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.

Such was the state of affairs in Salamis, and the descendants of the usurper were in possession of the throne when Evagoras was born. I prefer to say nothing of the portents, the oracles, the visions appearing in dreams, from which the impression might be gained that he was of superhuman birth, not because I disbelieve the reports, but that I may make it clear to all that I am so far from resorting to invention in speaking of his deeds that even of those matters which are in fact true I dismiss such as are known only to the few and of which not all the citizens are cognizant. And I shall begin my account of him with the generally acknowledged facts.

When Evagoras was a boy he possessed beauty, bodily strength, and modesty, the very qualities that are most becoming to that age. Witnesses could be produced for these assertions: for his modesty— fellow-citizens who were educated with him: for his beauty—all who beheld him: for his strength—all the contests[*](I.e., the official records of winners in the contests sanctioned by the state.) in which he vanquished his age-mates.

When he attained to manhood not only did all these qualities grow up with him, but to them were also added manly courage, wisdom, and justice, and that too in no ordinary measure, as is the case with some others, but each of these characteristics in extraordinary degree. So surpassing was his excellence of both body and mind,

that when the kings of that time looked upon him they were terrified and feared for their throne, thinking that a man of such nature could not possibly pass his life in the status of a private citizen, but whenever they observed his character, they felt such confidence in him that they believed that even if anyone else should dare to injure them, Evagoras would be their champion.

And although opinions of him were so at variance, they were mistaken in neither respect: for he neither remained in private life, nor did them injury: on the contrary, the Deity took such thought for him that he should honorably assume the throne, that all the preparations which necessarily involved impiety were made by another,

while he preserved for Evagoras those means whereby it was possible for him to gain the rule in accordance with piety and justice. For one of the princes,[*](Abdemon: cf. Diodorus xiv. 98.) starting a conspiracy, slew the tyrant and attempted to arrest Evagoras, believing that he would not be able to retain the rule himself unless he should get him out of the way.

But Evagoras escaped this peril, and having saved himself by fleeing to Soli in Cilicia did not show the same spirit as those who are the victims of like misfortune. For other exiles from royal power are humbled in spirit because of their misfortunes,whereas Evagoras attained to such greatness of soul that, although until that time he had lived as a private citizen, when he was driven into exile he determined to gain the throne.

The wandering life of an exile, the dependence upon the help of others in seeking his restoration and the paying of court to his inferiors—all these he scorned: but this he took as his guiding principle, which those who would be god-fearing men must take—to act only in self-defense and never to be the aggressor: and he chose either by success to regain the throne or, failing in that, to die. And so, calling to his side men numbering, according to the highest estimates, about fifty, with these he prepared to effect his return from exile.

And from this venture especially the character of Evagoras and his reputation among his associates may be seen: for although he was on the point of sailing with so few companions for the accomplishment of so great a design, and although all the attendant dangers were near at hand, neither did he himself lose heart, nor did any of his companions see fit to shrink from these dangers: nay, as if a god were their leader, they one and all held fast to their promises, and Evagoras, just as if either he had an army superior to that of his adversaries or foresaw the outcome, held to his opinion.

This is evident from his acts: for, when he had landed on the island, he did not think it necessary to seize a strong position, make sure of his own safety, and then to wait and see if some of the citizens would rally to his aid: but immediately, just as he was, on that very night he broke through a little gate in the wall, and leading his followers through this opening, attacked the palace.

The confusion attendant upon such occasions, the fears of his followers, the exhortations of their leader—why need I take the time to describe[*](Cf. Isoc. 4.97 for a similar passage in reference to the sea-fight at Salamis. In Isoc. 5.93-94 Isocrates justifies such “autoplagiarism.”)? When the supporters of the tyrant opposed him and the citizens generally were observers (for they held their peace because they feared either the authority of the one party or the valor of the other),

he did not cease from fighting, whether alone against many or with few opposing all the foe, until, having captured the palace, he had taken vengeance upon the enemy and had succoured his friends: furthermore, he restored its ancestral honors to his family[*](Cf. Isoc. 3.28.) and established himself as ruler of the city.

I think that even if I should mention nothing more, but should discontinue my discourse at this point, from what I have said the valor of Evagoras and the greatness of his deeds would be readily manifest: nevertheless, I consider that both will be yet more clearly revealed from what remains to be said.

For of all the many sovereigns since time began, none will be found to have won this honor more gloriously than Evagoras. If we were to compare the deeds of Evagoras with those of each one, such an account would perhaps be inappropriate to the occasion, and the time would not suffice for the telling. But if we select the most illustrious of these rulers and examine their exploits in the light of his, our investigation will lose nothing thereby and our discussion will be much more brief.

Who then, would not choose the perilous deeds of Evagoras before the fortunes of those who inherited their kingdoms from their fathers? For surely there is no one so mean of spirit that he would prefer to receive that power from his ancestors than first to acquire it, as he did, and then to bequeath it to his children.

Furthermore, of the returns to their thrones by princes of ancient times the most renowned are those of which the poets tell us: indeed they not only chronicle for us those which have been most glorious, but also compose new ones of their own invention. Nevertheless no poet has told the story of any legendary prince who has faced hazards so formidable and yet regained his throne: on the contrary, most of their heroes have been represented as having regained their kingdoms by chance, others as having employed deceit and artifice to overcome their foes.

Nay, of those who lived later, perhaps indeed of all, the one hero who was most admired by the greatest number was Cyrus, who deprived the Medes of their kingdom and gained it for the Persians. But while Cyrus with a Persian army conquered the Medes, a deed which many a Greek or a barbarian could easily do, Evagoras manifestly accomplished the greater part of the deeds which have been mentioned through strength of his own mind and body.

Again, while it is not at all certain from the expedition of Cyrus that he would have endured the dangers of Evagoras, yet it is obvious to all from the deeds of Evagoras that the latter would have readily attempted the exploits of Cyrus. In addition, while piety and justice characterized every act of Evagoras, some of the successes of Cyrus were gained impiously: for the former destroyed his enemies, but Cyrus slew his mother's father.[*](Astyages, father of Mandane, who married Cambyses, father of Cyrus. That Cyrus slew Astyages is not stated by any other writer.) Consequently if any should wish to judge, not of the greatness of their successes, but of the essential merit of each, they would justly award greater praise to Evagoras than even to Cyrus.

And if there is need to speak concisely, without reservation or fear of arousing ill-feeling, but with the utmost frankness, I would say that no one, whether mortal, demigod, or immortal, will be found to have obtained his throne more nobly, more splendidly, or more piously. Anyone would in the highest degree be confirmed in this belief if, distrusting completely what I have said, he were to set about examining how each gained royal power. For it will be manifest that it is through no desire whatever of grandiloquence, but because of the truth of the matter, that I have spoken thus boldly about Evagoras.

Now if he had distinguished himself in unimportant ways only, he would fittingly be thought worthy also of praise of like nature: but as it is, all would admit that of all blessings whether human or divine supreme power is the greatest, the most august, and the object of greatest strife. That man, therefore, who has most gloriously acquired the most glorious of possessions, what poet or what artificer of words[*](LO/GWN EU(RETH/S is found also in Isoc. 5.144. It means “prose-writer,” and refers especially to composers of “set discourses” or “show-pieces.”) could raise in a manner worthy of his deeds?