For those who had reached the prime of life he showed by far the deepest solicitude. For he believed that if these were of the right stamp they must exercise a powerful influence for good on the state.
He saw that where the spirit of rivalry[*](Cyropaedia, 2.1.22.) is strongest among the people, there the choruses are most worth hearing and the athletic contests afford the finest spectacle. He believed, therefore, that if he could match the young men together in a strife of valour, they too would reach a high level of manly excellence.[*](Cyropaedia, 7.2.26.) I will proceed to explain, therefore, how he instituted matches between the young men.
The Ephors, then, pick out three of the very best among them. These three are called Commanders of the Guard. Each of them enrols a hundred others, stating his reasons for preferring one and rejecting another.
The result is that those who fail to win the honour are at war both with those who sent them away and with their successful rivals; and they are on the watch for any lapse from the code of honour.
Here then you find that kind of strife that is dearest to the gods, and in the highest sense political — the strife that sets the standard of a brave man’s conduct; and in which either party exerts itself to the end that it may never fall below its best, and that, when the time comes, every member of it may support the state with all his might.[*](Horsemanship, 2.1.)