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Bill Thayer

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Discourse 23

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
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Discourse 25

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom

 p317  The Twenty-fourth Discourse:
On Happiness

This Discourse, like the fourteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth, begins by saying that the majority of men act wrongly in respect to something and then proceeds to set them right. This same admonishing attitude is found also in Discourse 13.16‑28, where Dio tells of the beginning of his 'preaching' activity during his exile. For this reason von Arnim believes that all these Discourses, except the last of course, belong to the period of Dio's exile.

The great majority of men, says Dio, select their occupation in life without first considering the important question of what the life of man should be, and what is the highest good for him, the ideal toward which he should strive. Only the man who knows what this highest good is and subordinates everything else to it can gain true success and happiness.

 p319  The Twenty-fourth Discourse:
On Happiness

The majority of men have not as a rule concerned themselves at all with the question of what kind of men they ought to be, nor of what is ideally man's best good, to the attainment of which he should direct all his other activities; but, each in accordance with his taste, they have devoted themselves, some to horsemanship, some to military commands, some to athletic competitions, others to music, or farming, or expertness in oratory.1 But what practical utility each of these pursuits has for themselves, they do not know or even try to ascertain. 2 The consequence is that while some become good horsemen — in case they work hard at that and train diligently — and some become more efficient in wrestling than others, or in boxing, or running, or in other contests, or in avoiding crop failures, or in sailing the seas without wrecking their ships, and in knowledge of music some surpass others; yet the good and prudent man, one who can answer the all-important question, 'What man is he who is virtuous and intelligent?' cannot be found among them all.

3 Take oratory,2 for instance. There are many well-born  p321 men and, in public estimation, ambitious, who are whole-heartedly interested in it, some that they may plead in courts of law or address the people in the assembly in order to have greater influence than their rivals and have things their own way in politics, while the aim of others is the glory to be won thereby, that they may enjoy the reputation of eloquence; but there are men who say they desire the mere skill derived from experience, some of these being indeed speakers, but others only writers, of whom a certain man of former times said they occupied the borderland between philosophy and politics.3 But what their activity profits them, or to what end the glory is of use to them, or in what respect this experience is worth their while, all this they fail to consider.

4 But as for me, I claim that without this knowledge of which I speak and the quest for it, all the other things are little worth; but that for the man who has reflected upon that important point and has come to understand it, then practicing eloquence, exercising military command, or any other activity that may occupy him, is to his advantage and is directed toward a good. For the truth is that, for and of itself, receiving the approbation of senseless persons, which is just what the majority are, or having influence with men of that kind, or leading a pleasant life, will not, so far as happiness is concerned, be one whit better than being censured by them, or having no influence, or leading a laborious life.4

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 See Horace, Odes 1.1 for a similar reference to the different interests and occupations of men.

2 The same three types of oratory, the forensic, the deliberative, and the epideictic, are mentioned by Aristotle in his Rhetoric 1.3.3. Plato (Euthydemus 305B) used the same expression 'plead in courts of law.'

3 Plato (op. cit. 305) speaks of one such man and credits Prodicus with the statement that these men occupy the border between philosophy and politics. Isocrates would be an example of such a man.

4 See Plato, Crito 47A‑C as to the foolishness of being guided by the opinion of the many.

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Page updated: 16 Jan 08