Skill in speaking and efficiency in affairs, therefore, and ingenuity, were not the qualities that he was eager to foster in his companions. He held that they needed first to acquire prudence. For he believed that those faculties, unless accompanied by prudence, increased in their possessors injustice and power for mischief.
In the first place, then, he tried to make his companions prudent towards the gods. Accordingly he discoursed on this topic at various times, as those who were present used to relate. The following conversation between him and Euthydemus I heard myself.
Tell me, Euthydemus, he began, has it ever occurred to you to reflect on the care the gods have taken to furnish man with what he needs?No, indeed it has not, replied Euthydemus.Well, no doubt you know that our first and foremost need is light, which is supplied to us by the gods?Of course; since without light our eyes would be as useless as if we were blind.And again, we need rest; and therefore the gods grant us the welcome respite of night.Yes, for that too we owe them thanks.
And since the night by reason of her darkness is dim, whereas the sun by his brightness illuminates the hours of the day and all things else, have they not made stars to shine in the night, that mark the watches of night for us, and do we not thereby satisfy many of our needs?That is so.Moreover, the moon reveals to us not only the divisions of the night, but of the month too.Certainly.
Now, seeing that we need food, think how they make the earth to yield it, and provide to that end appropriate seasons which furnish in abundance the diverse things that minister not only to our wants but to our enjoyment.Truly these things too show loving-kindness.
Think again of their precious gift of water, that aids the earth and the seasons to give birth and increase to all things useful to us and itself helps to nourish our bodies, and mingling with all that sustains us, makes it more digestible, more wholesome, and more palatable: and how, because we need so much of it, they supply it without stint.That too shows design at work.
Think again of the blessing of fire, our defence against cold and against darkness, our helpmate in every art and all that man contrives for his service. In fact, to put it shortly, nothing of any account that is useful to the life of man is contrived without the aid of fire.This too is a signal token of loving-kindness.
Think again how the sun, when past the winter solstice, approaches, ripening some things and withering others, whose time is over; and having accomplished this, approaches no nearer, but turns away, careful not to harm us by excess of heat; and when once again in his retreat he reaches the point where it is clear to ourselves, that if he goes further away, we shall be frozen with the cold, back he turns once more and draws near and revolves in that region of the heavens where he can best serve us.Yes, verily, these things do seem to be done for the sake of mankind.
And again, since it is evident that we could not endure the heat or the cold if it came suddenly,[*](Cyropaedia VI. ii. 29.) the sun’s approach and retreat are so gradual that we arrive at the one or the other extreme imperceptibly.For myself, exclaimed Euthydemus, I begin to doubt whether after all the gods are occupied in any other work than the service of man. The one difficulty I feel is that the lower animals also enjoy these blessings.
Yes, replied Socrates, and is it not evident that they too receive life and food for the sake of man? For what creature reaps so many benefits as man from goats and sheep and horses and oxen and asses and the other animals? He owes more to them, in my opinion, than to the fruits of the earth. At the least they are not less valuable to him for food and commerce; in fact a large portion of mankind does not use the products of the earth for food, but lives on the milk and cheese and flesh they get from live stock. Moreover, all men tame and domesticate the useful kinds of animals, and make them their fellow-workers in war and many other undertakings.There too I agree with you, seeing that animals far stronger than man become so entirely subject to him that he puts them to any use he chooses.
Think again of the multitude of things beautiful and useful and their infinite variety, and how the gods have endowed man with senses adapted for the perception of every kind, so that there is nothing good that we cannot enjoy; and again, how they have implanted in us the faculty of reasoning, whereby we are able to reason about the objects of our perceptions and to commit them to memory, and so come to know what advantage every kind can yield, and devise many means of enjoying the good and driving away the bad;
and think of the power of expression, which enables us to impart to one another all good things by teaching and to take our share of them, to enact laws and to administer states.Truly, Socrates, it does appear that the gods devote much care to man.Yet again, in so far as we are powerless of ourselves to foresee what is expedient for the future,[*](Cyropaedia I. vi. 46.) the gods lend us their aid, revealing the issues by divination to inquirers, and teaching them how to obtain the best results.With you, Socrates, they seem to deal even more friendly than with other men, if it is true that, even unasked, they warn you by signs what to do and what not to do.
Yes, and you will realise the truth of what I say if, instead of waiting for the gods to appear to you in bodily presence, you are content to praise and worship them because you see their works. Mark that the gods themselves give the reason for doing so; for when they bestow on us their good gifts, not one of them ever appears before us gift in hand; and especially he who co-ordinates and holds together the universe, wherein all things are fair and good, and presents them ever unimpaired and sound and ageless for our use,[*](ibid. VIII. vii. 22.) and quicker than thought to serve us unerringly, is manifest in his supreme works, and yet is unseen by us in the ordering of them.
Mark that even the sun, who seems to reveal himself to all, permits not man to behold him closely, but if any attempts to gaze recklessly upon him, blinds their eyes. And the gods’ ministers too you will find to be invisible. That the thunderbolt is hurled from heaven, and that he overwhelms all on whom he falls, is evident, but he is seen neither coming nor striking nor going. And the winds are themselves invisible, yet their deeds are manifest to us, and we perceive their approach. Moreover, the soul of man, which more than all else that is human partakes of the divine, reigns manifestly within us, and yet is itself unseen.For these reasons it behoves us not to despise the things that are unseen, but, realising their power in their manifestations, to honour the godhead.
Socrates, replied Euthydemus, that I will in no wise be heedless of the godhead I know of a surety. But my heart fails me when I think that no man can ever render due thanks to the gods for their benefits.
Nay, be not down-hearted, Euthydemus; for you know that to the inquiry, How am I to please the gods? the Delphic god replies, Follow the custom of the state; and everywhere, I suppose, it is the custom that men propitiate the gods with sacrifices according to their power. How then can a man honour the gods more excellently and more devoutly than by doing as they themselves ordain?
Only he must fall no whit short of his power. For when he does that, it is surely plain that he is not then honouring the gods. Therefore it is by coming no whit short of his power in honouring the gods that he is to look with confidence for the greatest blessing.[*](Cyropaedia I. vi. 4.) For there are none from whom a man of prudence would hope for greater things than those who can confer the greatest benefits, nor can he show his prudence more clearly than by pleasing them. And how can he please them better than by obeying them strictly?
Thus by precept and by example alike he strove to increase in his companions Piety and Prudence.