To Timotheus


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.

Of the friendly relations which exist between your family and me I think you have heard from many sources, and I congratulate you as I receive word, first that you are making use of the princely power you now possess in better and wiser fashion than your father,[*](The rule of Clearchus (tyrant of Heracleia on the Euxine), father of Timotheus, had been extremely cruel.) and also, that you choose rather to win good repute than to amass great wealth. In making this your purpose you give no slight indication of virtue, but the very greatest; so that, if you are faithful to your present reputation, you will not lack those who will praise both your wisdom and this choice. I think that the reports which have been noised abroad about your father will also contribute a great deal of credibility to the general opinion of your good judgement and superiority to all others; for most men are wont to praise and honor, not so much the sons of fathers who are of good repute, as those born of harsh and cruel fathers, provided that they show themselves to be similar in no respect to their parents. For any boon which comes to men contrary to reason always gives them greater pleasure than those which duly come to pass in accordance with their expectation.

Bearing this in mind, you should search and study in what fashion, with the aid of whom, and by employing what counsellors you are to repair your city's misfortunes, to spur your citizens on to their labors and to temperate conduct, and to cause them to live more happily and more confidently than in the past; for this is the duty of good and wise kings. Some, disdaining these obligations, look to nothing else save how they may themselves lead lives of the greatest licentiousness and may mistreat and pillage by taxation the best and wealthiest and most sagacious of their subjects, being ill aware that wise men who hold that high office should not, at the cost of injury to all the rest, provide pleasures for themselves, but rather should by their own watchful care make their subjects happier[*](Cf. Isoc. 8.91 for the same sentiment.); nor should they, while being harshly and cruelly disposed toward all, yet be careless of their own safety; on the contrary, their conduct of affairs should be so gentle and so in accordance with the law that no one will venture to plot against them; yet they should rigorously guard their persons as if everybody wished to kill them. For if they should adopt this policy, they would themselves be free from danger and at the same time be highly esteemed by all; blessings greater than these it would be difficult to discover. I have been thinking, as I write, how happily everything has fallen out for you. The wealth which could only have been acquired forcibly and despotically and at the cost of much hatred, has been left to you by your father, but to use it honorably and for the good of mankind has devolved upon you[*](Cf. Isoc. 9.25 for a somewhat similar passage.); and to this task you should devote yourself with great diligence.

These, then, are my views; but this is the application: If your heart is set upon money and greater power and dangers too, through which these possessions are acquired, you must summon other advisers; but if you already have enough of these and wish virtue, fair reputation, and the goodwill of your subjects in general, you should heed my words and emulate those rulers who govern their states well and should endeavor to surpass them.

I hear that Cleommis, who in Methymna holds this royal power, is noble and wise in all his actions, and that so far from putting any of his subjects to death, or exiling them, or confiscating their property, or injuring them in any other respect, he provides great security for his fellow-citizens, and restores the exiles, returning to those who come back their lost possessions, and in each case recompenses the purchasers the price they had paid. In addition, he gives arms to all the citizens, thinking that none will try to revolt from him; but even if any should dare it, he believes that his death after having shown such generosity to the citizens would be preferable to continued existence after becoming the author of the greatest evils to his city.

I should have discussed these matters with you at greater length, and perhaps also in a more attractive style, were I not under the stern necessity of writing the letter in haste. As it is, I will counsel you at a later time if my old age does not prevent; for the present I will speak concerning our personal relations. Autocrator, the bearer of this letter, is my friend; we have been interested in the same pursuits and I have often profited by his skill, and, finally, I have advised him about his visit to you. For all those reasons I would have you use him well and in a manner profitable to us both, and that it may become evident that his needs are being realized in some measure through my efforts. And do not marvel that I am so ready to write to you, though I never made any request of your father Clearchus. For almost all who have sailed hither from your court say that you resemble my best pupils. But as for Clearchus when he visited us, all who met him agreed that he was at that time the most liberal, kindly, and humane of the members of my school; but when he gained his power he seemed to change in disposition so greatly that all who had previously known him marvelled. For these reasons I was estranged from him; but you I esteem and I should highly value your friendly disposition toward myself. And you yourself will soon make it clear if you reciprocate my regard; for you will be considerate of Autocrator, and send me a letter renewing our former friendship and hospitality. Farewell; if you wish anything from here, write.