Plato to Dionysius wishes well-doing.1

After I had spent so long a time with you and was trusted above all others in my administration of your government, while you were enjoying the benefits I was enduring the slanders, grievous as they were. For I knew that men would not believe that any of your more brutal acts were done with my consent, seeing that I have for my witnesses [309b] all those who take a part in your government, many of whom I have helped in their times of trial and saved them from no small damage. But after I had oftentimes kept guard over your City as sole Dictator, I was dismissed with more ignominy than a beggar would deserve who had stayed with you for so long a time, were you to pack him off and order him to sail away.

For the future, therefore, I for my part will consult my own interests in less philanthropic fashion, while you, “gross tyrant that you are, will dwell alone.”2 And as for the splendid sum of gold [309c] which you gave for my journey home, Baccheius, the bearer of this letter, is taking it back to you. For it was neither a sufficient sum for my journey nor was it otherwise useful for my support; and since it reflects the greatest disgrace on you who offer it, and not much less on me if I accept it, I therefore refuse to accept it. But evidently neither the giving nor the accepting of such an amount makes any difference to you; take it, then, and befriend therewith some other companion of yours as you did me; for I, in sooth, have had enough of your “befriending.” [309d] Indeed, I may appropriately quote the verse of Euripides—that one day, when other fortunes befall you,“Thou'lt pray for such a helper by thy side.
Eur. Fr. 956 (Nauck)

And I desire to remind you that most of the other tragedians also, when they show a tyrant on the stage slaughtered by someone, represent him as crying out— [310a] “Bereft of friends—ah! woe is me—I die.
Trag. Gr. Frag. Adesp. 347 (Nauck).

But not one of them has represented him as dying for lack of gold. This other poem also to men of judgement seemeth not amiss—

“In this our human life, with halting hopes,
It is not glittering gold that rarest is:
Not diamond nor couches silver-wrought
Appear so brilliant in the eyes of men:
Nor do the fertile fields of earth's broad breast,
Laden with crops, so all-sufficing seem
As gallant men's unanimous resolve.

Lyr. Gr. Frag. Adesp. 138 (Bergk).

Farewell; and may you learn how much you have lost in us, so that you may behave yourself better towards all others.

1 The Greek phraseεὖ πράττεινis purposely ambiguous, meaning either “act well” or “fare well” (i.e. “prosper”); cf. Plat. Gorg. 495e, Plat. Rep. 353e. It is the form of address regularly used in these Epistles, cf. Plat. L. 3 ad init.

2 Apparently a “tag” from some tragedy. Note that “you” in this second paragraph refers to Dionysius alone, whereas in the first paragraph “you,” in the plural, includes Dionysius's associates.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Plato, Letters, 3
    • Plato, Republic, 353e
    • Plato, Gorgias, 495e
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