Isocrates: Speech to Philip of Macedon (346 B.C.)

73. I perceive that you are calumniated by those who are jealous of you and are accustomed to throw their own cities into confusion, who regard the peace which is for the public advantage as a war against their own private interests, and, unconcerned about everything else, speak of nothing but your power, asserting that its growth is not for the interests of Hellas but against them, and that you have been already for a long time plotting against us, 74. and that, while you pretend to be anxious to assist the Messenians, as soon as you have settled with the Phocians, you are in reality endeavouring to get Peloponnesus into your power. They further assert that the Thessalians, Thebans, and all the members of the Amphictyonic league are ready to follow you, and that the Argives, Messenians, Megalopolitans and many others are prepared to fight on your side and to exterminate the Lacedaemonians; and, if you do this, they say that you will easily overcome the rest of the Hellenes.

75. By talking such nonsense and pretending that they possess an accurate knowledge of affairs, and by speedily overthrowing everything in their speech, they persuade many, in the first place, those who desire the same evils as the speech-makers; in the next place, those who exercise no judgment in regard to public affairs, but are altogether apathetic and exceedingly grateful to those who pretend fear and anxiety on their behalf; and lastly, those who do not reject the idea that you are plotting against the Hellenes, but think that what you are charged with is not unworthy of your efforts.

76. The judgment of the latter is so far from being correct, that they are not aware that, by means of the same statements, a man might hurt some and benefit others. For instance, in the present case, if one were to assert that the king of Asia was plotting against the Hellenes and was preparing to march against us, in that he would say nothing to his disparagement, but would make him appear more courageous and deserving of greater consideration; but if, on the other hand, anyone were to bring such a charge against one of the descendants of Heracles, who proved himself the benefactor of all Hellas, he would bring the greatest shame upon him.

77. For who could help feeling indignation and hatred if a man were seen to be plotting against those on whose behalf his ancestor elected to undergo perils, and, instead of endeavouring to maintain the legacy of goodwill which he bequeathed to his posterity, were to pay no heed to this and to devote his attention to disgraceful and evil undertakings?

78. This you must bear in mind, and not view with indifference the growth of such a report concerning yourself, which your enemies seek to fix upon you, and which every one of your friends would venture to contradict on your behalf. However, you will best discern the truth in regard to your interests by considering the views held by both.

79. Now, you perhaps consider it weak-minded to pay attention to detractors and babblers and those who listen to them, especially when you are conscious of no offence on your part. You must not, however, despise the multitude, nor think it of little importance to be in good repute amongst all; and you ought not to consider that you enjoy an honourable and great reputation, such as is worthy of yourself, your ancestors, and their glorious deeds, 80. until you have so disposed the Hellenes towards you, as you see the Lacedaemonians are disposed towards their kings and your own friends towards yourself. And this result is not difficult of attainment, if you once show your willingness to make yourself accessible to all, and cease to be on friendly terms with some states, while showing yourself strange towards others; and if, further, you elect to act in a manner whereby you will both gain the confidence of the Hellenes and inspire the barbarians with fear.

81. And do not be surprised that I, who am neither a general nor a public speaker, nor in any other respects a man of influence, have addressed you more boldly than the rest in the same manner as I have also written to Dionysius [the Great of Syracuse], who acquired supreme power for himself. For, in regard to political life, I am by nature less fitted for it than any of the citizens, since I possess neither a sufficiently strong voice nor nerve to enable me to mix with the crowd, to endure its contamination, and to bandy abuse with those who haunt the public platform; 82. but, as to correct judgment and good education, at the risk of seeming to express myself too bluntly, to that I lay claim, and am inclined to rank myself not among the last but among the foremost. And this is why I endeavour to give counsel to the city, to the Hellenes, and to the most distinguished among mankind as far as my natural powers permit me.

86. I think that I have commenced my whole discourse in such a manner as befits those who recommend a campaign against Asia. For nothing ought to be done until one finds the Hellenes doing one of two things: either rendering actual assistance, or showing themselves decidedly favourable to the undertaking. Agesilaus although he had the reputation of being the most prudent amongst the Lacedaemonians, neglected this, not from feebleness of intellect, but from ambition. 87. This prince was possessed by two desires, both honourable, but incompatible, and incapable of being realized at the same time; for he proposed at one and the same time to make war against the Great King and to restore his partisans to their cities, and to make them masters of affairs. The result of his efforts on behalf of his friends was to involve the Hellenes in calamities and dangers, and owing to the confusion arising therefrom they had neither leisure nor means to carry on the war against the barbarians. 88. From this it is easy to see, in the light of what was not understood at that time, that those who would counsel aright ought not to carry war into the King's country, until someone has reconciled the Hellenes and made them desist from their present folly. And this is just the advice I have given to you.

95. Such, then, is the state of the case. In the next place, it appears my duty to speak of the means you will have at your disposal as compared with those they [Cyrus and Clearchus] had. The most important thing to observe is, that you will have the goodwill of the Hellenes if you will follow my advice concerning them, while they had incurred their bitterest hostility on account of the decarchies established under the Lacedaemonians. For they thought that, if Cyrus and Clearchus succeeded, they would be still further enslaved, but that, if the King proved victorious, they would be freed from their present evils, which actually happened to them. 96. And further, you will find as many soldiers as you desire in readiness; for such is the condition of Hellas, that it is easier to get together a larger and better force from wanderers than from settled inhabitants. In those times, on the contrary, there were no hired forces, so that, when compelled to raise mercenaries from the towns, they spent more on presents made to those who levied them than on the actual pay of the soldiers. 97. And lastly, should we desire to consider the matter, and institute a comparison between you who are now destined to conduct the expedition and to give advice on everything, and Clearchus, who was in command at that time, we shall find that he had never before been master of a force by sea or land, but that he only became famous from the disaster which overtook him on the mainland; 98. while you, on the contrary, have carried out so many glorious undertakings, that, if I were addressing others, it would be well to recount them, but, as my words are directed to you, I should rightly be looked upon as senseless and meddlesome if I were to give you an account of your own acts.

99. But it is right to say something about both the Kings, the one against whom I am advising you to undertake the expedition, as well as the one against whom Clearchus waged war, that you may learn the disposition and power of each. The father of the present King defeated our city and that of the Lacedaemonians, while the present ruler has not yet become master of any of the armies that devastate his country. 100. In the next place, the former recovered the whole of Asia from the Hellenes by treaty, while the latter, so far from ruling others, cannot even retain the mastery of the cities that have been surrendered to him; so that everyone would be in doubt whether to think that he has abandoned them from lack of energy, or that they have despised and contemned the power of the barbarians.

105. I would endeavour to set forth in greater detail the mode of warfare by which you might most speedily overcome the King's forces, were I not afraid that some might blame me if I, who have never yet had anything to do with military matters, were to venture to give advice to you, who have accomplished the greatest achievements in war. I think, therefore, that I need say nothing further about this.

In regard to other matters, however, I think that your father, the founder of your kingdom, and the ancestor of your race--if the former had the right, and the two last the power--would give you the same counsel as myself. 106. I take the policy they carried out as a proof of this. Your father was on friendly terms with all these states, to which I advise you to give your attention; and the founder of your empire, whose aspirations were higher than those of his own countrymen, and who desired undivided authority, did not adopt the same course of action as others whose projects were equally ambitious. 107. While they endeavoured to gain this exalted position by causing strife, disturbance, and bloodshed in their cities, he left Hellas alone altogether and devoted himself to establishing his kingdom in Macedonia; for he knew that the Hellenes were not accustomed to put up with monarchies, while the rest were unable to order their life aright without such a form of government. 108. The result was that, owing to his peculiar views on these subjects, his rule was one of quite a different character from the rest; for he alone among the Hellenes claimed to rule over a people not of kindred race, and alone was able to escape the dangers that beset monarchy. For we should find that, amongst the Hellenes, those who have managed to acquire such authority have not only been destroyed themselves, but that their race has been utterly blotted out from amongst mankind, while he not only passed his own life in happiness and prosperity, but bequeathed to his children the same honours as he himself enjoyed.

113. I have spoken to you at some length on this subject, that you may know that in my speech I am exhorting you to such actions as your forefathers are seen to have selected as the noblest in carrying out their undertakings. Now, all sensible men, setting before themselves the example of the noblest of mankind, should endeavour to become like him, and you above all it behoves to do so. For, as there is no necessity for you to use foreign examples, but you have one ready to hand in your own family, it is only natural that you should be stimulated by it and show an honourable ambition to make yourself like your ancestor. 114. I do not mean that you will be able to imitate all the acts of Heracles, for even some of the gods would be unable to do that; but, in intellectual character, love of mankind, and goodwill such as he showed towards the Hellenes, you might approach his aims. And, if you listen to my advice, it is possible for you to win such a reputation as you yourself might desire, 115. for it is easier for you to gain the fairest fame from your present position than, starting from that which you previously occupied, to attain to the reputation you at present enjoy. Consider that I am exhorting you to an undertaking wherein you will take the field, not with barbarians against those whom you have no just cause to attack, but with Hellenes against those upon whom it becomes the descendants of Heracles to make war.

116. And do not be surprised if, throughout my discourse, I endeavour to lead you to mildness, love of mankind, and good services towards the Hellenes; for I see that harshness is equally grievous to those who show it and to those who experience it, while mildness is in good repute, not only amongst mankind and all other living creatures, 117. but even amongst the gods, those who bestow blessings upon us are called Olympian, while those who have control of calamities and punishments are called by more hateful names; and, while in honour of the former individuals and states have erected temples and altars, the latter are honoured neither by vows nor sacrifices, but we endeavour to avert their influence. 118. Bearing this in mind, you ought to accustom yourself to and to practice that whereby all men may have such an opinion of you even in a greater degree than at present. And those who desire a greater reputation than others should embrace such deeds in thought as are possible, and at the same time accord with their wish, and seek to carry them out, according as opportunities present them.

122. Therefore it is the duty of a man of high aspirations, and a friend of the Hellenes, and of one whose mind sees further than others, to make full use of the services of such men against the barbarians, and, having taken away from the latter the amount of territory mentioned just before, to free those who serve in a foreign land from the evils which they themselves are suffering, as well as those which they inflict upon others, to form communities out of them, and to make these the boundaries of Hellas, and to set them in front of us all as a bulwark. 123. For if you do this, you will not only make them happy, but will also insure the safety of us all. Even should you fail in this, at least you will easily secure the liberation of the cities of Asia. Whichever of these undertakings you may be able to carry out or even only attempt, you will assuredly gain greater reputation than the rest, and that deservedly, if you apply yourself earnestly to the task, and encourage the Hellenes to do the same. 124. For everyone would naturally feel surprise at the situation of affairs and contempt for us, if amongst the barbarians, whom we consider effeminate, inexperienced in war, and corrupted by luxury, men have arisen who aspired to rule Hellas, while none of the Hellenes has aimed so high 125. as to attempt to make us masters of Asia, but we have been so far left behind by them that, while they did not hesitate to commence hostilities against us first, we do not even venture to take vengeance upon them for the evils we have suffered, but, although they acknowledge that in all their wars they possessed neither soldiers nor generals nor anything else of service for war, 126. but had to apply to us for all these, we have come so to desire to do ourselves harm that, when it is in our power to possess what is theirs without apprehension, we are fighting with one another about trifles, helping to subdue those who have revolted from the rule of Persia, and, without knowing it, sometimes assist our hereditary foes to destroy our own kinsmen.

127. For these reasons I think that it is to your interest, when everyone else is so cowardly minded, to put yourself at the head of the expedition against the King. And while it is the duty of the others, who are descendants of Heracles, and are united by polity and laws, to love that state in which they happen to dwell, it behoves you, as one who has been released from individual obligations, to look upon the whole of Hellas as your fatherland, in the same manner as the father of your race, and to be ready to face danger on its behalf as readily as on behalf of those who are your especial care.

128. Perhaps some of those who are fit to do nothing else may venture to blame me, because I have chosen to exhort you to undertake the campaign against the barbarians and the care of all the Hellenes, and have passed over my own city. 129. Now, if I were undertaking to address myself on these points to others rather than to my own native city, which has thrice freed Hellas, twice from the barbarians, and once from the rule of Lacedaemon, I would allow that I was wrong; but, as it is, it will be seen that I have exhorted Athens before all other cities, with the greatest earnestness of which I was capable, to undertake the task, but, when I perceived that she thought less of what I said than of those who rave upon the platform, I left her alone, but, notwithstanding, did not abandon my efforts. 130. Wherefore all might fitly praise me because, as far as the powers I possess permitted me, I have persistently waged war against the barbarians, accused those who did not hold the same opinion as myself, and endeavoured to induce those, whom I hope will be best able to do so, to render some service to the Hellenes, and to deprive the barbarians of their present prosperity. 131. For this reason I now address my words to you, well aware that many will be jealous of them when uttered by me, but that all will rejoice alike at the same undertakings when accomplished by you. For, although no one has taken part in what I have proposed, everyone will think that he is entitled to a share in the advantages that will result from it.

132. Consider, again, that it is disgraceful to look on with indifference when Asia fares better than Europe, when the barbarians are more flourishing than the Hellenes, and further, when those who derive their rule from Cyrus, who was exposed by his mother on the public way, are addressed as the Great Kings, while the descendants of Heracles, whom his father raised to the gods for his virtue, are addressed by humbler titles than they. This must not be permitted, but must be entirely altered and done away with.

137. And you will best make up your mind on these points if you consider that not only does this speech exhort you, but also the example of your forefathers and the cowardice of the barbarians, as well as those men of the greatest renown who are looked upon as demigods on account of their campaign against them, and, above all, the favourable moment, when you possess a larger force than any of the dwellers in Europe, and he, against whom you are going to make war, is more universally hated and despised than any of the former Kings.

139. I am well aware that many of the Hellenes consider the King's forces to be invincible. Such would deservedly be regarded with astonishment if they think that these same forces, which have been overthrown by an ill-reared barbarian and collected with the object of enslaving them, cannot be broken up by a Hellene of great experience in warfare with the object of setting them free, especially as they know that in all things it is difficult to join, but easy to put asunder.

140. And bear in mind that those are honoured and respected above all others who are able both to govern a state and to command an army. Since, then, you see that, in a single city, those who possess these qualities are in great repute, what commendation ought you to expect will be bestowed upon you when you are seen to have distinguished yourself as a statesman by benefits conferred upon all the Hellenes, and to have subdued the barbarians by your generalship? 141. I think that this will be the furthest limit, beyond which none will ever be able to advance. For neither amongst the Hellenes will so great an undertaking be seen as that of reconciling all of us after so many wars, nor is it likely that so large a force will ever again be got together for the barbarians, if you destroy their present force. 142. Thus, no one of those who come after us, even though distinguished by his talents above the rest, will be able to carry out anything of the kind. And further, I can show that the deeds of those who lived before us at any rate have been surpassed by what you have already achieved, not by means of trickeries, but in a straightforward manner; for, seeing that you have subdued more nations than anyone else has captured cities, it would be easy for me to show, by comparing you with each of them, that you have accomplished greater things than they. 143. However, I have preferred to avoid this mode of representation (69) for two reasons: partly on account of those who make an unseasonable use of it, and partly because I do not desire to represent those who are looked upon as demigods as inferior to the men of the present day.

154. It remains to summarize what I have said before, that, in as few words as possible, you may understand,the chief point of my advice. I say that you ought to be the benefactor of the Hellenes, the king of Macedonia, and the ruler over as many barbarians as possible. If you succeed in this, all will be grateful to you, the Hellenes by reason of advantages enjoyed, the Macedonians, if you govern them like a king and not like a despot, and the rest of mankind, if they are freed by you from barbarian sway and gain the protection of Hellas.

(Isocrates, Philippus Selections)