I am surprised at the sophists, as they are called, because, though most of them profess to lead the young to virtue they lead them to the very opposite. We have never seen anywhere the man whose goodness was due to the sophists of our generation. Neither do their contributions to literature tend to make men good: but they have written [2] many books on frivolous subjects, books that offer the young empty pleasures, but put no virtue into them. To read them in the hope of learning something from them is mere waste of time, and they keep one from useful occupations and teach what is bad. [3] Therefore their grave faults incur my graver censure. As for the style of their writings, I complain that the language is far-fetched, and there is no trace in them of wholesome maxims by which the young might be trained to virtue. [4] I am no professor, but I know that the best thing is to be taught what is good by one's own nature, and the next best thing is to get it from those who really know something good instead of being taught by masters of the art of deception. [5] I daresay that I do not express myself in the language of a sophist; in fact, that is not my object: my object is rather to give utterance to wholesome thoughts that will meet the needs of readers well educated in virtue. For words will not educate, but maxims, if well found. [6] Many others besides myself blame the sophists of our generation—philosophers I will not call them —because the wisdom they profess consists of words and not of thoughts.

I am well aware that someone, perhaps one of this set,1 will say that what is well and methodically written2 is not well and methodically written—for hasty and false censure will come easily to them. [7] But my aim in writing has been to produce sound work that will make men not wiseacres, but wise and good. For I wish my work not to seem useful, but to be so, that it may stand for all time unrefuted. [8] The sophists talk to deceive and write for their own gain, and do no good to anyone. For there is not, and there never was, a wise man among them; everyone of them is content to be called a sophist, which is a term of reproach among sensible men. So my advice is: [9] Avoid the behests of the sophists, and despise not the conclusions of the philosophers; for the sophists hunt the rich and young, but the philosophers are friends to all alike: but as for men's fortunes, they neither honour nor despise them. [10]

Envy not those either who recklessly seek their own advantage whether in private or in public life3 —bear in mind that the best of them, though they are favourably judged, are envied, and the bad both fare badly and are unfavourably judged. [11] For engaged in robbing private persons of their property, or plundering the state, they render less service than private persons when plans for securing the common safety are afoot,4 and in body they are disgracefully unfit for war because they are incapable of toil. But huntsmen offer their lives and their property in sound condition for the service of the citizens. [12] These attack the wild beasts, those others their friends. And whereas those who attack their friends earn infamy by general consent, huntsmen by attacking the wild beasts gain a good report. For if they make a capture, they win victory over enemy forces: and if they fail, they are commended, in the first place, because they assail powers hostile to the whole community; and, secondly, because they go out neither to harm a man nor for sordid gain. [13] Moreover, the very attempt makes them better in many ways and wiser; and we will give the reason. Unless they abound in labours and inventions and precautions, they cannot capture game. [14] For the forces contending with them, fighting for their life and in their own home, are in great strength; so that the huntsman's labours are in vain, unless by greater perseverance and by much intelligence he can overcome them. [15]

In fine, the politician whose objects are selfish practises for victory over friends, the huntsman for victory over common foes. This practice makes the one a better, the other a far worse fighter against all other enemies. The one takes prudence with him for companion in the chase, the other base rashness. [16] The one can despise malice and avarice, the other cannot. The language of the one is gracious,5 of the other ugly. As for religion, nothing checks impiety in the one, the other is conspicuous for his piety. [17] In fact, an ancient story has it that the gods delight in this business, both as followers and spectators of the chase. Therefore, reflecting on these things, the young who do what I exhort them to do will put themselves in the way of being dear to the gods and pious men, conscious that one or other of the gods is watching their deeds. These will be good to parents, good to the whole city, to every one of their friends and fellow-citizens. [18] For all men who have loved hunting have been good: and not men only, but those women also to whom the goddess6 has given this blessing, Atalanta and Procris and others like them.

1 i.e., a sophist. But the text of what follows is open to suspicion.

2 ἐγνωσμένα, “thought,” would be a great improvement on γεγραμμένα, “written.”

3 Professional politicians.

4 i.e., they contrive to “save their pockets.”

5 i.e., kindly and pleasant; not reckless and shameless like that of the politicians.

6 Artemis.

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