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I am borne out by the lines of Euripides, “ Unskilled am I in the oratory that pleases the mob; but amongst the few that are my equals I am reckoned rather wise. For those who are little thought of by the wise, seem to hit the taste of the vulgar.”i And I have myself noticed that those who practice to speak acceptably and to the gratification of the masses promiscuously, for the most part become also profligate and lovers of pleasure in their lives. Naturally enough. For if in giving pleasure to others they neglect the noble, they would be hardly likely to put the lofty and sound above a life of luxury and pleasure, and to prefer moderation to delights. Yet what better advice could we give our sons than to follow this? or to what could we better exhort them to accustom themselves ? For perfection is only attained by neither speaking nor acting at random — as the proverb says, Perfection is only attained by practice.' Whereas extempore oratory is easy and facile, mere windbag, having neither beginning nor end. And besides their other shortcomings extempore speakers fall into great disproportion and repetition, whereas a well considered speech preserves its due proportions. It is recorded by tradition that Pericles, when called on by the people for a speech, frequently refused on the plea that he was unprepared. Similarly Demosthenes, his state-rival, when the Athenians called upon him for his advice, refused to give it, saying, “I am not prepared.” But this you will say, perhaps, is mere tradition without authority. But in his speech against Midias he plainly sets forth the utility of preparation, for he says, “I do not deny, men of Athens, that I have prepared this speech to the best of my ability: for I should have been a poor creature if, after suffering so much at his hands, and even still suffering, I had neglected how to plead my case.” Not that I would altogether reject
1“ Hippolytus,” 986–989.
extempore oratory, or its use in critical cases, but it should be used only as one would take medicine. Up, indeed, to man's estate I would have no extempore speaking, but when anyone's powers of speech are rooted and grounded, then, as emergencies call for it, I would allow his words to flow freely. For as those who have been for a long time in fetters stumble if unloosed, not being able to walk from being long used to their fetters, so those who for a long time have used compression in their words, if they are suddenly called upon to speak off-hand, retain the same character of expression. But to let mere lads speak extempore is to give rise to the acme of foolish talk. A wretched painter once showed Apelles, they say, a picture, and said, “I have just done it.” Apelles replied, “With out your telling me, I should know it was painted quickly; I only wonder you haven't painted more such in the time.”
As then (for I now return from my digression), I advise to avoid stilted and bombastic language, so again do I urge to avoid a finical and petty style of speech; for tall talk is unpopular, and petty language makes no impression. And as the body ought to be not only sound but in good condition, so speech ought to be not only not feeble but vigorous. For a safe mediocrity is indeed praised, but a bold venturesomeness is also admired. I am also of the same opinion with regard to the disposition of the soul, which ought to be neither audacious nor timid and easily dejected: for the one ends in impudence and the other in servility; but to keep in all things the mean between extremes is artistic and proper. And, while I am still on this topic, I wish to give my opinion, that I regard a monotonous speech first as no small proof of want of taste, next as likely to generate disdain, and certain not to please long. For to harp on one string is always tiresome and brings satiety; whereas variety is pleasant always whether to the ear or eye.
7. Next our freeborn lad ought to go in for a course of what is called general knowledge, but a smattering of this will be sufficient, a taste as it were (for perfect knowledge of all subjects would be impossible); but he must seriously cultivate philosophy. I borrow an illustration to show my meaning: it is well to sail round many cities, but advantageous to live in the best. Philosophy, therefore, ought to be regarded as the most important branch of study. For as regards the cure of the body, men have found two branches, medicine and exercise: the former of which gives health, and the latter good condition of body; but philosophy is the only cure for the maladies and disorders of the soul. For with her as ruler and guide we can know what is honorable, what is disgraceful; what is just, what unjust ; generally speaking, what is to be sought after, what to be avoided; how we ought to behave to the gods, to parents, to elders, to the laws, to foreigners, to rulers, to friends, to women, to children, to slaves: viz., that we ought to worship the gods, honor parents, reverence elders, obey the laws, submit ourselves to rulers, love our friends, be chaste in our relations with women, kind to our children, and not to treat our slaves badly; and, what is of the greatest importance, to be neither over elated in prosperity nor over depressed in adversity, nor to be dissolute in pleasures, nor fierce and brutish in anger. These I regard as the principal blessings that philosophy teaches. For to enjoy prosperity nobly shows a man; and to enjoy it without exciting envy shows a moderate man; and to conquer the passions by reason argues a wise man; and it is not everybody who can keep his temper in control. And those who can unite political ability with philosophy I regard as perfect men, for I take them to attain two of the greatest blessings, serving the state in a public capacity, and living the calm and tranquil life of philosophy. For, as there are three kinds
of life, the practical, the contemplative, and the life of enjoyment, and of these three the one devoted to enjoyment is a paltry and animal life, and the practical without philosophy an unlovely and harsh life, and the contemplative without the practical a useless life, so we must endeavor with all our power to combine public life with philosophy as far as circumstances will permit. Such was the life led by Pericles, by Archytas of Tarentum, by Dion of Syracuse, by Epaminondas the Theban, one of whom was a disciple of Plato (viz., Dion).
And as to education, I do not know that I need dwell any more on it. But in addition to what I have said, it is useful, if not necessary, not to neglect to procure old books, and to make a collection of them, as is usual in agriculture. For the use of books is an instrument in education, and it is profitable in learning to go to the fountain head.
8. Exercise also ought not to be neglected, but we ought to send our boys to the master of the gymnasium to train them duly, partly with a view to carrying the body well, partly with a view to strength. For good habit of body in boys is the foundation of a good old age. For as in fine weather we ought to lay up for winter, so in youth one ought to form good habits and live soberly so as to have a reserve stock of strength for old age. Yet ought we to husband the exertions of the body, so as not to be wearied out by them and rendered unfit for study. For, as Plato says, excessive sleep and fatigue are enemies to learning.
But why dwell on this ? For I am in a hurry to pass to the most important point. Our lads must be trained for warlike encounters, making themselves efficient in hurling the javelin and darts, and in the chase. For the possessions of those who are defeated in battle belong to the conquerors as booty of war; and war is not the place for delicately brought up bodies: it is the spare warrior that makes the best com
batant, who as an athlete cuts his way through the ranks of the enemies. Supposing anyone objects: “How so? As you undertook to give advice on the education of freeborn children, do you now neglect the poor and plebeian ones, and give instructions only suitable to the rich ?” It is easy enough to meet such critics. I should prefer to make my teaching general and suitable to all; but if any, through their poverty, shall be unable to follow up my precepts, let them blame fortune, and not the author of these hints. We must try with all our might to procure the best education for the poor as well as the rich, but if that is impossible, then we must put up with the practicable. I inserted those matters into my discourse here, that I might hereafter confine myself to all that appertains to the right education of the young.
9. And this I say that we ought to try to draw our boys to good pursuits by entreaties and exhortation, but certainly not by blows or abusive language. For that seems to be more fitting for slaves than the freeborn. For slaves try to shirk and avoid their work, partly because of the pain of blows, partly on account of being reviled. But praise or censure are far more useful than abuse to the freeborn, praise pricking them on to virtue, censure deterring them from vice. But one must censure and praise alternately: when they are too saucy we must censure them and make them ashamed of themselves, and again encourage them by praise, and imitate those nurses who, when their children sob, give them the breast to comfort them. But we must not puff them up and make them conceited with excessive praise, for that will make them vain and give themselves airs.
IO. And I have ere now seen some fathers, whose excessive love for their children has turned into hatred. My meaning I will endeavor to make clearer by illustration.