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“At this point I said, ‘Ischomachus, I think your account of your wife's occupations is sufficient for the present—and very creditable it is to both of you. But now tell me of your own: thus you will have the satisfaction of stating the reasons why you are so highly respected, and I shall be much beholden to you for a complete account of a gentleman's occupations, and if my understanding serves, for a thorough knowledge of them.’ [2]

“‘Well then, Socrates,’ answered Ischomachus, ‘it will be a very great pleasure to me to give you an account of my daily occupations, that you may correct me if you think there is anything amiss in my conduct.’ [3]

“‘As to that,’ said I, ‘how could I presume to correct a perfect gentleman, I who am supposed to be a mere chatterer with my head in the air,1 I who am called—the most senseless of all taunts—a poor beggar? [4] I do assure you, Ischomachus, this last imputation would have driven me to despair, were it not that a day or two ago I came upon the horse of Nicias the foreigner.2 I saw a crowd walking behind the creature and staring, and heard some of them talking volubly about him. Well, I went up to the groom and asked him if the horse had many possessions. [5] The man looked at me as if I must be mad to ask such a question, and asked me how a horse could own property. At that I recovered, for his answer showed that it is possible even for a poor horse to be a good one, if nature has given him a good spirit. [6] Assume, therefore, that it is possible for me to be a good man, and give me a complete account of your occupations, that, so far as my understanding allows me, I may endeavour to follow your example from to-morrow morning; for that's a good day for entering on a course of virtue.’ [7]

“‘You're joking, Socrates,’ said Ischomachus; ‘nevertheless I will tell you what principles I try my best to follow consistently in life. [8] For I seem to realise that, while the gods have made it impossible for men to prosper without knowing and attending to the things they ought to do, to some of the wise and careful they grant prosperity, and to some deny it; and therefore I begin by worshipping the gods, and try to conduct myself in such a way that I may have health and strength in answer to my prayers, the respect of my fellow-citizens, the affection of my friends, safety with honour in war, and wealth increased by honest means.’ [9]

“‘What, Ischomachus,’ I asked on hearing that, ‘do you really want to be rich and to have much, along with much trouble to take care of it?’

“‘The answer to your questions,’ said he, ‘is, Yes, I do indeed. For I would fain honour the gods without counting the cost, Socrates, help friends in need, and look to it that the city lacks no adornment that my means can supply.’ [10]

“‘Truly noble aspirations, Ischomachus,’ I cried, ‘and worthy of a man of means, no doubt! Seeing that there are many who cannot live without help from others, and many are content if they can get enough for their own needs, surely those who can maintain their own estate and yet have enough left to adorn the city and relieve their friends may well be thought high and mighty men. [11] However,’ I added, ‘praise of such men is a commonplace among us. Please return to your first statement, Ischomachus, and tell me how you take care of your health and your strength, how you make it possible to come through war with safety and honour. I shall be content to hear about your money-making afterwards.’ [12]

“‘Well, Socrates,’ replied Ischomachus, ‘all these things hang together, so far as I can see. For if a man has plenty to eat, and works off the effects3 properly, I take it that he both insures his health and adds to his strength. By training himself in the arts of war he is more qualified to save himself honourably, and by due diligence and avoidance of loose habits, he is more likely to increase his estate.’ [13]

“‘So far, Ischomachus, I follow you,’ I answered. ‘You mean that by working after meals, by diligence and by training, a man is more apt to obtain the good things of life. But now I should like you to give me details. By what kind of work do you endeavour to keep your health and strength? How do you train yourself in the arts of war? What diligence do you use to have a surplus from which to help friends and strengthen the city?’ [14]

“‘Well now, Socrates,’ replied Ischomachus, ‘I rise from my bed at an hour when, if I want to call on anyone, I am sure to find him still at home. If I have any business to do in town, I make it an opportunity for getting a walk. [15] If there is nothing pressing to be done in town, my servant leads my horse to the farm, and I make my walk by going to it on foot, with more benefit, perhaps, Socrates, than if I took a turn in the arcade. [16] When I reach the farm, I may find planting, clearing, sowing or harvesting in progress. I superintend all the details of the work, and make any improvements in method that I can suggest. [17] After this, I usually mount my horse and go through exercises, imitating as closely as I can the exercises needed in warfare. I avoid neither slope nor steep incline, ditch nor watercourse, but I use all possible care not to lame my horse when he takes them. [18] After I have finished, the servant gives the horse a roll and leads him home, bringing with him from the farm anything we happen to want in the city. I divide the return home between walking and running. Arrived, I clean myself with a strigil, and then I have luncheon, Socrates, eating just enough to get through the day neither empty-bellied nor too full.’ [19]

“‘Upon my word, Ischomachus,’ cried I, ‘I am delighted with your activities. For you have a pack of appliances for securing health and strength, of exercises for war and specifies for getting rich, and you use them all at the same time! That does seem to me admirable! [20] And in fact you afford convincing proofs that your method in pursuing each of these objects is sound. For we see you generally in the enjoyment of health and strength, thanks to the gods, and we know that you are considered one of our best horsemen and wealthiest citizens.’ [21]

“‘And what comes of these activities, Socrates? Not, as you perhaps expected to hear, that I am generally dubbed a gentleman, but that I am persistently slandered.’ [22]

“‘Ah,’ said I, ‘but I was meaning to ask you, Ischomachus, whether you include in your system ability to conduct a prosecution and defence, in case you have to appear in the courts?’

“‘Why, Socrates,’ he answered, ‘do you not see4 that this is just what I am constantly practising—showing my traducers that I wrong no man and do all the good I can to many? And do you not think that I practise myself in accusing, by taking careful note of certain persons who are doing wrong to many individuals and to the state, and are doing no good to anyone?’ [23]

“‘But tell me one thing more, Ischomachus,’ I said; ‘do you also practise the art of expounding these matters?’

“‘Why, Socrates,’ he replied, ‘I assiduously practise the art of speaking. For I get one of the servants to act as prosecutor or defendant, and try to confute him; or I praise or blame someone before his friends; or I act as peace-maker between some of my acquaintances by trying to show them that it is to their interest to be friends rather than enemies. [24] I assist at a court-martial and censure a soldier, or take turns in defending a man who is unjustly blamed, or in accusing one who is unjustly honoured. We often sit in counsel and speak in support of the course we want to adopt and against the course we want to avoid. [25] I have often been singled out before now, Socrates, and condemned to suffer punishment or pay damages.’

“‘By whom, Ischomachus?’ I asked; ‘I am in the dark about that!'

“‘By my wife,’ was his answer.

“‘And, pray, how do you plead?’ said I.

“‘Pretty well, when it is to my interest to speak the truth. But when lying is called for, Socrates, I can't make the worse cause appear the better—oh no, not at all.’

“‘Perhaps, Ischomachus,’ I commented, ‘you can't make the falsehood into the truth!’”

1 ἀδλεσχεῖν, ἀερομετρεῖν; these are taunts commonly levelled at Socrates; thus, for instance, Aristophanes, Clouds, 225: “What are you at, Socrates?” “I'm walking the air and pondering on the sun”; and 1480: Socr., “Excuse my silly chatter.”

2 If the text is right, this person cannot be the well-known Nicias.

3 Cyropaedia I. ii, 10.

4 Mem. IV. viii. 4.

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