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Discourse 72

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1951

The text is in the public domain.

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Discourse 74

(Vol. V) Dio Chrysostom

 p193  The Seventy-third Discourse: On Trust

Although this Discourse begins with no formal address, it presents the appearance of a letter, for in the final paragraph the author applies his remarks to some one individual, whose name, unfortunately, is not given. Certainly, if we were to assume that we had before us an oral communication, we should expect to find now and then some appeal to the listener and an occasional response, however brief and perfunctory.

Dio appears to be writing to some acquaintance, possibly a former pupil, who seems to be considering acceptance of some responsibility, the nature of which it is idle to conjecture. All but the final paragraph is devoted to an exposition of the discomforts and even dangers attendant upon such a decision. As horrible examples of the ingratitude of both state and private citizen Dio passes in review some of the most notable personages of myth and history, besides calling attention to the many nameless persons who were repaid for their services as guardians or trustees by reproach or even by prosecution in the courts. We infer that he would have his anonymous acquaintance remain true to philosophy.

 p195  The Seventy-third Discourse:
On Trust

Do you really mean to say that being trusted is a good thing for those who are trusted and comparable to being wealthy or healthy or honoured for those who are honoured or healthy or wealthy, because it brings to those persons themselves some benefit? I mean, for instance, if a person should chance to be trusted in an official capacity, by his own state or by another, with an army or money or fortifications, just as in the past many have had such things entrusted to them, and in some instances even the cities themselves, women and children and all, not only in times of peace, but also sometimes when in the grip of war. 2 And, by Heaven, if a person were to be trusted by a king or a tyrant with gold or silver or ships or arms or a citadel or the supreme command — for example, Leptines often received command of Syracuse from his brother,1 and Philistus received it from the younger Dionysius,2 and the Magi received from Cambyses charge of his palace in Persia at the time when he was campaigning against Egypt,3  p197 and Mithranes4 received from Darius the citadel of Sardis, and Persaeus5 received Acrocorinth from Antigonus, and, much earlier than these, Atreus received Argos from Eurystheus, when Eurystheus was campaigning against Athens for refusing to surrender the children of Heracles,6 and, furthermore, the son of Atreus, Agamemnon, when setting sail for Troy, entrusted to a musician his wife and his house73 shall we say that all those who were trusted themselves derived some good from the trust?

Again, how about those who are entrusted by men in private station with either wives or children or estate? For instance, many, I fancy, leave behind them guardians and protectors, some when going on a journey and others when dying; and some place deposits in trust without the presence of witnesses, having no fear of being defrauded; and some, because the laws forbid their naming as heirs those whom they themselves prefer,8 name others, instructing them to turn over the property to the friends of the deceased — 4 are we to say that all such derive an advantage from the transaction and from the high opinion about them which leads those who do so to entrust them with their possessions, but  p199 particularly in the case of those last mentioned, who seem to be trusted in violation of the laws? Or, on the contrary, shall we say that such a responsibility is vexatious and the source of much trouble and many worries, sometimes indeed even of the greatest perils?

But we may examine the question by beginning immediately with those who are thought to be of highest rank; for those of necessity neglect their private interests, both property and children, and devote their attention to the public interests and are absorbed in them; and often at the hands of those who plot against their cities, whether foreign foes or some of their fellow citizens, they meet with disaster, and often, too, at the hands of the cities themselves, because of unjust accusation. For some have been deprived of property, and some even have suffered disgrace of various kinds, having been convicted on a charge of embezzlement, others have been banished from their native land, and others have even been put to death.

5 For example, they say that Pericles was convicted of embezzlement in an Athenian court,9 the noblest and best champion the city ever had; and that Themistocles was banished on a charge of treason, the one who, after having taken charge of the Athenians at a time when they were no longer able to occupy the soil of their native land but were yielding to the foe their city itself and their shrines, not only restored all these things, but even made the Athenians leaders of the Greeks, wresting the leadership  p201 from the Spartans, who had held this honour from the beginning.10

6 Again, Miltiades, who had been the first to vanquish the barbarians, with only his fellow citizens to aid him, and to humble the pride of the Persians,11 a pride which they formerly held, believing themselves to be superior to all other men — this man, I say, not much later was cast into prison by the Athenians;12 and, besides, his son Cimon would have been deprived of civic rights for the rest of his life if he had not given his sister Elpinicê in marriage to a man of humble origin but great wealth, who in his behalf paid the fine of fifty talents.13 And yet later on Cimon gained Cyprus for the Athenians, and in a joint account by land and sea vanquished the barbarians in the neighbourhood of Pamphylia. Still, though so remarkable himself and the son of so remarkable a father, if he had not secured considerable money the Athenians would have suffered him to be without civic rights in his city.14

7 And take the case of Phocion of a later period, who lived to be more than eighty years of age, and who for most of these years had served as general, had preserved the state in its moments of direst need, and had been dubbed excellent15 by those very Athenians — this man they were not content merely to put to death, nay, they would not even permit his corpse to rest in Attic soil, but cast it forth beyond  p203 their borders. Or take Nicias son of Niceratus — because he was trusted by his fellow citizens, though he knew full well what the campaign in Sicily would be like, both from the warnings of the god and from his own reasoning, still he was compelled to make the expedition, ill as he was, because of this trust of theirs. Moreover, if after losing his army or a portion of it he himself had come back in safety, clearly on reaching home he would have been put to death. But since, knowing this, he persevered in every way, he was taken captive and suffered that fate at the hands of the enemy.16

8 Now these observations of mine have been made about a single city and about the statesmen in a single city, nor have all of these been named. But as to those who at the courts of the tyrants enjoyed a reputation for trustworthiness, were I to recount fully what sort of fate has been theirs I should perhaps need very many days. For one might almost say that it is impossible for such men to go scot free. For any who lay themselves open to a charge of misconduct are put to death on that account, and there is no chance of obtaining any pardon; while those who show themselves to be good men and competent to safeguard what has been entrusted to them, though at the moment they obtain a certain honour, not much later they meet with disaster, being victims of envy and suspicion. 9 It does not, you see, seem to be advantageous to absolute monarchs that any man in their service should be good, or that any man should patently stand high in the esteem of the masses. On the other hand, trusts bestowed by men in private life, though possibly they involve less risk, because the business  p205 in hand is less important, still entail untold trouble and labours, and often not even gratitude, however slight, is their reward. On the contrary, it often happens that the very men who have received benefits at their hands charge them with not having paid all that is due with justice and clean hands.

10 Now with what purpose have I rehearsed these matters? Surely not because I was making you the object of such admonition, or because I aimed to dissuade you from being true to a trust. For I should be far worse than Zethus was if I subjected you to such criticism, for he admonished his brother because he did not deem it fitting for him to devote himself to the pursuit of wisdom or to waste time on music to the neglect of his own affairs; and he said that his brother was introducing an absurd and unprofitable Muse. Just as if perchance some one were to say that you too had chosen that sort of occupation, not one of idleness or of drunkenness by any means, and yet one involving neglect of your own estate quite possibly; and, by Zeus, he might even recite this line:

Wherefore an empty house shall be thy home.17

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Dionysius the Elder, who banished Leptines for marrying without his consent, but later recalled him.

2 Philistus was both soldier-politician and historian. Exiled by Dionysius the Elder along with Leptines, he was recalled sixteen years later on the accession of Dionysius II, but finally fell by his own hand when defeated in the attempt to save his master's power.

3 One of the most famous tales in Herodotus (3.61‑80). The Magi paid with their lives for their conspiracy.

4 Satrap under Darius III, Mithranes surrendered Sardis to Alexander the Great, who later put him in charge of Armenia; cf. Diodorus 17.21.7 and 17.64.6.

5 A distinguished pupil of Zeno, the Stoic philosopher. Antigonus Gonatas put him in charge of Acrocorinth. When Aratus snatched it from him he managed to escape with his life.

6 When Heracles died, his children, fearing Eurystheus, fled to Athens.

7 Homer relates (Odyssey 3.267‑272) that, in order to effect his seduction of Clytaemnestra, Aegisthus removed the nameless bard to a desert island and left him there to become a prey to the birds.

8 According to Attic law, if a man had sons born in lawful wedlock, he must leave his estate to them; if he had a daughter but no sons, her husband, preferably a relative, was given charge of the inheritance.

9 In reporting what presumably was the gossip of the comic poets, Plutarch, Pericles 32.2‑3, relates that, wishing to discredit Pericles with the people, Dracontides sponsored a bill providing that Pericles should deposit his account of public moneys with the prytanes and defend them in court, and that, because he had previously come into collision with the people in the case of Pheidias, Pericles feared to appear before a jury and avoided trial by hastening the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War.

10 Aristophanes (Knights 813‑819) pays high tribute to Themistocles.

11 At Marathon. One thousand Plataeans are said to have aided Athens.

12 He incurred the displeasure of Athens for his failure to take Paros. Herodotus (6.136) speaks only of his being fined, but Diodorus and others add that he was imprisoned.

13 Callias, a familiar figure in Greek literature, famed alike for his great wealth and for his profligacy.

14 Since Miltiades had died a debtor to the state, the son was deprived of civic rights until his father's debt was paid.

15 The word χρηστός is frequent in honorific inscriptions. In the case of Phocion it would seem to have been his sobriquet; cf. Plutarch, Phocion 10.2. Phocion was born c. 402 B.C. and was executed in 318 on a charge of treason. He had been made general forty-five times.

16 The tragic story is vividly told by Thucydides. The whole of book VII is a tribute to the loyalty and dogged determination of Nicias in the face of disease and crushing misfortune.

17 Zethus and Amphion, sons of Antiopê and Zeus, were exposed in infancy and reared by shepherds. Zethus busied himself with hunting and sheep-tending, while Amphion became a very famous musician, by the magic of whose strains the very stones which were to form the walls of Thebes moved into place. The controversy between the two brothers occupies several fragments of the Antiopê of Euripides. Dio here paraphrases one fragment and quotes from another; cf. Nauck, T. G. F., Euripides, fragg. 184, 188; fragments of Pacuvius' Antiopa (based on Euripides) in Remains of Old Latin, L. C. L., vol. II, pp158‑171.

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