Isocrates Taught Until He was 98–And That Isn’t What Killed Him

All across Texas (and other states, I imagine), the arrival of spring break brings teachers and students relief. For me–and some others I know–the moment is one of existential crisis as well.  What does it mean to be so happy for a break?

I wonder if I will have the dedication and stamina to be like Isocrates, teaching right up to the end of my days:

Pausanias, 1.18.8

“On a pillar sits a statue of Isocrates who stands out in memory for three qualities: his dedication in the fact that he never stopped accepting students even when he had lived to 98 years; his wisdom in keeping himself out of politics and from meddling in public affairs; and his sense of freedom: he was so aggrieved at the report of the battle at Chaironea that he died voluntarily.”

κεῖται δὲ ἐπὶ κίονος ᾿Ισοκράτους ἀνδριάς, ὃς ἐς μνήμην τρία ὑπελίπετο, ἐπιπονώτατον μὲν ὅτι οἱ βιώσαντι ἔτη δυοῖν δέοντα ἑκατὸν οὔποτε κατελύθη μαθητὰς ἔχειν, σωφρονέστατον δὲ ὅτι πολιτείας ἀπεχόμενος διέμεινε καὶ τὰ κοινὰ οὐ πολυπραγμονῶν, ἐλευθερώτατον δὲ ὅτι πρὸς τὴν ἀγγελίαν τῆς ἐν Χαιρωνείᾳ μάχης ἀλγήσας ἐτελεύτησεν ἐθελοντής.




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