Xenophon in Seven Volumes Vol 4; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, translator; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor

In other conversations I thought that he exhorted his companions to practise self-control in the matter of eating and drinking, and sexual indulgence, and sleeping, and endurance of cold and heat and toil. Aware that one of his companions was rather intemperate in such matters, he said: Tell me, Aristippus, if you were required to take charge of two youths and educate them so that the one would be fit to rule and the other would never think of putting himself forward, how would you educate them? Shall we consider it, beginning with the elementary question of food?Oh yes, replied Aristippus, food does seem to come first; for one can’t live without food.

Well, now, will not a desire for food naturally arise in both at certain times?Yes, naturally.Now which of the two should we train in the habit of transacting urgent business before he satisfies his hunger?The one who is being trained to rule, undoubtedly; else State business might be neglected during his tenure.And must not the same one be given power to resist thirst when both want to drink?Certainly.

And to which shall we give the power of limiting his sleep so that he can go late to bed and get up early, and do without sleep if need be?To the same again.And the power to control his passions, so that he may not be hindered in doing necessary work?To the same again.And to which shall we give the habit of not shirking a task, but undertaking it willingly?That too will go to the one who is being trained to rule.And to which would the knowledge needful for overcoming enemies be more appropriately given?Without doubt to the one who is being trained to rule; for the other lessons would be useless without such knowledge.

Don’t you think that with this education he will be less likely to be caught by his enemy than other creatures? Some of them, you know, are so greedy, that in spite of extreme timidity in some cases, they are drawn irresistibly to the bait to get food, and are caught; and others are snared by drink.Yes, certainly.Others again — quails and partridges, for instance — are so amorous, that when they hear the cry of the female, they are carried away by desire and anticipation, throw caution to the winds and blunder into the nets. Is it not so?

He agreed again.Now, don’t you think it disgraceful that a man should be in the same plight as the silliest of wild creatures? Thus an adulterer enters the women’s quarters, knowing that by committing adultery he is in danger of incurring the penalties threatened by the law, and that he may be trapped, caught and ill-treated. When such misery and disgrace hang over the adulterer’s head, and there are many remedies to relieve him of his carnal desire without risk, is it not sheer lunacy to plunge headlong into danger?Yes, I think it is.

And considering that the great majority of essential occupations, warfare, agriculture and very many others, are carried on in the open air, don’t you think it gross negligence that so many men are untrained to withstand cold and heat?He agreed again.Don’t you think then, that one who is going to rule must adapt himself to bear them lightly?Certainly.

If then we classify those who control themselves in all these matters as fit to rule, shall we not classify those who cannot behave so as men with no claim to be rulers?He agreed again.Well now, as you know the category to which each of these species belongs, have you ever considered in which category you ought to put yourself?

I have; and I do not for a moment put myself in the category of those who want to be rulers.[*](Cyropaedia I. vi. 7; vii. ii, 26 f.) For considering how hard a matter it is to provide for one’s own needs, I think it absurd not to be content to do that, but to shoulder the burden of supplying the wants of the community as well. That anyone should sacrifice a large part of his own wishes and make himself accountable as head of the state for the least failure to carry out all the wishes of the community is surely the height of folly.

For states claim to treat their rulers just as I claim to treat my servants. I expect my men to provide me with necessaries in abundance, but not to touch any of them; and states hold it to be the business of the ruler to supply them with all manner of good things, and to abstain from all of them himself. And so, should anyone want to bring plenty of trouble on himself and others, I would educate him as you propose and number him with those fitted to be rulers: but myself I classify with those who wish for a life of the greatest ease and pleasure that can be had.Here Socrates asked:

Shall we then consider whether the rulers or the ruled live the pleasanter life?Certainly, replied Aristippus.To take first the nations known to us. In Asia the rulers are the Persians; the Syrians, Lydians and Phrygians are the ruled. In Europe the Scythians rule, and the Maeotians are ruled. In Africa the Carthaginians rule, and the Libyans are ruled. Which of the two classes, think you, enjoys the pleasanter life? Or take the Greeks, of whom you yourself are one; do you think that the controlling or the controlled communities enjoy the pleasanter life?

Nay, replied Aristippus, for my part I am no candidate for slavery; but there is, as I hold, a middle path in which I am fain to walk. That way leads neither through rule nor slavery, but through liberty, which is the royal road to happiness.

Ah, said Socrates, if only that path can avoid the world as well as rule and slavery, there may be something in what you say. But, since you are in the world, if you intend neither to rule nor to be ruled, and do not choose to truckle to the rulers

— I think you must see that the stronger have a way of making the weaker rue their lot both in public and in private life, and treating them like slaves. You cannot be unaware that where some have sown and planted, others cut their corn and fell their trees, and in all manner of ways harass the weaker if they refuse to bow down, until they are persuaded to accept slavery as an escape from war with the stronger. So, too, in private life do not brave and mighty men enslave and plunder the cowardly and feeble folk?Yes, but my plan for avoiding such treatment is this. I do not shut myself up in the four corners of a community, but am a stranger in every land.

A very cunning trick, that! cried Socrates, for ever since the death of Sinis and Sceiron and Procrustes[*](Highwaymen slain by Theseus, Plutarch, Thes. c. 8 f.) no one injures strangers! And yet nowadays those who take a hand in the affairs of their homeland pass laws to protect themselves from injury, get friends to help them over and above those whom nature has given them, encompass their cities with fortresses, get themselves weapons to ward off the workers of mischief; and besides all this seek to make allies in other lands; and in spite of all these precautions, they are still wronged.

But you, with none of these advantages, spend much time on the open road, where so many come to harm; and into whatever city you enter, you rank below all its citizens, and are one of those specially marked down for attack by intending wrongdoers; and yet, because you are a stranger, do you expect to escape injury? What gives you confidence? Is it that the cities by proclamation guarantee your safety in your coming and going? Or is it the thought that no master would find you worth having among his slaves? For who would care to have a man in his house who wants to do no work and has a weakness for high living?

But now let us see how masters treat such servants. Do they not starve them to keep them from immorality, lock up the stores to stop their stealing, clap fetters on them so that they can’t run away, and beat the laziness out of them with whips? What do you do yourself to cure such faults among your servants?

I make their lives a burden to them until I reduce them to submission. But how about those who are trained in the art of kingship, Socrates, which you appear to identify with happiness? How are they better off than those whose sufferings are compulsory, if they must bear hunger, thirst, cold, sleeplessness, and endure all these tortures willingly? For if the same back gets the flogging whether its owner kicks or consents, or, in short, if the same body, consenting or objecting, is besieged by all these torments, I see no difference, apart from the folly of voluntary suffering.

What, Aristippus, exclaimed Socrates, don’t you think that there is just this difference between these voluntary and involuntary sufferings, that if you bear hunger or thirst willingly, you can eat, drink, or what not, when you choose, whereas compulsory suffering is not to be ended at will? Besides, he who endures willingly enjoys his work because he is comforted by hope; hunters, for instance, toil gladly in hope of game.

Rewards like these are indeed of little worth after all the toil; but what of those who toil to win good friends, or to subdue enemies, or to make themselves capable in body and soul of managing their own homes well, of helping their friends and serving their country? Surely these toil gladly for such prizes and live a joyous life, well content with themselves, praised and envied by everyone else?

Moreover, indolence and present enjoyment can never bring the body into good condition, as trainers say, neither do they put into the soul knowledge of any value, but strenuous effort leads up to good and noble deeds, as good men say. And so says Hesiod somewhere:[*](Hes. WD 285)

  1. Wickedness can be had in abundance easily: smooth is the road and very nigh she dwells. But in front of virtue the gods immortal have put sweat: long and steep is the path to her and rough at first; but when you reach the top, then at length the road is easy, hard though it was.
Hes. WD 285And we have the testimony of Epicharmus too in the line:
  1. The gods demand of us toil as the price of all good things.
EpicharmusAnd elsewhere he says:
  1. Knave, yearn not for the soft things, lest thou earn the hard.