Themistocles Says ‘F**k School!’

Plutarch, Themistocles (2):

“It is agreed that even when he was a boy he was full of energy, naturally intelligent, bold in his purpose, and political. When he found himself with some free time or leisure from his studies, he did not play or trifle around like the other children, but he was found developing and putting together certain speeches to himself. The speeches were either accusations or defenses of the other children. For this reason, his teacher used to say to him, ‘You will not be small – definitely, you will be either a great good or a great evil.’ When he came to learn those subjects which are directed to develop character, or afford pleasure, or instill a liberal grave, he learned them reluctantly and with little enthusiasm, but he was clearly keen on those speeches which had to do with intelligence or action at an exceptionally early age, as though he believed in his own natural ability.”

Themistocles and Aristides; Themistocles sitting at centre with three councillors on each side; Aristides standing at r, seen from behind; illustration to Cicero, 'Officia', Augsburg: Steiner, 1531.  Woodcut
From The British Museum

῎Ετι δὲ παῖς ὢν ὁμολογεῖται φορᾶς μεστὸς εἶναι, καὶ τῇ μὲν φύσει συνετός, τῇ δὲ προαιρέσει μεγαλοπράγμων καὶ πολιτικός. ἐν γὰρ ταῖς ἀνέσεσι καὶ σχολαῖς ἀπὸ τῶν μαθημάτων γιγνόμενος, οὐκ ἔπαιζεν οὐδ’ ἐρρᾳθύμει καθάπερ οἱ πολλοὶ παῖδες, ἀλλ’ εὑρίσκετο λόγους τινὰς μελετῶν καὶ συνταττόμενος πρὸς ἑαυτόν. ἦσαν δ’ οἱ λόγοι κατηγορία τινὸς ἢ συνηγορία τῶν παίδων. ὅθεν εἰώθει λέγειν πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ διδάσκαλος ὡς ‘οὐδὲν ἔσει, παῖ, σὺ μικρόν, ἀλλὰ μέγα πάντως ἀγαθὸν ἢ κακόν’. ἐπεὶ καὶ τῶν παιδεύσεων τὰς μὲν ἠθοποιοὺς ἢ πρὸς ἡδονήν τινα καὶ χάριν ἐλευθέριον σπουδαζομένας ὀκνηρῶς καὶ ἀπροθύμως ἐξεμάνθανε, τῶν δ’ εἰς σύνεσιν ἢ πρᾶξιν † λεγομένων δῆλος ἦν ὑπερερῶν παρ’ ἡλικίαν ὡς τῇ φύσει πιστεύων.

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