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This webpage reproduces the essay
Whether an Old Man Should Engage in Public Affairs

by
Plutarch

as published in Vol. X
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1936

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!

[image ALT: a blank space]

(Vol. X) Plutarch, Moralia

Copyright

The work appears in pp73‑153 of Vol. X of the Loeb Classical Library's edition of the Moralia, first published in 1936. It is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1964 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

p75 Loeb Edition Introduction

Euphanes, to whom this essay is addressed, is known from no other source. That he and Plutarch were aged men when the essay was written appears from the opening sentences (see also Chapter 17, towards the end, 792F). He was evidently a man of some distinction at Athens, where he held important offices (Chapter 20, 794B). It is not unlikely that he may have asked Plutarch's advice about retiring from public life and that this essay is in reply to his appeal, but there is no definite statement to that effect. Cicero's Cato Maior or De Senectute differs from this in not being limited to the discussion of old age in its relation to public activities, but the two essays have much in common and may well be read in connexion with each other.

p77 (783b) 1 1  We are well aware, Euphanes, that you, who are an outspoken admirer of Pindar, often repeat, as well and convincingly expressed, these lines of his,

When contests are before us, an excuse

Casts down our manhood into abysmal gloom.1

But inasmuch as our shrinking from the contests of political life and our various infirmities furnish innumerable excuses and offer us finally, like "the move from the sacred line"2 in draughts, old age; and since it is more especially because of this last that these excuses seem to blunt and baffle our ambition and begin to convince us that there is a fitting limit of age, not only to the athlete's career, but to the statesman's as well, CI therefore think it my duty to discuss with you the thoughts which I am continually going over in my own mind concerning the activity of old men in public affairs, that neither of us shall desert the long companionship in the journey which we have thus far made together, and neither shall renounce public life, which is, as it were, a familiar friend of our own p79years, only to change and adopt another which is unfamiliar and for becoming familiar with which and making it our own time does not suffice, but that we shall abide by the choice which we made in the beginning when we fixed the same end and aim for life as for honourable life — unless indeed we were in the short time remaining to us to prove that the long time we have lived was spent in vain and for no honourable purpose.

DFor the fact is that tyranny, as someone said to Dionysius, is not an honourable winding-sheet;3 no, and in his case its continuance made his unjust monarchy a more complete misfortune. And at a later time, at Corinth, when Diogenes saw the son of Dionysius no longer a tyrant but a private citizen, he very aptly said, "How little you deserve your present fate, Dionysius! For you ought not to be living here with us in freedom and without fear, but you should pass your life to old age over yonder walled up in the royal palace, as your father did." But a democratic and legal government, by a man who has accustomed himself to be ruled for the public good no less than to rule, Egives to his death the fair fame won in life as in very truth an honourable winding-sheet; for this, as Simonides4 says,

last of all descends below the ground,

except in the case of those whose love of mankind and of honour dies first, and whose zeal for what is noble fails before their desire for material necessities, as if the active and divine qualities of the soul were less enduring than the passive and physical. And p81it is not right to say, or to accept when said by others, that the only time when we do not grow weary is when we are making money. FOn the contrary, we ought even to emend the saying of Thucydides5 and believe, not only that "the love of honour never grows old," but that the same is even truer of the spirit of service to the community and the State, which persists to the end even in ants and bees. For no one ever saw a bee that had on account of age become a drone, as some people claim that public men, when they have passed their prime, should sit down in retirement at home and be fed, allowing their worth in action to be extinguished by idleness as iron is destroyed by rust. 784Cato,6 for example, used to say that we ought not voluntarily to add to the many evils of its own which belong to old age the disgrace that comes from baseness. And of the many forms of baseness none disgraces an aged man more than idleness, cowardice, and slackness, when he retires from public offices to the domesticity befitting women or to the country where he oversees the harvesters and the women who work as gleaners.

But Oedipus, where is he and his riddles famed?7

For as to beginning public life in old age and not before (as they say that Epimenides slept while a youth and awoke as an aged man after fifty years), p83Band then, after casting off such a long-familiar state of repose, throwing oneself into strife and time-absorbing affairs when one is unaccustomed to them and without practice and is conversant neither with public affairs nor with public men; that might give a fault-finder a chance to quote the Pythia and say, "Too late you have come" seeking for office and public leadership, and you are knocking unseasonably at the door of the praetorium, like some ignorant man who comes by night in festive condition or a stranger exchanging, not your place of residence or your country, but your mode of life for one in which you have had no experience. For the saying of Simonides, "the State teaches a man,"8 is true for those who still have time to unlearn what they have been taught and to learn a new subject which can hardly be acquired through many struggles and labours, Ceven if it encounters at the proper time a nature capable of bearing toil and misery with ease. Such are the remarks which one may believe are fittingly addressed to a man who begins public life in his old age.

2 1 And yet, on the other hand, we see that the mere lads and young men are turned away from public affairs by those who are wise; and the laws which are proclaimed by the heralds in the assemblies bear witness to this, when they call up first to the platform, not the young men like Alcibiades and Pytheas, but men over fifty years of age, and invite them to speak and offer advice. DFor such men are not incited by lack of the habit of daring or by want of practice p85to try to score a victory over their political opponents. And Cato, when after eighty years he was defendant in a law-suit, said it was difficult when he had lived with one generation to defend himself before another. In the case of the Caesar9 who defeated Antony, all agree that his political acts towards the end of his life became much more kingly and more useful to the people. And he himself, when the young men made a disturbance as he was rebuking them severely for their manners and customs, said, "Listen, young men, to an old man to whom old men listened when he was young." EAnd the government of Pericles gained its greatest power in his old age, which was the time when he persuaded the Athenians to engage in the war; and when they were eager to fight at an unfavourable time against sixty thousand heavy-armed men, he interposed and prevented it; indeed he almost sealed up the arms of the people and the keys of the gates. But what Xenophon has written about Agesilaüs10 certainly deserves to be quoted word for word: "For what youth" he says, "did not his old age manifestly surpass? For who in the prime of life was so terrible to his enemies as Agesilaüs at the extreme of old age? FAt whose removal were the enemy more pleased than at that of Agesilaüs, although his end came when he was aged? Who inspired more courage in his allies than Agesilaüs, although he was already near the limit of life? And what young man was more missed by his friends than Agesilaüs, who was aged when he died?"

3 1 Time, then, did not prevent those men from doing such great things; and shall we of the present p87day, who live in luxury in states that are free from tyranny or any war or siege, be such cowards as to shirk unwarlike contests and rivalries which are for the most part terminated justly by law and argument in accordance with justice, confessing that we are inferior, 785not only to the generals and public men of those days, but to the poets, teachers, and actors as well? Yes, if Simonides in his old age won prizes with his choruses, as the inscription in its last lines declares:

But for his skill with the chorus great glory Simonides followed,

Octogenarian child sprung from Leoprepes' seed.11

And it is said that Sophocles, when defending himself against the charge of dementia brought by his sons,12 read aloud the entrance song of the chorus in the Oedipus at Colonus, which begins:13

Of this region famed for horses

Thou hast, stranger, reached the fairest

Dwellings in the land,

Bright Colonus, where the sweet-voiced

Nightingale most loves to warble

In the verdant groves;

Band the song aroused such admiration that he was escorted from the court as if from the theatre, with the applause and shouts of those present. And here is a little epigram of Sophocles, as all agree:

Song for Herodotus Sophocles made when the years of his age were

Five in addition to fifty.14

p89 But Philemon15 the comic dramatist and Alexis16 were overtaken by death while they were on the stage acting and being crowned with garlands. And Polus the tragic actor, as Eratosthenes and Philochorus tell us, when he was seventy years old Cacted in eight tragedies in four days shortly before his death.17

4 1 Is it, then, not disgraceful that the old men of the public platform are found to be less noble than those of the stage, and that they withdraw from the truly sacred contests, put off the political rôle, and assume I do not know what in its stead? For surely after the rôle of a king that of a farmer is a mean one. For when Demosthenes says18 that the Paralus, being the sacred galley, was unworthily treated when it was used to transport beams, stakes, and cattle for Meidias, will not a public man who gives up such offices as superintendent of public games, Boeotian magistrate, and president of the Amphictyonic council, Dand is thereafter seen busying himself with measuring flour and olive cakes and with tufts of sheep's wool — will not he be thought to be bringing upon himself "the old age of a horse," as the saying is, when nobody forces him to do so? Surely taking up menial work fit only for the market-place after holding public offices is like stripping a freeborn and modest woman of her gown, putting a cook's apron on her, and keeping her in a tavern; for just so p91the dignity and greatness of high ability in public life is destroyed when it is turned to household affairs and money-making. EBut if — the only thing left — they give to self-indulgence and luxury the names of rest and recreation, and urge the statesman quietly to waste away and grow old in them, I do not know which of two disgraceful pictures his life will seem to resemble more closely, that of sailors who desert their ship, when they have not brought it into the harbour but it is still under sail, and devote themselves to sexual indulgence for all time to come, or that of Heracles, as some painters playfully, but with evil influence, represent him in Omphalê's palace wearing a yellow gown and giving himself up to her Lydian maids to be fanned and have his hair curled. Shall we in like manner strip the statesman of his lion's skin Fand make him constantly recline at banquets to the music of harps and flutes? And shall we not be deterred by the words addressed by Pompey the Great to Lucullus? For Lucullus gave himself up after his military activities to baths, banquets, sexual intercourse in the daytime, great listlessness, and the erection of new-fangled buildings and he reproached Pompey for his love of office and of honour as unsuited to his age. Then Pompey said that it was more untimely for an old man to indulge in luxury than to hold office. 786And once when he was ill and the physician prescribed a thrush (which was hard to get and out of season), and some said that Lucullus had plenty of them in his breeding-place, Pompey refused to send and get one, saying, "Could Pompey, then, not live if Lucullus were not luxurious?"

5 1 For granted that nature seeks in every way p93pleasure and enjoyment, old men are physically incapacitated for all pleasures except a few necessary ones, and not only

Aphroditê with old men is wroth,19

Bas Euripides says, but their appetites also for food and drink are for the most part blunted and toothless, so that they can, if I may say so, hardly whet and sharpen them. They ought to prepare for themselves pleasures in the mind, not ignoble and illiberal ones like that of Simonides, who said to those who reproached him for his avarice that, since old age had deprived him of all other pleasures, he was comforting his declining years with the only one left, the pleasure of gain. Public life, on the other hand, possesses pleasures most noble and great, those in fact from which the gods themselves, as we may reasonably suppose, derive their only or their chief enjoyment. These are the pleasures that spring from good deeds and noble actions. For if Nicias the painter took such delight in the labours of his art Cthat he often had to ask his servants whether he had had his bath and his breakfast; and if Archimedes when intent upon his drawing-tablet had to be dragged away by force, stripped and anointed by his servants, and then drew diagrams upon his anointed body; and if Canus the flute-player, with whom you are also acquainted, used to say that people did not know how much greater pleasure he gave to himself than to others when he played, for p95if they did, those who wished to hear him would receive pay instead of giving it. In view of these examples, do we not perceive how great are the pleasures the virtues provide, for those who practise them, as the result of the noble deeds they do and their works for the good of the community and of mankind; and that too without tickling or enervating them as do the smooth and gentle motions made on the body? DThose have a frantic, unsteady titillation mixed with convulsive throbbing, but the pleasures given by noble works, such as those of which the man who rightly serves the State is the author, not like the golden wings of Euripides20 but like those heavenly Platonic pinions,21 bear the soul on high as it acquires greatness and lofty spirit mingled with joy.

6 1 And recall to your mind stories you have often heard. For Epameinondas, when asked what was the pleasantest thing that had happened to him, replied that it was winning the battle of Leuctra while his father and mother were still living. And Sulla, Ewhen he first entered Rome after freeing Italy of its civil wars, did not sleep at all that night, he was so borne aloft in spirit by great joy and gladness as by a blast of wind. This he has written about himself in his memoirs. For granted that, as Xenophon22 says, there is no sound sweeter than praise, yet there is no sight, reminder, or perception in the world which brings such great pleasure as the contemplation of one's own acts in offices and positions of State in which one may be said to be in places flooded with light and in view of all the p97people. FYes, and moreover kindly gratitude, bearing witness to the acts, and praise, competing with gratitude and ushering in deserved goodwill, add, as it were, a light and brilliance to the joy that comes from virtue. And it is a man's duty not to allow his reputation to become withered in his old age like an athlete's garland, but by adding constantly something new and fresh to arouse the sense of gratitude for his previous actions and make it better and lasting; just as the artisans who were responsible for keeping the Delian ship23 in good condition, by inserting and fastening in new timbers to take the place of those which were becoming weak, seemed to keep the vessel from those ancient times everlasting and indestructible. 787Now the preservation and maintenance of reputation, as of fire, is not difficult and demands little fuel, but no one can without trouble rekindle either of them when it has gone out and grown cold. And just as Lampis the sea captain, when asked how he acquired his wealth, said, "My great wealth easily, but the small beginnings of it slowly and with toil," so political reputation and power are not easy to attain at first, but when once they have grown great it is easy to augment them and keep them great by taking advantage of casual opportunities. For when a man has once become a friend, he does not require many and great services Bthat he may remain a friend, but constancy shown by small tokens always preserves his goodwill, and so likewise the friendship and confidence of the people do p99not constantly demand that a man pay for choruses, plead causes, or hold offices; no, they are maintained by his mere readiness to serve and by not failing or growing weary in care and concern for the people. For even wars do not consist entirely of pitched battles, fighting, and sieges, but they admit of occasional sacrifices, social gatherings in between, and abundant leisure for games and foolishness. Why, then, forsooth, is public life feared as inexorable, toilsome, and burdensome, when theatrical exhibitions, festive processions, distributions of food, "choruses and the Muse and Aglaïa,"24 Cand constantly the worship of some god, smooth the brows of legislators in every senate and assembly and repay its troubles many times over with pleasure and enjoyment?

7 1 Now the greatest evil attendant upon public life, envy, is least likely to beset old age, "for dogs do indeed bark at whom they do not know," according to Heracleitus, and envy fights against a man as he begins his public career, at the doorway, as it were, of the orator's platform, and tries to refuse him access, but familiar and accustomed reputation it does not savagely and roughly resent but puts up with mildly. For this reason envy is sometimes likened to smoke, for in the case of those who are beginning their public career it pours out before them in great volume because they are enkindled, but when they burst into full flame it disappears. DAnd whereas men attack other kinds of eminence and themselves lay claim to good character, good birth, and honour, as though they were depriving p101themselves of so much of these as they grant to others; yet the primacy which comes from time, for which there is the special word presbeion or "the prerogative due to seniority in age," arouses no jealousy and is freely conceded; for of no honour is it so true that it adorns the giver more than the receiver as of that which is paid to old age. Moreover, not all men expect that the power derived from wealth, eloquence, or wisdom will accrue to them, but no one who takes part in public life is without hope of attaining the reverence and repute to which old age leads. So there is no difference between the pilot who has sailed in great danger against adverse winds and waves, Eand, after clear weather and fair winds have come, seeks his moorings, and the man who has struggled in the ship of state a long time against the billows of envy, and then, when they have ceased and become smooth, backs water and withdraws from public life, giving up his political affiliations and clubs along with his public activities. For the longer the time has been the greater the number of those whom he has made his friends and fellow-workers, and he cannot take them all out with him, as a trainer leads out his chorus, nor is it fair to leave them in the lurch. FBut a long public career is, like old trees, hard to pull up, for it has many roots and is interwoven with affairs which cause more troubles and torments to those who withdraw from them than to those who remain in them. And if any remnant of envy or jealousy does continue against old men from their political contests, they should rather extinguish this by power than turn their backs and go away naked and unarmed. For people p103do not attack them so much because of envy if they maintain the contest as because of contempt if they have given up.

8 1 788Testimony to the point is what Epameinondas the Great said to the Thebans when in winter weather the Arcadians invited them to come into the city and be quartered in their houses. He forbade it, saying "Now they admire you and gaze at you as you do your military exercises and wrestle, but if they see you sitting by the fire and sipping your bean porridge, they will think you are no better than are." Just so an old man active in word and deed and held in honour is a sight to arouse reverence, Bbut one who spends the day in bed or sits in the corner of the porch chattering and wiping his nose is an object of contempt. And undoubtedly Homer also teaches this to those who hear aright; for Nestor, who went to the war at Troy, was revered and highly honoured, but Peleus and Laërtes, who stayed at home, were put aside and despised. For the habit of prudence does not last so well in those who let themselves become slack, but, being gradually lost and dissipated by inactivity, it always calls for what may be called exercise of the thought, since thought rouses and purifies the power of reason and action;

For when in use it gleams like beauteous bronze.25

CFor the evil caused by their physical weakness to the public activities of those who step into civil or military office when beyond the usual age is not so great as the advantage they possess in their caution and p105prudence and in the fact that they do not, borne along sometimes because of past failures and sometimes as the result of vain opinion, dash headlong upon public affairs, dragging the mob along with them in confusion like the storm-tossed sea, but manage gently and moderately the matters which arise. And that is why States when they are in difficulties or in fear yearn for the rule of the elder men; Dand often they have brought from his field some aged man, not by his request and even contrary to his wish, and have forced him to take the helm, as it were, and steer affairs into safety, and in so doing they pushed aside generals and politicians who were able to shout loud and to speak without pausing for breath and, by Zeus, even men who were able, planting their feet firmly, to fight bravely against the enemy.26 So, for example, the politicians at Athens grooming Chares, son of Theochares, a powerful man at the height of his physical strength, to be the opponent of Timotheüs and Iphicrates, declared that the general of the Athenians ought to be such as he, but Timotheüs said, E"No, by the gods, but such should be the man who is to carry the general's bedding. The general should be one who sees at the same time 'that which is before and behind'27 and does not let anything that happens disturb his reasoning as to what is for the best." Sophocles28 indeed said that he was glad to have escaped, now that he was old, from sexual love, as from a cruel and raging tyrant; p107but in public life one must escape, not from one tyrant, the love of boys or women, but from many loves which are more insane than that: love of contention, love of fame, the desire to be first and greatest, which is a disease most prolific of envy, jealousy, and discord. FSome of these old age does slacken and dull, but others it quenches and cools entirely, not so much by withdrawing a man from the impulse to action as by keeping him from excessive and fiery passions, so as to bring sober and slighted reasoning to bear upon his thoughts.

9 1 However, let us grant that the word

Bide still, poor wretch, in thine own bedding wrapped29

are and appear to be deterrent when addressed to a man who begins to act young when his hair is grey and that they rebuke the old man who gets up from long continued home-keeping, as from a long illness, and sets out towards the office of general or of civil administrator; 789but the words which forbid a man who has spent his life in public affairs and contests to go on to the funeral torch and the end of his life, and which call him back and tell him, as it were, to leave the road he has travelled so long and take a new one, — those words are altogether unkind and not at all like those we have quoted. For just as he is perfectly reasonable who tries to dissuade an old man who is garlanded and perfumed in preparation for his wedding, and says to him what was said to Philoctetes,

What bride, what virgin in her youth, you wretch,

Would take you? You're a pretty one to wed!"30

p109 Bfor old men themselves crack many such jokes on themselves, saying

I'm marrying old, I know — and for my neighbours, too;31

so he who thinks that a man who has for a long time shared his life and his home blamelessly with his wife ought on account of his age to dismiss her and live alone or take on a paramour in place of his wedded spouse has reached the height of perversity. There is some sense in admonishing in that way and confining to his accustomed inactivity an old man such as Chlidon the farmer or Lampon the ship-captain or one of the philosophers of the Garden,32 if he comes forward for popular favour; Cbut anyone who buttonholes a Phocion or a Cato or a Pericles and says, "My Athenian (or Roman) friend,

With withered age bedecked for funeral rites,33

bring action for divorce from public life, give up your haunting the speakers' platform and the generals' office and your cares of State, and hurry away to the country to dwell with agriculture as your handmaid or to devote the rest of your time to some sort of domestic management and keeping accounts," is urging the statesman to do what is wrong and unseemly.

10 1 "What then?" someone may say; "do we not hear a soldier say in a comedy

My white hair grants me henceforth full discharge?"34

p111 Certainly, my friend, for the servants of Ares should properly be young and in their prime, as practising

war and war's practices baneful,35

Din which even if an old man's hoary hair is covered by a helmet,

Yet are his limbs by unseen weight oppressed,36

and though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak; but from the servants of Zeus, god of the Council, the Market-place, and the State, we do not demand deeds of hands and feet, but of counsel, foresight, and speech — not such speech as makes a roar and a clamour among the people, but that which contains good sense, prudent thought, and conservatism; and in these the hoary hair and the wrinkles that people make fun of appear as witnesses to a man's experience and strengthen him by the aid of persuasiveness and the reputation for character. EFor youth is meant to obey and old age to rule, and that State is most secure

Where old men's counsels and the young men's spears

Hold highest rank;37

and the lines

First he established a council of old men lofty in spirit

Hard by the vessel of Nestor38

meet with wonderful approval. And therefore the Pythian Apollo named the aristocracy which was coupled with the kingship at Lacedaemon "Ancients" (Presbygeneas), and Lycurgus named it "Elders" (Gerontes), and the council at Rome is p113still called the Senate ("body of elders"). And just as the law places diadem and crown upon the head, so nature puts grey hair upon it as an honourable symbol of the high dignity of leadership. FAnd the words geras ("honour," also "reward") and gerairein ("venerate") retain, I believe, a meaning of veneration derived from old men (gerontes), not because they bathe in warm water or sleep in softer beds than other men, but because they hold royal rank in the States in accordance with their wisdom, the proper and perfect fruit of which, as of a late-bearing plant, nature produces after long effort in old age. At any rate when the king of kings prayed to the gods:

Would that I had ten such advisers among the Achaeans39

790as Nestor was, not one of the "martial" and "might-breathing Achaeans" found fault with him, but all conceded that, not in civil affairs alone, but in war as well, old age has great weight;

For one wise counsel over many hands

Is victor,40

and one sensible and persuasive expression of opinion accomplishes the greatest and most excellent public measures.

11 1 Certainly the office of king, the most perfect and the greatest of all political offices, has the most cares, labours, and occupations. At any rate Seleucus, they used to tell us, constantly repeated that if people in general knew what a task it was merely to read and write so many letters, Bthey would not even pick up a crown that had been thrown away. And Philip, we are told, when he heard, as he was on the p115point of encamping in a suitable place, that there was no fodder for the beasts of draught, exclaimed: "O Heracles, what a life is mine, if I must needs live to suit the convenience even of my asses!" There is, then, a time to advise even a king when he has become an old man to lay aside the crown and the purple, to assume a cloak and a crook, and to live in the country, lest it be thought, if he continues to rule when his hair is grey, that he is busying himself with superfluous and unseasonable occupations. But if it is not fitting to say this about an Agesilaüs or a Numa or a Dareius, Clet us neither remove a Solon from the Council of the Areopagus nor a Cato from the Senate on account of old age, and let us not advise a Pericles to leave the democracy in the lurch. For anyhow it is absurd that a man when he is young should prance about upon the platform and then, after having poured out upon the public all those insane ambitions and impulses, when the age arrives which brings wisdom through experience, should give up public life and desert it like a woman of whom he has had all the use.

12 1 Aesop's fox, we recall, would not let the hedgehog, although he offered to do so, remove the ticks from her: D"For if you remove these," she said, "which are full, other hungry ones will come on"; and the State which always discards the old men must necessarily be filled up with young men who are thirsty for reputation and power, but do not possess a statesmanlike mind. And where should they acquire it, if they are not to be pupils or even spectators of any old man active in public life? Treatises on navigation do not make ship-captains of men who have not often stood upon the stern and been spectators p117of the struggles against wind and wave and wintry night,

When yearning for the twin Tyndaridae41

Doth strike the sailor driven o'er the sea;42

and can a youngster manage a State rightly and persuade an assembly or a senate Eafter reading a book or writing in the Lyceum a school exercise about political science, if he has not stood many a time by the driver's rein or the pilot's steering-oar,43 leaning this way and that with the politicians and generals as they contend with the aid of their experiences and their fortunes, thus amid dangers and troubles acquiring the knowledge they need? No one can assert that. But if for no other reason, old men should engage in affairs of State for the education and instruction of the young. For just as the teachers of letters or of music themselves first play the notes or read to their pupils and thus show them the way, Fso the statesman, not only by speech or by making suggestions from the outside, but by action in administering the affairs of the community, directs the young man, whose character is moulded and formed by the old man's actions and words alike. For he who is trained in this way, — not in the wrestling-schools or training-rings of masters of the arts of graceful speech where no danger is, but, we may say, in truly Olympic and Pythian games, —

Keeps pace as foal just weaned runs with the mare,44

to quote Simonides. So Aristeides ran in the footsteps of Cleisthenes and Cimon in those of Aristeides, 791Phocion followed Chabrias, Cato had Fabius Maximus p119as his guide, Pompey had Sulla, and Polybius had Philopoemen; for these men, coming when young in contact with older men and then, as it were, sprouting up beside them and growing up with their policies and actions, gained experience and familiarity with public affairs and at the same time reputation and power.

13 1 Aeschines the Academic philosopher, when some sophists declared that he pretended to have been a pupil of Carneades although he had not been so, replied, "Oh, but I did listen to Carneades at the time when his speech had given up noisy declamation on account of his old age Band had reduced itself to what is useful and of common interest." But the public activity of old men is not only in speech but also in actions, free from ostentation and desire for popularity, and, therefore, just as they say that the iris, when it has grown old and has blown off its fetid and foul smell, acquires a more fragrant odour, so no opinion or counsel of old men is turbulent, but they are all weighty and composed. Therefore it is also for the sake of the young, as has been said above, that old men ought to engage in affairs of State, in order that, as Plato said45 in reference to pure wine mixed with water, that an insane god was made reasonable Cwhen chastised by another who was sober, so the discretion of old age, when mixed in the people with boiling youth drunk with reputation and ambition, may remove that which is insane and too violent.

14 1 But apart from all this, they are mistaken who p121think that engaging in public affairs is, like going to sea or to a war, something undertaken for an object distinct from itself and ceasing when that object is attained; for engaging in public affairs is not a special service which is ended when the need ends, but is a way of life of a tamed social animal46 living in an organized society, intended by nature to live throughout its allotted time the life of a citizen and in a manner devoted to honour and the welfare of mankind. Therefore it is fitting that men should be engaged, not merely have ceased to be engaged, in affairs of State, just as it is fitting that they should be, not have ceased to be, truthful, that they should do, not have ceased to do, right, and that they should love, not have ceased to love, their native land and their fellow-citizens. DFor to these things nature leads, and these words she suggests to those who are not entirely ruined by idleness and effeminacy:

Your sire begets you of great worth to men47a

and

Let us ne'er cease for doing mortals good.47b

15 1 But those who adduce weakness and disability are accusing disease and infirmity rather than old age. For there are many sickly young men and vigorous old men, so that the proper course is to dissuade, not the aged, but the disabled, and to summon into service, not the young, but those who are competent to serve. EAridaeus, for example, was young and Antigonus an old man, but the latter gained possession of almost all Asia, whereas the former, like a mute guardsman on the stage, was p123the mere name and figure of a king, exposed to the wanton insults of those who happened to have the real power. As, therefore, he is a fool who would demand that a person like Prodicus the sophist or a person like Philetas the poet should take part in the affairs of State, — they who were young, to be sure, but thin, sickly, and for the most part bedridden on account of sickness, — so he is foolish who would hinder from being rulers or generals such old men as were Phocion, the Libyan Masinissa, and the Roman Cato. For Phocion, when the Athenians were rushing into war at an unfavourable time, Fgave orders that all citizens up to sixty years of age should take their weapons and follow him; and when they were indignant he said: "There is nothing terrible about it, for I shall be with you as general, and I am eighty years old." And Polybius tells us that Masinissa died at the age of ninety years, leaving a child of his own but four years old, and that a little before his end, on the day after defeating the Carthaginians in a great battle, 792he was seen in front of his tent eating a dirty piece of bread, and that when some expressed surprise at this he said that he did it [to keep in practice],

For when in use it gleams like beauteous bronze;

An unused house through time in ruin falls,48

as Sophocles says; but we say that this is true of that brilliance and light of the soul, by means of which we reason, remember, and think.

16 1 For that reason kings are said to grow better among wars and campaigns than when they live at p125leisure. Attalus certainly, the brother of Eumenes, Bbecause he was completely enfeebled by long inactivity and peace, was actually kept and fattened like a sheep by Philopoemen, one of his courtiers; so that even the Romans used in jest to ask those who came from Asia if the king had any influence with Philopoemen. And it would be impossible to find many abler generals among the Romans than Lucullus, when he combined thought with action; but when he gave himself up to a life of inactivity and to a home-keeping and thought-free existence, he became a wasted skeleton, like sponges in calm seas, and then when he committed his old age to the care and nursing of one of his freedmen named Callisthenes, Cit seemed as if he were being drugged by him with potions and quackeries, until his brother Marcus drove the fellow away and himself managed and tended him like a child the rest of his life, which was not long. Dareius the father of Xerxes used to say that when dangers threatened he excelled himself in wisdom,49 and Ateas the Scythian said that he considered himself no better than his grooms when he was idle; and Dionysius the Elder, when someone asked if he was at leisure, replied: "May that never happen to me!" For a bow, they say, breaks when too tightly stretched, but a soul when too much relaxed. DIn fact musicians, if they give up listening to music, and geometricians if they give up solving problems, and arithmeticians if they give up the practice of calculating, impair, as they advance in age, their habits of mind as well as their activities, although the studies which they pursue are not concerned with action but with contemplation; but the p127mental habit of public men — deliberation, wisdom, and justice, and, besides these, experience, which hits upon the proper moments and words and is the power that creates persuasion — is maintained by constantly speaking, acting, reasoning, and judging; and it would be a crime if, by deserting these activities, it should allow such great and so many virtues to leak out from the soul; Efor it is reasonable to suppose that love of humanity, public spirit, and graciousness would waste away, none of which ought to have any end or limit.

17 1 Certainly if you had Tithonus as your father, who was immortal but always needed much care on account of old age, I do not believe you would avoid or grow weary of attending to him, speaking to him, and helping him on the ground that you had performed those duties for a long time; and your fatherland or, as the Cretans call it, your mother country, which has earlier and greater rights than your parents, Fis long lived, to be sure, but by no means ageless or self-sufficient; on the contrary, since it always needs much consideration and assistance and anxious thought, it draws the statesman to itself and holds him,

Grasping him fast by the cloak, and restrains him though hastening onward.50

Now surely you know that I have been serving the Pythian Apollo for many Pythiads,51 but you would not say: "Plutarch, you have done enough sacrificing, marching in processions, and dancing in choruses, and now that you are older it is time to put off the garland and to desert the oracle on account of your age." And so do not imagine that you yourself, being a leader and interpreter of the sacred rites of p129civic life, ought to give up the worship of Zeus of the State and of the Forum, rites to which you have for a long time been consecrated.

18 1 793But let us now, if you please, leave the argument which tries to withdraw the aged man from civic activities and turn to the examination and discussion of the question how we may assign to old age only what is appropriate without imposing upon it any burdensome struggle, since political activity has many parts fitting and suitable for men of such years. For just as, if it were fitting for us to continue singing to the end, we ought, since there are many underlying tones and modes of the voice, which musical people call harmonies, we ought, I say, when we have grown old, not to attempt that which is high pitched and intense, but that which is easy and also possesses the fitting ethical quality; Bjust so, since it is more natural for human beings to act and speak to the end than for swans to sing, we must not give up activity as if it were a lyre too tightly strung, but we should relax the activity and adapt it to those public services which are light and moderate and attuned to old men. For we do not let our bodies be entirely without motion and exercise when we are unable to wield the mattock or use jumping-weights or throw the discus or fight in armour as we used to do, but by swinging and walking, and in some instances by light ball-playing and by conversation, old men accelerate their breathing and revive the body's heat. CLet us, then, neither allow ourselves to be entirely frozen and chilled by inaction nor, on the other hand, by again burdening ourselves with every office and engaging in every kind of public p131activity, force our old age, convicted of its weakness, to descend to words like these:

O my right hand, thou yearn'st to seize the spear,

But weakness brings thy yearning all to naught.52

For even a man at the height of his powers is not commended if he takes upon himself, in a word, all public activities at once and is unwilling to leave, Das the Stoics say of Zeus,53 anything to anyone else, intruding and mixing himself in everything through insatiable desire for reputation or through envy of those who obtain any share whatsoever of honour and power in the State. But for a very aged man that love of office which invariably offers itself as a candidate at every election, that busy restlessness which lies in wait for every opportunity offered by court of justice or council of State, and that ambition which snatches at every ambassadorship and at every precedence in legal matters, are, even if you eliminate the discredit attached to them, toilsome and miserable. EFor to do these things even with the goodwill of others is too burdensome for advanced age, but, in fact, the result is the very opposite; for such old men are hated by the young, who feel that they do not allow them opportunities for public activity and do not permit them to come before the public, and by people in general their love of precedence and of office is held in no less disrepute than is other old men's love of wealth and pleasure.

19 1 And just as Alexander, wishing not to work Bucephalus too hard when he was old, used to ride other horses before the battle in reviewing the p133phalanx and drawing it up in line, and then, after giving the watchword and mounting him, Fimmediately charged the enemy, and fought the battle to its end; so the statesman, if he is sensible, will curb himself when he has grown old, will keep away from unnecessary activities and allow the State to employ men in their prime for lesser matters, but in important affairs will himself take part vigorously. For athletes keep their bodies untouched by necessary tasks and in full force for useless toils, but we, on the contrary, letting petty and worthless matters go, will save ourselves for things that are seriously worth while. For perhaps, as Homer says,54 "to a young man everything is becoming," and people accept and love him, calling the one who does many things a friend of the common folk and hard-working, 794and the one who does brilliant and splendid things noble and high-minded; and under some conditions even contentiousness and rashness have a certain timeliness and grace becoming to men of that age. But the old man in public life who undertakes subordinate services, such as the farming of taxes and the supervision of harbours and of the market-place, and who moreover works his way into diplomatic missions and trips abroad to visit commanders and potentates, in which there is nothing indispensable or dignified, but which are merely flattery to curry favour, seems to me, my friend, a pitiable and unenviable object, and to some people, perhaps, a burdensome and vulgar one.

20 1 For it is not seasonable for an aged man even to be occupied in public offices, Bexcept in those which possess some grandeur and dignity, such as that p135which you are now administering at Athens, the presidency of the Senate of the Areopagus, and, by Zeus, the honour of membership in the Amphictyonic Council, which your native State bestowed upon you for life and which entails "a pleasant labour and untoilsome toil."55 But even these offices aged men ought not to seek; they should exercise them though trying to avoid them, not asking for them but asking to be excused from them, as men who do not take office to themselves, but give themselves to office. For it is not, as the Emperor Tiberius said, Ca disgrace for a man over sixty years of age to hold out his hand to the physician;56 but rather is it a disgrace to hold out the hand to the people asking for a ballot or a viva voce vote; for this is ignoble and mean, whereas the contrary possesses a certain dignity and honour, when an aged man's country chooses him, calls him, and waits for him, and he comes down amid honour and friendly applause to welcome and accept a distinction which is truly revered and respected.

21 1 And in somewhat the same way a man who has grown old ought to treat speech-making in the assembly; he should not be constantly jumping up on the platform, nor always, like a cock, crowing in opposition to what is said; nor should he, by getting involved in controversy, loose the curb of reverence for him in the young men's minds Dand instil into them the practice and custom of disobedience and unwillingness to listen to him; but he should sometimes both slacken the reins and allow them to throw up their heads boldly to oppose his opinion and to show their spirit, without even being present or interfering except when the matter p137at stake is important for the common safety or for honour and decorum. But in such cases he ought, even when no one calls him, to run at a speed beyond his strength, letting himself be led by attendants who support him or having himself carried in a litter, as we are told that Appius Claudius did in Rome; for after the Romans had been defeated by Pyrrhus in a great battle, Ewhen he heard that the senate was admitting proposals for a truce and peace, he found that intolerable, and although he had lost the sight of both his eyes, had himself carried through the Forum to the Senate-house. He went in, took his stand in the midst of the senate, and said that hitherto he had been grieved by the loss of his eyes, but now he could pray not even to have ears to hear them discussing and doing things so disgraceful and ignoble. And thereupon, partly by rebuking them, partly by instructing and inciting them, Fhe persuaded them to rush to arms forthwith and fight it out with Pyrrhus for the rule of Italy. And Solon, when it became clear that the popular leadership of Peisistratus was a contrivance to make him tyrant, since no one dared to oppose or prevent it, brought out his own arms, stacked them in front of his house, and called upon the citizens to come to the aid of their country; then, when Peisistratus sent and asked him what gave him confidence to do this, he replied, "My age."57

22 1 However, matters of such urgent necessity do kindle and arouse aged men whose fire is quite extinct, provided they merely have breath; yet in other matters the aged man will sometimes, as has been said, act fittingly by declining mean and petty offices 795which bring more trouble to those who p139administer them than profit and advantage to those for whom they are administered;a and sometimes by waiting for the citizens to call for him, long for him, and send for him at his house, he will, when he comes, be received with greater confidence by those who begged for his presence. And for the most part he will, even when present, be silent and let younger men speak, acting as a kind of umpire at the contest of political ambition; and if the contest passes the bounds of moderation, by administering a mild and kindly rebuke, he will endeavour to do away with contention, opprobrious language, and anger, will correct and instruct without fault-finding him who errs in his opinions, but will fearlessly praise him who is right; and he will voluntarily suffer defeat and will often give up success Bin persuading the people to his will in order that the young may grow in power and courage, and for some of them he will supply what is lacking with kindly words, as Nestor said,

No one of all the Achaeans will blame the words thou hast spoken,

Nor will oppose them in speech; and yet thou hast reached no conclusion.

Truly thou art a young man, and thou mightest e'en be my own offspring.58

23 1 But more statesmanlike than this it is, not merely to avoid, when rebuking them openly and in public, any biting speech which violently represses and humiliates them, but rather in kindly spirit to suggest and inculcate in private to those who have natural ability for public affairs Cadvantageous words and policies, urging them on towards that which is noble, adding brilliancy to their minds, and, after the manner of riding-teachers, p141enabling them at first to mount the populace when it is tractable and gentle; then, if the young man fails in any way, not letting him be discouraged, but setting him on his feet and encouraging him, as Aristeides raised up and encouraged Cimon and Mnesiphilus did the like for Themistocles when they were at first disliked and decried in the city as being rash and unrestrained. And there is also a story that when Demosthenes had met with a reverse in the assembly and was disheartened thereby, Dan aged man who had formerly heard Pericles speak touched him with his hand and told him that he resembled that great man in natural ability and, therefore, had been unjust in condemning himself. And so also when Timotheüs was hissed for being new-fangled and was said to be committing sacrilege upon music, Euripides told him to be of good courage, for in a little while the theatres would be at his feet.

24 1 And in general, just as at Rome the Vestal Virgins have a definite time allotted them, first for learning, then for performing the traditional rites, and thirdly and lastly for teaching them,b and as at Ephesus they call each one of the servants of Artemis Efirst a novice, then a priestess, and thirdly an ex‑priestess, so the perfect statesman engages in public affairs, first while still a learner and a neophyte and finally as a teacher and initiator. For although it is impossible for the overseer of other athletes to engage in contests himself, yet he who trains a young man in affairs of the community and political struggles and prepares him for the service of his country

Speaker of speeches to be and also a doer of actions,59

p143 is useful to the State in no small or mean degree, but helps towards that for which Lycurgus first and especially exerted himself Fwhen he accustomed the young always to obey every old man as if he were a lawgiver. For what had Lysander in mind when he said that men grow old most nobly in Lacedaemon? Was it because there the older men are more than elsewhere allowed to live in idleness and to lend money or sit together and throw dice or get together betimes for drinking-parties?60 You could not say that. No, it was because all men of advanced age hold more or less the position of magistrates, fatherly counsellors, or instructors, and not only oversee public affairs, 796but also make it their business to learn all details about the gymnasia, the sports, and the daily lives of the young men, and, therefore, they are feared by those who do wrong but revered and desired by the good; for the young men always cultivate and follow them, since they enhance and encourage the decorum and innate nobility of the young without arousing their envy.

25 1 For the emotion of envy is not fitting for any time of life, but nevertheless it has among young people plenty of fine names, being called "competition," "zeal," and "ambition"; but in old men it is totally unseasonable, uncultured, and ignoble. Therefore the aged statesman, being far beyond the feeling of envy, should not, as envious old tree trunks clearly do, Btry to destroy and prevent the sprouting growth of the plants which spring up beside them and grow under them, but he should receive kindly those who claim his attention and attach themselves to him; he should offer himself to p145direct, guide, and support them, not only with good instructions and advice, but also by giving up to them public offices which bring honour and reputation, or certain public services which will do no harm to the people, but will be pleasing to it, and will make them popular. But as for such things as arouse opposition and are difficult and, like certain medicines, smart and hurt at first but produce an excellent and profitable result afterwards, Che should not force young men into these and subject them to popular outcries while they are still unaccustomed to the inconsiderate mob; but he should himself assume the unpopularity arising from advantageous measures, for in this way he will make the young more well-disposed towards him and more eager in performing other services.

26 1 But above all things we must remind them that statesmanship consists, not only in holding office, being ambassador, vociferating in the assembly, and ranting round the speakers' platform proposing laws and making motions. Most people think all this is part of statesmanship, just as they think of course that those are philosophers Dwho sit in a chair and converse and prepare their lectures over their books; but the continuous practice of statesmanship and philosophy, which is every day alike seen in acts and deeds, they fail to perceive. For, as Dicaearchus used to remark, those who circulate in the porticoes are said to be "promenading,"61 but those who walk into the country or to see a friend are not. Now being a statesman is like being a philosopher. Socrates at any rate was a philosopher, although he did not p147set out benches or seat himself in an armchair or observe a fixed hour for conversing or promenading with his pupils, but jested with them, when it so happened, and drank with them, served in the army or lounged in the market-place with some of them, and finally was imprisoned and drank the poison. EHe was the first to show that life at all times and in all parts, in all experiences and activities, universally admits philosophy. So this is what we must understand concerning statesmanship also: that foolish men, even when they are generals or secretaries or public orators, do not act as statesmen, but court the mob, deliver harangues, arouse factions, or under compulsion perform public services; but that the man who is really public-spirited and who loves mankind and the State and is careful of the public welfare and is truly statesmanlike, that man, although he never puts on a uniform, is always acting as a statesman by urging those on who have power, Fguiding those who need guidance, assisting those who are deliberating, reforming those who act wrongly, encouraging those who are right-minded, making it plain that he is not just casually interested in public affairs and that he goes to the assembly or the council, not for the sake of getting the first seat when there is something serious in prospect or he is summoned, but that when he goes there he goes not merely for amusement as if to see or hear a performance, 797and that even when he is not there in person he is present in thought and through inquiry, thus approving of some of the proceedings and disapproving of others.

27 1 For not even Aristeides was often ruler of the p149Athenians, nor Cato of the Romans, but they spent their whole lives in active service to their native States. And Epameinondas as general gained many great successes, but one deed of his equal to any of them is recorded, which he performed in Thessaly when he was neither general nor magistrate. The generals had led the phalanx into difficult ground and were in confusion B(for the enemy were pressing them hard with missile weapons), when he was called out from his place among the infantry; and first by encouraging the army he put an end to confusion and fear, then, after arranging the broken phalanx and putting it in order, he easily led it out and drew it up to face the enemy, so that they changed front and withdrew. And when King Agis, in Arcadia, was already leading against the enemy his army drawn up for battle, one of the elder Spartiates called out to him that he was planning to cure evil with evil, pointing out that his present unseasonable eagerness Cwas an attempt to atone for his culpable retreat from Argos, as Thucydides says.62 And when Agis heard this, he took the advice and retreated. For Menecrates a chair was placed every day by the door of the house of government, and often the ephors rose up from their session and went to him for information and advice on the most important matters; for he was considered to be a wise man and an intelligent one to be consulted. And therefore, after his physical strength had become utterly exhausted and he had to spend most of the day in bed, when the ephors sent for him to come to the market-place, he got up and set out to walk, p151but proceeded slowly and with difficulty; Dthen, meeting some boys on the way, he asked them if they knew of anything stronger than the necessity of obeying one's master, and they replied, "Not being able to." Accounting this as the limit of his service, he turned round and went home. For a man's zeal ought not to fail before his strength, but when it is deserted by strength, it should not be forced. Certainly Scipio, both as general and as statesman, always made use of Gaius Laelius as his adviser, so that some people even said that Scipio was the actor, but Gaius the author, of his deeds. And Cicero himself confesses that the noblest and greatest of the plans through which as consul he restored his country to safety were devised with the help of the philosopher Publius Nigidius.

28 1 EThere are, then, many kinds of political activity by which old men may readily benefit the commonwealth by giving of their best, namely reason, judgement, frankness, and "sapience profound," as poets say;63 for not only do our hands or our feet or the strength of our body constitute a possession and a part of the State, but first of all our soul and the beauties of the soul — justice, moderation, and wisdom. And since these acquire their proper quality late and slowly, it is absurd that house, farm, Fand other property or possessions should derive all the benefit from aged men but that they should be no longer of use to their country in general and their fellow-citizens by reason of their age, for age does not so much diminish our power to perform p153inferior services as it increases our power for leading and governing. And that is the reason why they make the older Hermae without hands or feet, but with their private parts stiff,64 indicating figuratively that there is no need whatsoever of old men who are active by their body's use, if they keep their mind, as it should be, active and fertile.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Pindar, ed. Bergk-Schroeder, p475, no. 228 (252).

2 In one form of the game of draughts the "pieces" or "men" stood on lines, of which there were five for each of the two players. One of these, perhaps the middle one, was called the "sacred line." The expression as here used seems to be about equal to "playing the highest trump."

3 Cf. Isocrates, VI.125.

4 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. III p417, no. 63 (104).

5 Thucydides, II.44.4. Pericles, in his great oration over the Athenians who fell in war, says "The love of honour alone never grows old, and in the useless time of old age the greatest pleasure is not, as some say, in gaining money, but in being honoured."

6 See Life of Cato the Elder, ix.6.º

7 Euripides, Phoen. 1688. This line is spoken by Antigonê to her blind father Oedipus. Plutarch seems to imply that the old man who enters political life without experience is no better off than was Oedipus, in spite of his famous solution of the riddle of the sphinx, when exposed to the vicissitudes of exile.

8 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. III p418, no. 67 (109).

9 i.e. Augustus.

10 Xenophon, Agesilaüs, 11. 15.

11 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. III p496, no. 147 (203).

12 This story, though repeated by several ancient writers, deserves no credit.

13 Sophocles, Oed. Col. 668‑673.

14 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. II p245, no. 5.

15 Philemon, the chief rival of Menander, was born in 361 and died in 262 B.C. Suidas (s.v. Φιλήμων) states that he died in his sleep at the age of 99 years, the pseudo-Lucian (Macrobioi, 25) that he died of excessive laughter when 97 years old.

16 There is epigraphic as well as literary evidence for the prolific productiveness and great age of Alexis, the foremost poet of the Middle Comedy, who lived circa 376‑270 B.C. See Kaibel in Pauly-Wissowa, Suppl. Bd., and Am. Jour. Phil. XXI (1900) pp59 ff.

17 A long list of Greeks who lived to an advanced age is given by B. E. Richardson, Old Age among the Ancient Greeks, pp215‑222.

18 Demosthenes, XXI. (Against Meidias) 568.

19 Euripides, Aeolus, Frag. 23, Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p369. Plutarch, Moralia 285B, gives two lines:

ἀλλ᾽ ἢ τὸ γῆρας τὴν Κύπριν χαίρειν ἐᾷ

ἤ τ᾽ Ἀφροδίτη τοῖς γεροῦσιν ἄχθεται,

"But either eld to Cypris bids farewell

Or Aphroditê with old men is wroth."

20 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p655, no. 911.

21 Plato, Phaedrus, 246B‑248E, where the soul is likened to a chariot and charioteer with winged steeds.

22 Xenophon, Memorabilia, II.1.31.

23 By "Delian ship" is meant the Paralus which was sent annually from Athens with delegates to the festival at Delos. Annual repairs were so long continued that none of the original timbers remained and the question arose whether it was the same ship or not.

24 Pindar, Bergk-Schroeder, p467, no. 199 (213). Aglaïa, one of the Graces, was especially connected with festive merriment.

25 From an unknown drama of Sophocles; Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p314, no. 780; it is quoted in fuller form in Moralia, 792A and 1129C.

26 A reminiscence of Tyrtaeus, 8.31 ἀλλά τις εὖ διαβὰς μενέτω, and Homer, Il. XII.458.

27 Homer, Il. I.343.

28 Cf. Plato, Republic, 329C, with Shorey's note.

29 Euripides, Orestes, 258. These words are addressed to the sick Orestes by his sister Electra.

30 Kock, Com. Att. Frag. III p609, no. 1215, attributes these lines to Strattis, a poet of the Middle Comedy; Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p841, no. 10, to an unknown tragic poet.

31 From a comedy of unknown authorship; Kock, Com. Att. Frag. III p451, no. 225.

32 i.e. the Epicureans.

33 Evidently a line from some tragedy or comedy.

34 Kock, Com. Att. Frag. III p451, no. 226. Poet and play are unknown.

35 Homer, Il. VIII.453.

36 Homer, Il. XIX.165.

37 Pindar, Bergk-Schroeder, p467, no. 199 (213).

38 Homer, Il. II.53.

39 Homer, Il. II.372. Agamemnon is the speaker.

40 Euripides, Antiopê, Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p419, no. 200.

41 Castor and Pollux, who were supposed to aid sailors.

42 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. III p719, no. 91.

43 Aristophanes, Knights 542, uses the metaphor of the pilot, though with a different application.

44 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. II p445, no. 5 (6).

Thayer's Note: A favorite verse of Plutarch's, quoted again in De virtute morali, 446E (and see the note there for four other instances).

45 Plato, Laws, 773D. He refers to Dionysus (wine) and Poseidon (water).

46 Cf. Aristotle, PoliticsI.2, where man is called a social (πολιτικόν) animal.

47a 47b Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p917, adespota no. 410, quoted also Moralia, 1099A.

48 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p314, no. 780; cf. Moralia, 792A, 1129C.

49 Cf. Moralia, 172F.

50 Homer, Il. XVI.9.

51 Periods of four years marked by the quadrennial celebration of the Pythian games in honour of Apollo at Delphi.

52 Euripides, Herc. Fur. 269.

53 The Stoic doctrine of the infinite variety of Zeus and his activities is beautifully expressed in the hymn to Zeus by Cleanthes, Stobaeus, Ecl. I.1.12, p25 ed. Wachsmuth; A. C. Pearson, The Fragments of Zeno and Cleanthes, p274; cf. Diogenes Laertius, VII.147.

54 Homer, Il. XXII.71.

55 Cf. Euripides, Bacch. 66.

56 i.e. for medical assistance.

Thayer's Note: More specifically, so the doctor could feel his pulse: cf.  Suet. Tib. 72.3.

57 Cf. Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, 14.2, and Sandys' note.

58 Homer, Il. IX.55 ff. Nestor speaks to Diomedes.

59 Homer, Il. IX.443.

60 Cf. Athenaeus 279E and 365C.

61 This is a play on the name of the Peripatetic school of philosophy. Cf. Müller, Frag. Hist. Graec. II p226.

62 Thucydides, V.65.2.

63 Plutarch seems to have no particular poet in mind, but merely indicates that he is using poetic diction.

64 Plutarch seems to be in error; at any rate the extant Hermae which represent elderly men do not differ in the particular mentioned from those with represent younger men.


Thayer's Notes:

a Utilitarianism in a nutshell, 1600 years before Jeremy Bentham; among the many features imparting to this particular essay of the mature Plutarch its gentleness and wisdom.

b Plutarch, Life of Numa, 10.


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