.

74 Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci, Part 3, p254, and Lyra Graeca, Vol. 2, p138, in L. C. L. Dio is our only source for this poem.

75 Given by Athenaeus also, 695C. See Bergk, op. cit., p649.

76 Iliad 2.412‑418.

77 Iliad 2.480‑483.

78a 78b Tyrants of monstrous cruelty. See Index.

79 Cyrus the Elder, founder of the Persian Empire, reigned from 559 to 529 B.C.

80 Founder of the Median Empire, ruled 53 years according to Herodotus.

81 The name of two Scythian kings. How long they lived is not known.

82 Powerful king of Bosporus, who reigned from 393 to 353 B.C.

83 Stagira had been destroyed during Philip's operations against the Greek towns of Chalcidice. In 342 B.C. Aristotle was appointed tutor to Alexander, and at his own request his native city was rebuilt and a gymnasium erected there for the use of himself and his pupils.


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