“This is One of Those Speeches”: Isocrates on Good Advice and the Common Enemy

Isocrates, Panegyricus 1-6

“I have often been surprised at those who called together the assemblies and established the athletic contests, particularly at the fact that, while they considered the successes of the body to be worthy of prizes so great, they apportioned no kind of honor to those who had toiled for the commons with their private effort and who had prepared their minds so that they might be able to help others. It is appropriate to make a greater consideration for these men—for, although athletes obtain twice the amount of their strength, they provide nothing more for everyone else; but should one man offer good advice, everyone who wants to share in his opinion would profit.

And, truly, I do not choose to take it easy because I have been dispirited by this things—no, because I think that I will have as a sufficient prize the reputation that will come from this speech, I have come for the purpose of counseling you about both the war against the barbarians and your harmony with one another. And I do this even though I am not ignorant that many of those who pretend to be wise have rushed to this subject before, but because at the same time I expect that I will take this so far that nothing will seem to have ever been spoken before on this matters, and, because I think that these are the most noble words, ones that happen to be about the most important matters and which illuminate those who speak them the best and most help those who hear them. This is one of those speeches.

Furthermore, the opportunity to act has not yet passed us by—so it is not pointless to speak about these matters. For it is right to stope speaking about something when an end has overtaken affairs and it is no longer necessary to advise about them, or when one sees that the argument has such an end that nothing is left for others to say. But as long as these are similar to how they were before, and what was previously said happens to be insufficient, how is it not right to examine and weigh this argument philosophically when the correct plan will free us from this war against one another, our present turmoil, and the greatest evils we face?”

Πολλάκις ἐθαύμασα τῶν τὰς πανηγύρεις συναγαγόντων καὶ τοὺς γυμνικοὺς ἀγῶνας καταστησάντων, ὅτι τὰς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων εὐτυχίας οὕτω μεγάλων δωρεῶν ἠξίωσαν, τοῖς δ᾿ ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν ἰδίᾳ πονήσασι καὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχὰς οὕτω παρασκευάσασιν ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὠφελεῖν δύνασθαι, τούτοις δ᾿ οὐδεμίαν τιμὴν ἀπένειμαν· ὧν εἰκὸς ἦν αὐτοὺς μᾶλλον ποιήσασθαι πρόνοιαν· τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἀθλητῶν δὶς τοσαύτην ῥώμην λαβόντων οὐδὲν ἂν πλέον γένοιτο τοῖς ἄλλοις, ἑνὸς δὲ ἀνδρὸς εὖ φρονήσαντος ἅπαντες ἂν ἀπολαύσειαν οἱ βουλόμενοι κοινωνεῖν τῆς ἐκείνου διανοίας.

Οὐ μὴν ἐπὶ τούτοις ἀθυμήσας εἱλόμην ῥᾳθυμεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἱκανὸν νομίσας ἆθλον ἔσεσθαί μοι τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ τοῦ λόγου γενησομένην ἥκω συμβουλεύσων περί τε τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους καὶ τῆς ὁμονοίας τῆς πρὸς ἡμᾶς αὐτούς, οὐκ ἀγνοῶν ὅτι πολλοὶ τῶν προσποιησαμένων εἶναι σοφιστῶν ἐπὶ τοῦτον τὸν λόγον ὥρμησαν, ἀλλ᾿ ἅμα μὲν ἐλπίζων τοσοῦτον διοίσειν ὥστε τοῖς ἄλλοις μηδὲν πώποτε δοκεῖν εἰρῆσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἅμα δὲ προκρίνας τούτους καλλίστους εἶναι τῶν λόγων, οἵτινες περὶ μεγίστων τυγχάνουσιν ὄντες καὶ τούς τε λέγοντας μάλιστ᾿ ἐπιδεικνύουσι καὶ τοὺς ἀκούοντας πλεῖστ᾿ ὠφελοῦσιν, ὧν εἷς οὗτός ἐστιν. ἔπειτ᾿ οὐδ᾿ οἱ καιροί πω παρεληλύθασιν, ὥστ᾿ ἤδη μάτην εἶναι τὸ μεμνῆσθαι περὶ τούτων. τότε γὰρ χρὴ παύεσθαι λέγοντας, ὅταν ἢ τὰ πράγματα λάβῃ τέλος καὶ μηκέτι δέῃ βουλεύεσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἢ τὸν λόγον ἴδῃ τις ἔχοντα πέρας, ὥστε μηδεμίαν λελεῖφθαι τοῖς ἄλλοις ὑπερβολήν. ἕως δ᾿ ἂν τὰ μὲν ὁμοίως ὥσπερ πρότερον φέρηται, τὰ δ᾿ εἰρημένα φαύλως ἔχοντα τυγχάνῃ, πῶς οὐ χρὴ σκοπεῖν καὶ φιλοσοφεῖν τοῦτον τὸν λόγον, ὃς ἢν κατορθωθῇ, καὶ τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ πρὸς ἀλλήλους καὶ τῆς ταραχῆς τῆς παρούσης καὶ τῶν μεγίστων κακῶν ἡμᾶς ἀπαλλάξει;


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