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Discourse 21

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1939

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 23

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom

 p291  The Twenty-second Discourse: Concerning Peace and War

We have here just a fragment of this Discourse. In § 3 Dio does mention his subject, but all that precedes and follows is of an introductory nature. He says that there are many questions which are the common concern of both philosophers and orators. One class of these common questions comprises those which have to do with the state (πολιτικὰ ζητήματα); and some of these, such as that about peace and war, have to do with what is advisable. Then in questions of advisability the philosophers and orators make a division, the philosophers dealing with those of a general nature and the orators with particular cases.

This was the division made by Posidonius, the distinguished Stoic philosopher, born in 135 B.C. at Apamea, a city not far from Dio's native Prusa. That the followers of Plato and Aristotle made the same division appears from Cicero, De Oratore 1.45 and 46. In this matter, then, Dio is clearly siding with the philosophers against the rhetoricians or teachers of oratory such as Hermagoras, who claimed all political questions for oratory and rhetoric. It is possible that what Dio says here is based upon Posidonius, as von Arnim thinks, and at any rate we may conclude that Dio composed this Discourse after his conversion to philosophy.

 p293  The Twenty-second Discourse:
Concerning Peace and War

Many things in general and absolutely everything involving any work or activity will be found common to philosophers and orators — all those orators, that is, who do not carry on their business in the market-place and work for hire with their eyes fixed on matters of money only and on private disputes regarding contracts or loans out at interest, but aspire to advise and legislate for the state. That is, I think, what Pericles and Thucydides1 must have done at Athens, and Themistocles still earlier, and Cleisthenes, and Peisistratus, so long as he still let himself be called 'orator' and 'popular leader'22 for Aristeides, Lycurgus, Solon, Epaminondas, and others of the same sort should be regarded as philosophers in politics, or orators in the noble and real sense of the term. And I use the word 'philosopher' of men who, for example, deliberate and legislate about the training of the  p295 young, just as Lycurgus did at Sparta, and about the association of 'lovers,' about the acquisition of money — how much one should make and in what manner — about marriage, about the duties of citizenship, about coinage, about civic rights and the loss of them, about the setting up of households, and as to whether one should live in a walled city or, as the god advised the Spartans, in an unwalled one; about training for war and the organization of not merely the heavy-armed troops in general, but also of the formation which Epaminondas is said to have invented, in which he put the 'lovers' along with their beloved in order that they might have a better chance of coming through safely and might be witness to one another's courage or cowardice — and history tells us that this Sacred Band, as it was called, conquered the Spartans in the battle of Leuctra3 though these were supported by all Greece. 3 But the main question of all, and one with which many have often had to deal, concerns peace and war; and this now, as it so happens, is my theme.

All problems of this sort are called by the philosophers questions of propriety: for example, whether one should marry, whether one should go into public life, whether a monarchy should be adopted, or a democracy, or some other form of government; and in these subjects, in my opinion, is included this one too, whether war should be entered into.

Indeed the philosophers not only considered these questions in their general aspect, but also these: when, with reference to whom, and after what occurrence or non-occurrence each separate action  p297 should be taken. But there is this important difference — that the orators consider definite cases; for example, whether it is of advantage for the Athenians to make war on the Peloponnesians, for the Corcyraeans to go to the help of Corinthians,4 for Philip to support the Thebans in the war against the Phocians,5 or for Alexander to cross over into Asia. 4 Then too, in all these deliberations the following sort of question is apt to crop up: Is it right to go to war with those who have not provoked a war by some wrongful act? if a wrong has been done by those against whom you propose to wage war, how serious is this wrong which has been done?

But philosophers look at events from a distance and examine into what their character is in the abstract; for it is much better to have already deliberated about everything a long time in advance and since they have already reached a decision, to be able, when the moment for any action has come, with full knowledge either to handle the situation themselves or to give advice to the others,6 and not to be caught off their guard, as it were, and so be in a state of confusion and obliged to resort to improvising measures concerning situations of which they have no knowledge. 5 For whenever the orator-politicians have to consider any question, since they know nothing more than anybody else and have not considered the matter before, in a sense they both deliberate themselves and give advice to the others at one and the same time. The philosophers, on the other hand, know in advance about the course to be adopted and have deliberated  p299 upon it long beforehand. Consequently, if they are called in to advise cities, nations, or kings, they are in a better and safer position to set forth, not just what occurs to them, nor one thing at one moment and the opposite at the next, influenced by anger, contentiousness, or bribery, acting just as the tongue of a balance does, as I believe some one of the orator-politicians themselves said, ever tipping according to what is received.7 And I say this, not to criticize the art of oratory, or the good orators, but the poor ones and those who falsely claim that profession as their own.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Not the historian, but the leader of the aristocratic party in opposition to Pericles. He was ostracized in 444 B.C.

2 The term ῥήτωρ means primarily 'public speaker,' no matter what the subject of his address, but it was equally applied to those who addressed the people on political questions. Here Dio distinguishes between the greater and more philosophical statesman, such as Solon, and the lesser statesmen and politicians, such as Pericles and Themistocles. ῥήτωρ could also mean one who pleaded in the courts, i.e. an advocate, and finally, a teacher of rhetoric.

δημαγωγός means literally 'leader of the people' and at times has this meaning, as it has here; but more often it was used in a bad sense to mean a political agitator appealing to the cupidity or prejudice of the masses in order to further his own interests.

3 In 371 B.C.

4 Corcyra, the modern Corfu, was a colony of Corinth founded about 700 B.C. In 427 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War Corinth released some Corcyraean prisoners on the understanding that they were to win over Corcyra from Athens to the support of Corinth. They did secure the support of the oligarchic party there.

5 Philip of Macedon helped the Thebans against the Phocians in the Phocian or Sacred War and conquered them in 346 B.C.

6 That is, to the men of action, generals, or to the citizens.

7 Cf. Demosthenes, On the Crown 298: "tipping toward what is received as the tongue of a balance does" — ὥσπερ ἂν τρύτανη ῾πέπων πρὸς τὸ λῆμμα. λῆμμα more than hints at a bribe.

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