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Bill Thayer

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Discourse 24

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 26

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom

 p323  The Twenty-fifth Discourse:
On the Guiding (or Guardian) Spirit

This Discourse, like the twenty-first, twenty-third, and twenty-sixth, is one of the twelve Discourses which are in the form of a dialogue reported directly and are believed to belong to the period of Dio's exile, although in this case after the first few exchanges Dio does all the speaking. He introduces and illustrates the apparently original view, a suggestion for which he may have got from Plato's Republic 540B, that the 'guiding spirit' (δαίμων) is not something within the man himself, but is some other man who controls him and determines his destiny. One man may even control a great number of men, such as are found in a city, a race, or an empire, and be the cause of their faring well or ill. In this case he is their δαίμων.

Even though Dio does not in this Discourse keep his promise given at the outset, to tell about the view of the philosophers that only the wise man is happy, yet the Discourse appears to be complete in the form in which we have it.

 p325  The Twenty-fifth Discourse:
On the Guiding (or Guardian) Spirit

Interlocutor. People say the philosophers maintain that really only the wise man can be happy.1

Dio. Yes, that is what they maintain.

Int. Well, do you think they speak the truth?

Dio. I do.

Int. Then why have you never stated their view to me?

Dio. I will, if you tell me first what you think the guiding spirit is.

Int. For my part, I believe that it is that which controls each individual and under whose direction each human being lives, alike whether he be a free man or a slave, whether he be rich or poor, a king or a plain citizen, and no matter what his business in life is.

Dio. And do you think that this principle is within the man himself, this thing which controls the individual, which we call the guiding spirit,​2 or that, while being a power outside of the man, it yet rules him and is master of him?

 p327  Int. The latter is my belief.

2 Dio. Do you mean a different person? For I suppose it is a person who in one case controls one particular man, and in another case many men, one who leads them where and how he himself wishes, by using either persuasion, or force, or both.​3 And I am saying nothing that is unknown, but refer to the popular leaders whom the cities obey in everything and do exactly as those men direct and advise, whether they advise them to go to war, or to remain at peace, or to build fortifications, or to construct triremes, or to offer sacrifices, or to banish some of their number, or to confiscate their property, or even to cut their throats; and I refer also to both kings and tyrants, and likewise to all masters of servants, who whether by paying down money for a person or by some other means have got anybody into their possession. 3 It is just as if you should call Lycurgus a guiding spirit of the Spartans — for at his command even now the Spartans are scourged and sleep in the open and go lightly clad and endure many other things that would seem hardships to other peoples — and Peisistratus the guiding spirit of the ancient Athenians. For you know, I presume, that when Peisistratus was leader and ruler, the people did not come down to the city, but stayed on the land and became farmers, and that Attica, which was formerly bare and treeless, they planted with olive trees by the order of Peisistratus,​4 and in everything else they did exactly as he wished.

4 And, later on, one might perhaps say that not only  p329 others but Themistocles and Pericles also became guiding spirits; for I take it that you have heard about these two men, how the one​5 compelled the Athenians, who had been foot soldiers before, to fight on the sea, to give up their country and their city to the barbarians, as well as the temples of their gods and the tombs of their ancestors, and stake all their fortunes on their fleet, and afterwards to fortify the Peiraeus​6 with walls of more than ninety stades in length and enjoined upon them by his orders other measures of the same kind, some of which they continued to carryº out only as long as he was present, and others even when he was in banishment and after his death.​7 Yes, and at a still later time certain other men, you may perhaps say, have become guiding spirits of the Athenians, for example, Alcibiades the son of Cleinias, and Nicias,​8 Cleon,​9 and Hyperbolus​10 — some few of them honourable men perhaps, but the rest utterly wicked and cruel.

5 Then again you might say that Cyrus​11 became for a time a guiding spirit of the Persians, a spirit kingly indeed and liberal in character, who, when the Persians were enslaved to the Medes, gave them liberty and made them masters of all the peoples of Asia; and you  p331 might go on to name Cambyses and Darius and their successors; Cambyses,​12 who squandered their money, shot his subjects down, sent them on toilsome campaigns without intermission, and never allowed them to stay at home; and Darius, who amassed as much money as possible, caused the land to be cultivated, and like the other forced them to wage difficult and dangerous wars, for instance, as I recall, the one against the Scythians and the one against the Athenians.13

6 And thus also by the Romans Numa​14 might perhaps be named as their guiding spirit, and Hanno and Hannibal by the Carthaginians, and Alexander, by the Macedonians, or else Philip, who, when the Macedonians were inglorious and weak, and his father had ceded part of his kingdom to the Olynthians, made them strong and warlike and masters of nearly all Europe.​15 Then afterwards Alexander, succeeding Philip, led them over into Asia and made them at once the wealthiest of all peoples and at the same time the poorest, at once strong and at the same time weak, the same men being both exiles and kings, because while he annexed Egypt, Babylon, Sousa,​16 and Ecbatana,​17 he deprived them of Aegae,18  p333 Pella,​19 and Dium.​20 7 And the Carthaginians Hanno​21 made Libyans instead of Tyrians, forced them to live in Libya instead of Phoenicia, caused them to possess great wealth, many trading-centres, harbours, and warships, and to rule over a vast land and a vast sea. Then in addition to Libya, Hannibal enabled them to control Italy itself for a period of seventeen years; but after that he was responsible for their being driven from their homes and for their capital itself being moved at the order of the Romans,​22 after he had previously slain great numbers of these Romans and come within a little of taking Rome itself, although, men say, he had no desire to do this, on account of his political opponents at home.

And yet Hannibal, perhaps, neither the Carthaginians nor the Romans could fittingly claim as their good guiding spirit. 8 But Numa took over Rome when it was still small, unknown to fame, and situated in a land owned by others, when it had as its inhabitants an unprincipled rabble, who were, besides, at enmity with all their neighbours, were both poverty-stricken and savage, and lived a precarious existence because of the harshness of Romulus' rule; caused them to hold their land in security and to be  p335 on terms of friendship with their neighbours, and gave them a code of laws, and gods to worship, and a political constitution, thus becoming the author of all their subsequent felicity of which all men speak.

9 I could go on to speak in the same way about the other cities, and populations which have fared well or ill on account of certain men who were their rulers and leaders. However, my own opinion has, I think, been made sufficiently clear. So, if you do call those I have mentioned in very truth guiding spirits of those who were under their sway and who severally fared better or worse on account of them, I should be glad to hear what you have to say.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The Stoic view. The Academy held practically the same view. Cf. Plato, Alcibiades 134A: "Then, unless a man is self-controlled and good, it is not possible for him to be wise" — οὐκ ἄρα οἶόν τε, ἐὰν μή τις σώφρων καὶ ἀγαθὸς ἧ, εὐδαίμονα εἶναι, and Xenocrates as reported by Aristotle, Topica 2.6.112 A37: "Xenocrates says that it is the man who has a good soul who is happy" — Ξενοκράτης φησὶν εὐδαίμονα εἶναι τὸν τὴν ψυχὴν ἐχοντα σπουδαίαν; and see Discourse 23.8, where Dio speaking as a Stoic says that the wise man is sensible, just, holy, and brave.

For the meaning of 'happy' see p301, n1.

2 Dio's word is δαίμων; other writers identify the inner spirit with τρόπος or ἦθος. Cf. Epicharmus, frag. 258 Kaibel: "Character is man's good guiding spirit, but in some cases it is bad" — ὁ τρόπος ἀνθρώποισι δαίμων ἀγαθός, οἷς δὲ καὶ κακός; Heracleitus, frag. 119: "Character is man's guiding spirit" — ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων; and Menander, Epitrepontes 479 ff.

3 Nearly the same view is expressed in Discourse 3.6‑7.

4 Cf. Discourse 7.107.

5 That is, Themistocles when Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 B.C.

6 The chief seaport of Athens and about 5 miles away. A thick wall was built all round the Munychian peninsula in which the Peiraeus was. This wall kept close to the sea and was continued along the north side of the harbour of Cantharus. The entrances to the harbour of the Peiraeus and to the two small havens of Munychiaº and Zea on the east side of the peninsula were fortified with moles. 90 stades are approximately 10·34 miles. Thucydides 2.13.7 gives the distance as 60 stades.

7 Nothing is said about the achievements of Pericles.

8 Athenian general and leader of the aristocratic party who opposed Alcibiades and thoroughly disapproved of the Sicilian expedition.

Thayer's Note: An excellent, readable summary is found in Marion Crawford, The Rulers of the South, Vol. I, pp108 ff.

9 Originally a tanner. Opposed Pericles and for six years of the Peloponnesian war led the party opposed to peace.

10 Athenian demagogue of servile origin who came into prominence during the Peloponnesian war.

11 Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire.

12 Second of that name and son of Cyrus the Great, reigned 529‑522 B.C., conquered Egypt, but was unsuccessful against the Ammonians and the Ethiopians.

13 Defeated at Marathon by the Athenians.

14 Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome, revered by the Romans as the author of their whole religious worship.

15 A great exaggeration. By defeating the Greeks at Chaeronea in 338 B.C. he did put an end to the independence of Greece. His father was Amyntas II, who reigned 390‑369 B.C.

16 Called Shushan in the Old Testament. It was the winter residence of the Persian kings.

17 Capital of the Media kingdom and afterwards the summer residence of the Persian and Parthian kings.

18 Also called Edessa. It was the ancient capital of Macedonia and the burial-place of the Macedonian kings.

19 Made capital of the Macedonian kingdom by Philip. There Alexander the Great was born.

20 A city in Macedonia at the foot of Mt. Olympus on the north side. About two miles from it was the grave of Orpheus. See also vol. I, p50, n2.

21 Son of Hamilcar I and probably identical with the African explorer of that name and with the general surnamed Sabellus. His date is uncertain.

22 Not quite accurate. In the year 149 B.C. the Romans bade the Carthaginians dismantle their city and move at least ten miles from the sea. They preferred to fight, and their city was destroyed. Capps suggests καταβαλεῖν (being destroyed).

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