Isocrates. Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by Larue Van Hook, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1945-1968.

When I saw you, Nicocles[*](For Nicocles see Introd. to this discourse.), honoring the tomb of your father, not only with numerous and beautiful offerings, but also with dances, music, and athletic contests, and, furthermore, with races of horses and triremes, and leaving to others no possibility of surpassing you[*](A favorite expression of Isocrates; Cf. Isoc. 4.5 and Isoc. 16.34.) in such celebrations,

I judged that Evagoras (if the dead have any perception of that which takes place in this world),[*](Cf. Isoc. 19.42 and Isoc. 14.61; also Plat. Apol. 40c.) while gladly accepting these offerings and rejoicing in the spectacle of your devotion and princely magnificence in honoring him, would feel far greater gratitude to anyone who could worthily recount his principles in life and his perilous deeds than to all other men;

for we shall find that men of ambition and greatness of soul not only are desirous of praise for such things, but prefer a glorious death to life, zealously seeking glory rather than existence,[*](Cf. Isoc. 5.135.) and doing all that lies in their power to leave behind a memory of themselves that shall never die.

Expenditure of money can effect nothing of this kind, but is an indication of wealth only; and those who devote themselves to music and letters and to the various contests, some by exhibiting their strength and others their artistic skill, win for themselves greater honor. But the spoken words which should adequately recount the deeds of Evagoras would make his virtues never to be forgotten among all mankind.

Now other writers should have praised those who in their own time had proved themselves good men, to the end that those who have the ability to glorify the deeds of their contemporaries, by speaking in the presence of those who knew the facts might have employed the truth concerning them, and also that the younger generation might with greater emulation have striven for virtue, knowing well that they would be praised more highly than those whom they have excelled in merit.

But as it is, who would not be disheartened when he sees those who lived in the time of the Trojan war, and even earlier,[*](e.g. Heracles, Theseus, and the Argonauts.) celebrated in song and tragedy, and yet foresees that even if he himself surpass their valorous achievements he will never be thought worthy of such praise? The cause of this is envy, which has this as its only good—it is the greatest evil to those who feel it. For some are so ungenerous by nature that they would listen more gladly to the praise of men of whose existence they are uncertain rather than of those who may have been their own benefactors.

Men of intelligence, however, should not let themselves be enslaved by men whose minds are so perverted; on the contrary, they should ignore such as these and accustom their fellows to hear about those whom we are in duty bound to praise, especially since we are aware that progress is made, not only in the arts, but in all other activities, not through the agency of those that are satisfied with things as they are, but through those who correct, and have the courage constantly to change, anything which is not as it should be.

I am fully aware that what I propose to do is difficult—to eulogize in prose the virtues of a man. The best proof is this: Those who devote themselves to philosophy[*](Really oratory and rhetoric: for the meaning of “philosophy” in Isocrates see the General Introd., Vol. I, p. xxvi.) venture to speak on many subjects of every kind, but no one of them has ever attempted to compose a discourse on such a theme.[*](Prose encomia existed before this time, but they were mostly exercises on mythical subjects written by Sophists.) And I can make much allowance for them. For to the poets is granted the use of many embellishments of language,

since they can represent the gods as associating with men, conversing with and aiding in battle whomsoever they please, and they can treat of these subjects not only in conventional expressions, but in words now exotic, now newly coined, and now in figures of speech, neglecting none, but using every kind with which to embroider their poesy.[*](With this passage compare Aristot. Poet. 1457b.)

Orators, on the contrary, are not permitted the use of such devices; they must use with precision only words in current use and only such ideas as bear upon the actual facts. Besides, the poets compose all their works with meter and rhythm, while the orators do not share in any of these advantages; and these lend such charm that even though the poets may be deficient in style and thoughts, yet by the very spell of their rhythm and harmony they bewitch their listeners.[*](Cf. Plat. Rep. 601b.)

The power of poetry may be understood from this consideration: if one should retain the words and ideas of poems which are held in high esteem, but do away with the meter, they will appear far inferior to the opinion we now have of them. Nevertheless, although poetry has advantages so great, we must not shrink from the task, but must make the effort and see if it will be possible in prose to eulogize good men in no worse fashion than their encomiasts do who employ song and verse.

In the first place, with respect to the birth and ancestry of Evagoras,[*](Cf. Isoc. 3.42.) even if many are already familiar with the facts, I believe it is fitting that I also should recount them for the sake of the others, that all may know that he proved himself not inferior to the noblest and greatest examples of excellence which were of his inheritance.

For it is acknowledged that the noblest of the demigods are the sons of Zeus, and there is no one who would not award first place among these to the Aeacidae: for while in the other families we shall find some of superior and some of inferior worth, yet all the Aeacidae have been most renowned of all their contemporaries.

In the first place Aeacus,[*](Aeacus, son of Zeus and Aegina, was renowned for his piety.) son of Zeus and ancestor of the family of the Teucridae, was so distinguished that when a drought visited the Greeks and many persons had perished, and when the magnitude of the calamity had passed all bounds, the leaders of the cities came as suppliants to him; for they thought that, by reason of his kinship with Zeus and his piety, they would most quickly obtain from the gods relief from the woes that afflicted them.

Having gained their desire, they were saved and built in Aegina a temple[*](This was the Aiakeion, described by Pausanias ii. 29.) to be shared by all the Greeks on the very spot where he had offered his prayer. During his entire stay among men he ever enjoyed the fairest repute, and after his departure from life it is said that he sits by the side of Pluto and Kore[*](Persephone.) in the enjoyment of the highest honors.[*](Aeacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthys were reputed to be the judges in the world of the dead.)

The sons of Aeacus were Telamon and Peleus; Telamon won the meed of valor in an expedition with Heracles against Laomedon,[*](Laomedon, with the help of Poseidon, built Troy.) and Peleus, having distinguished himself in the battle with the Centaurs and having won glory in many other hazardous enterprises, wedded Thetis, the daughter of Nereus, he a mortal winning an immortal bride. And they say that at his wedding alone, of all the human race who have ever lived, the wedding-song was sung by gods.

To each of these two were born sons—to Telamon Ajax and Teucer, and to Peleus Achilles, and these heroes gave proof of their valour in the clearest and most convincing way: for not alone in their own cities were they pre-eminent, or in the places where they made their homes, but when an expedition was organized by the Greeks against the barbarians,[*](i.e., the Trojans.) and a great army was assembled on either side

and no warrior of repute was absent, Achilles above all distinguished himself in these perils. And Ajax was second to him in valor, and Teucer, who proved himself worthy of their kinship and inferior to none of the other heroes, after he had helped in the capture of Troy, went to Cyprus and founded Salamis, giving to it the name of his former native land[*](The island Salamis near Athens.); and he left behind him the family that now reigns.

So distinguished from the beginning was the heritage transmitted to Evagoras by his ancestors. After the city had been founded in this manner, the rule at first was held by Teucer's descendants: at a later time, however, there came from Phoenicia a fugitive, who after he had gained the confidence of the king who then reigned, and had won great power, showed no proper gratitude for the favor shown him;

on the contrary, he acted basely toward his host, and being skilled at grasping, he expelled his benefactor and himself seized the throne. But distrustful of the consequences of his measures and wishing to make his position secure, he reduced the city to barbarism, and brought the whole island into subservience to the Great King.[*](The kind of Persia, Artaxerxes.)